How to 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. The Conversation Stoppers Series will enable you to respond to several common objections to the Christian faith. Each Conversation Stopper explains the typical assumptions behind the objection/question, provides key talking points to continue the conversation, and lists additional resources about the topic.
Evangelist and apologist Rick Mattson provides a handy toolkit of memorable and instantly usable images and analogies for making the Christian faith more plausible.
Faith is Like Skydiving
[Conversation Stopper] 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.
[Conversation Stopper] 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.
[Conversation Stopper] 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.
[Conversation Stopper] 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.”
[Conversation Stopper] Christians preach love, but then are so unloving when they reject the homosexual lifestyle and identity. I cannot believe in a religion that condemns my gay friends?
[Conversation Stopper] 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.
[Conversation Stopper] 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.
Students today want to be seen as open minded, accepting, and tolerant. They seem to be very sensitive to the idea of imposing ideas on others and are wary of being imposed upon. The topic of religion and faith is one that students are uncomfortable engaging with their peers. There are negative assumptions that when Christians engage in conversations about faith, they just talk and do not listen, and all Christians are just trying to tell everyone else they are wrong.