Arguments Don't Have to Be Argumentative
Arguments don't have to be argumentative. An argument is composed of two things: 1. Your point of view 2. Evidence or reason to back up your view We make arguments all the time about everyday cases we want to make—what we want to eat, or what couch to buy—and usually, we're not being argumentative when we make them. We're just explaining our view and giving a reason for it. Arguments about morality and religion should be exactly the same. We can make a case for our moral or religious convictions by stating our view and providing evidence for it, and we don't have to be aggressive, harsh, or mean about it. That way, we come across as winsome and gracious ambassadors for Christ.
Don't Be Confused by the Two Definitions of Science
Don't be confused by the two definitions of science: 1. Science is a methodology: observation, experiments, testing, and discovering facts about the natural world. 2. Science is the philosophy of naturalism: The idea that nature is all there is. The second definition is controversial because it allows the person defining it that way to disqualify Christian beliefs as unscientific, since our faith accepts the reality of an immaterial world. So, whenever you come across the word “science,” be aware that they could be smuggling in the definition of naturalism to gain an unfair advantage in their case against your faith.
Focus on the Gospel, Not on Apologetic Arguments
Focus on the gospel, not on apologetic arguments. Sometimes we're so eager to try out our arguments that we initiate discussions about an apologetic subject as if that's the most important thing to discuss. It's not. If you have the opportunity to bring up the gospel, that matters more than any other subject. If they reject the gospel for some reason, then you can use your apologetics to address their concern. Remember, apologetics is not an end in itself. The end is the gospel, and apologetics is simply a means to that end. Apologetics can help you remove obstacles that keep people from accepting Christ. So, if you're in a conversation, and you can lead the discussion in any direction, lead them to understand what Christ has done for them.
Seek to Understand Before You Respond
Seek to understand before you respond. Too often, we respond to a challenge to our view or a concern in our culture before we've taken the time to accurately understand it. We end up mischaracterizing the other position, also known as creating a straw man—not addressing the real concern. That’s why we should take time to slow down, listen to the view, and ask thoughtful questions so that we understand the other position. While the other person is explaining their view, don't think of your response. Just focus on their view and their explanation of it. They'll appreciate the effort you make to understand them, and you'll create a more winsome environment for engaging each other's ideas.
When You Get Stuck, Ask a Question
When you get stuck, ask a question. Sometimes when you're in a conversation, you might find yourself in over your head or unsure where to go with the conversation. When this happens, switch into fact-finding mode. In other words, instead of trying to make your case, just begin to ask questions to better understand two things: 1. What exactly is the person's view? 2. Why do they believe that view? Then, on your own time, you can reflect on their argument, research more on the topic, and think through an answer. That way, the pressure is off of you to be quick on your feet. You can take your time and give a more thoughtful response later. All these benefits come by simply asking questions.
Set a Modest Goal When Talking to Non-Christians
Set a modest goal when talking to non-Christians. Too often, we feel guilty that we didn't bring up the gospel in a conversation with our non-Christian friends. While the gospel is great to share, make a more modest and achievable goal. Try to put a stone in their shoe. When you get a stone in your shoe, you're reminded of it every time you walk because it keeps poking you in the sole of your foot. In a similar way, try to offer your friend an intriguing thought or a gentle challenge that they can think about after you've walked away. Maybe the Holy Spirit will use what you said to poke them in their soul and change their thinking. Of course, if you have the opportunity to share the gospel, go for it. But if not, make a modest goal to put a stone in their shoe.
Ask Three Questions When Reading the Bible
Always ask three questions when reading any biblical text. In order to be transformed by God's Word, we can't misinterpret what it means. That's why there are three key principles to biblical interpretation: 1. Context 2. History 3. Genre First, ask about context. What is the author talking about in the surrounding text? Read as much as you can of the text before and after the passage you're studying. Second, ask about history. Are there any historical details or events that add to your understanding of the subject being discussed in the text? Third, ask what the genre (or the type of literature) is of the passage that you're reading. Each genre in the Bible has its own principles of interpretation. Find a resource that explains how to interpret each genre, and keep it handy when you're studying the Bible. By properly interpreting God's Word, you'll allow the Holy Spirit, who inspired its words, to transform you from the inside out.
Use Precise Numbers for Greater Impact
Pro-lifers often say, "In America, 3,000 unborn children are killed each day by abortion.” Rather than giving an approximation, find out the most precise number you can, and use that in your sentence. Instead, say, "2,899 unborn children are killed each day by abortion.” That's more powerful for two reasons: 1. Non-specific numbers can sound suspicious. 2. Precise numbers sound more credible because you did the research and have retrieved the exact number. Try to be as precise as possible, and your audience will be more likely to believe you.
Focus on the Person Rather Than the Argument
Focus on them before you focus on what you want to tell them. Francis Schaeffer once said, "If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first fifty-five minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and their mind, and then the last five minutes I will share something of the truth." A lot of us might think that if we give our Muslim neighbor or our friend who identifies as gay fifty-five minutes out of the hour to share about themselves, we will squander our opportunity to make a difference. But by taking the time to find out what's going on deep inside their soul, what we share in those last five minutes will be precisely what they need to hear. That's because we first took the time to focus on them before we focused on what we wanted to tell them.
Let Jesus Take the Heat
Let Jesus take the heat. Whenever you're nervous about sharing a politically incorrect view about your faith, put the blame on Jesus. In most cases, He's the one responsible for your view anyway. For example, if you're asked whether there's only one way to Heaven, let Jesus take the heat. Tell them that it’s Jesus who said in John 14:6 that He is the only way, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Or, if they ask your opinion on homosexuality, tell them that it's Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 who said it's about one man, with one woman, becoming one flesh, for one lifetime. In these cases and others, you can remind them that since you're a disciple of Jesus, you have no choice but to adopt His view. You didn't make this up, Jesus did. So, let Him take the heat for your views.