A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.
The title contains seven really important words for evangelism and apologetics (defending the Christian faith).
1 Peter 3:15-16 gives the following command to Christians:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
So we must be ready to graciously explain why we believe in Christ. But there will always be questions we don’t have the answers to. Sometimes when we get stumped we resort to poorly made arguments such as “Because the Bible says so!” Or worse yet, we avoid conversations completely because we are afraid of looking bad.
But when we don’t have well reasoned answers to share we should not make them up. This is a corollary to the advice about the first thing to do when you have dug yourself into a hole (Stop digging).
Consider the following benefits of being willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
- It is a humble response. You burst the stereotype that Christians are smug know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen.
- It takes pressure off of you, and most importantly, gives you the confidence to engage in conversations without thinking you must know everything.
- It keeps you from giving bad answers. Remember that one bad argument can undermine ten good arguments. Skeptics will seize on it and use it to justify their position.
- It gives you time to prepare better answers.
- It lets you make an appointment to come back later to talk about God. This is invaluable, as you can approach the person later and say, “Remember when you had that question about ______”
- You will build your own confidence when you research the issues and realize that we’ve been answering tough questions with intellectually satisfying answers for thousands of years.
- By taking the objection off the table temporarily, you can shift back to the Gospel, as in “While I can’t answer that right now, here is what I do know . . .”
Of course, you may use different words to convey this. You might say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it and get back with you. Thanks for giving me something to think about,” or something similar. The main thing is to humbly convey that you listened to what the other person said, that you don’t have a ready answer and that you care enough to do some research and get back to them.
Keep in mind that just because you don’t have an answer right then doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true. If the essentials of Christianity are true (e.g., Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), then they are true regardless of whether someone can explain them or not or whether someone wants them to be true. All you need to know is where to go find the answers to the tough questions. You can maintain your confidence in what you do know to be true. In fact, when we respond graciously to critics we come across more confident than if we get overly excited and emotional.
This works on other topics as well, such as pro-life reasoning.
Hat tip for parts of this: Stand to Reason