Answer Tough Questions

Conversation Stoppers are those common accusations, declarations, rhetorical questions, or sincere questions about various aspects of Christianity that can trip up or completely tongue tie the Christian, hence they "stop" the conversation.

This book is full of tried-and-true material that will help you relax and communicate well. He simplifies the complex philosophical topics. He gives great pointers for you to practice.

Many people take offense at the exclusivity of Christ. To tell people that their choice to reject Jesus has eternal consequences smacks in the face of a relativistic campus worldview. This however separates evangelical Christianity from universalism - following Jesus is not one of many paths to God, it is the only way into relationship with God. While this can be one of the most difficult areas of Christianity to talk about, the tone of the conversation is almost as important as the content of what is communicated about the exclusivity of Christ.

By uttering this objection, your friend has given you evidence of their ignorance of history. The Bible (specifically the New Testament) is by far the most well attested set of documents from antiquity. Even the most liberal scholars estimate that the latest book (the Gospel of John) was completed by the end of the 1st century – well within the possible lifespan of the disciple. Claiming that there isn’t a shred of evidence for Jesus’ existence flies in the face of the vast majority of scholarship in the area – no serious scholar has made that claim for decades.

One of the false dichotomies that has arisen in the course of time since the Enlightenment era is the belief that one cannot possibly be both a person of faith and a person who uses their intellect or reason. It is widely held, at least in academia, that a person who chooses to believe in the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) is someone who is not as intelligent as a person who relies on the hard data of science and technology. Christians are often seen as people who have “checked their brains at the door.” People who pray and believe in miracles and claim to trust in an invisible God are seen as superstitious, irrational and lacking real intelligence.

Nobody wants to be told how to live their life, regardless of their perspective on spiritual matters. Each one of us wants to be able to make decisions on our own about what to believe and how to live out those beliefs in a practical manner. It should not be surprising, therefore, that in a conversation about spiritual matters, someone might put up the objection that the Christian person is trying to impose his or her beliefs on someone else. We should be ever mindful of how we communicate about our faith and work hard to give other perspectives a place to stand in the dialog. We also must recognize when we are beginning to state our positions in such a way that the other person may feel “imposed upon.”

In 2002 I was talking with a student who wanted to join our student leadership team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Nevada, Reno. As the conversation came to an end I asked him if there was anything he felt that I should know as he moved forward into this position of leadership. He slowly hung his head and he began to shake and cry and he whispered that he was gay. I thanked him for his honesty and affirmed my commitment to him as a friend and mentor. I knew that for years this had been for him a shameful secret and something that he quietly struggled with alone. I wanted him to know the love that God had for him...

This question could be asked by two very different people. The skeptic seeks a kind of certainty based on unrealistic criteria for proving something is valid that not even science can live up to. The sincere questioner is truly exploring faith for themselves and they want to find more validation for their journey. You need to find out which kind of person you are dealing with before you respond with talking points.

Many people view the institutional church as self-serving. It wants to increase its money and power for self-preservation. People have also been burned by the institutional church. Clergy have abused children. Televangelists have gotten rich on on donations. Therefore, many view Christianity as a self-serving religion that does little to help the poor.

A lot of people think something like this: “If I had been born in a Hindi community, I would be Hindu, if I were born into a Buddhist family I would be a Buddhist. It is the same with Christianity. Sociology demonstrates that people tend to believe whatever other people around them believe, so even if I feel drawn toward Christianity, it is probably just because a lot of people in the US believe it. Culture creates belief, religion can be described by the need to think alike. All values are ultimately social constructions.”