3 Tips to Having Better Conversations When You Disagree

How can you respectfully disagree, without hurting a relationship? What happens when you don't know the answer to a question about Christianity? Alycia Wood suggests three key components to having better conversations between those with whom you disagree.

For many, the prospect of answering questions about their Christian convictions can be very intimidating, especially if they don’t know the answer. If you’ve ever been in that position, you may have felt pressured to be the expert on your faith. So, what do you do? Avoid the topic altogether so you feel you don’t look foolish? Or, is there a way to engage in a healthy dialogue where both parties leave feeling considered and heard? In what follows, I offer three guiding principles I’ve found helpful in these kinds of conversations.

1. No one knows everything, not even the experts.

Firstly, keep in mind that any field of study has people working in it who are still learning. No physicist, for instance, could be intellectually honest in saying they know everything there is to know about physics. Nor would a historian claim to know all the details about past events and peoples. This is what leads someone to specialize in a particular area because there is only so much that one can learn. That means that experts rely on other authorities (all those people operating outside their particular field). Even Professor Dawkins admits as much. In short, if you talk about your faith with others, you’re going to encounter questions that stump you. The good news is, you’re in very good company.

2. Be willing to say, “I don’t know.”

If some of Christianity’s greatest champions don’t even have all the answers, what does this mean for you? In a word, it means you need to be willing to say, “I don’t know,” and tell the person that you will get back to them. By offering this response, not only have you been honest, you have also just created an opportunity for another more in-depth conversation.

3. Be willing to put in the work and do the research.

In my experience, people don’t view me as less of a Christian if I don’t have all the answers regarding the tenants of my faith. Rather, they appreciate that I’m willing to admit when I’m unsure. But, if I admit that I don’t know something and I want to continue the conversation, this means that I need to be willing to do the necessary research. Though it’s an added workload, this research is actually one of the major benefits of being stumped because it allows you to deepen your own faith as you seek to answer others.

When I was studying at the OCCA years ago, an opportunity arose for a friend and me to participate in a Q&A panel with two professors at a local middle and high school. I’d never done anything like this before and was very nervous. I was also deeply intimidated by the professors. While my friend and I were headed to the event, we ran into none other than John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics (emeritus) at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science. Not only did he know about the panel, he assured us that he and others had prayed for us that morning. Then he said something I’ve never forgotten: “If you don’t know an answer to a question say, ‘I don’t know.’ It won’t hurt the gospel either way.’” Those words made an indelible impact on my life. I’d like to pass that advice on to you as well. Don’t be intimidated by your weaknesses. And definitely don’t be intimidated by failure.

Don’t be intimidated by your weaknesses. And definitely don’t be intimidated by failure.

When it comes to having a conversation with someone, it should be just that: a conversation. That means that you are listening to each other and considering what the other person says. I think you’ll find that this mindset makes the prospect of not being able to answer a question a lot less stressful. You aren’t there to force the person into your view. 1 Peter 3:15 says "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.” By approaching a conversation with gentleness and respect, you can thoughtfully consider someone’s perspective. That’s the makings of a great conversation!

Having Better Conversations with People of a Different Worldview

Aug 15, 2018

How do we share the gospel with people who don’t agree with our worldview or who don’t view the Bible as a valid resource? What about people who are antagonistic towards Christians–how do we approach them? Join us as we talk about these topics this week on Ask Away, featuring special guests and seasoned RZIM apologists Shawn Hart and Alycia Wood.

Have a question you want the Ask Away crew to cover? Email us at askaway@rzim.org or use the hashtag#askrzim on Twitter.

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Follow the Ask Away crew on Twitter:
Vince Vitale - @VinceRVitale
Jo Vitale - @Joanna_Vitale
Michael Davis - @mdav1979


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Transcript



Please Note: Ask Away is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Jo Vitale: Hi everyone, Vince and I are so sorry not to be joining you this week, on Ask Away. We're taking a little bit of a vacation, but it's going to be a treat for you, because stepping in this week, you have the privilege of getting to hear from Shawn Hart, and Alycia Wood, who are two of our colleagues here, at RZIM, and I only wish I could be with you for this conversation because it's going to be a lot of fun. See you next week.

Michael Davis: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask Away with Vince and Joe Vitale. I am your host, Michael Davis. Sharing our Faith can be one of the most rewarding experiences a believer can have. Seeing a person far off from God, turned to him through Christ, is something no one ever really forgets. But quite often, sharing our Faith, in this modern culture, will lead to ridicule and bashing. How do we interact with people who have nothing but scorn for the Christian Faith? How do we share the Gospel with people who don't share our world view? How do we love those that hate God, in a way where it points them to Jesus Christ? But, as you heard, Vince and Jo are on vacation this week, and sadly, decided to leave me behind. That being said, they did have the forethought to give you the treat of having two special guests. Shawn Hart and Alycia Wood. But, before we get started, Shawn and Alycia, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourselves?

Alycia Wood: Yeah. So, I'm Alycia, and I hail from Rochester, New York. Beautiful part of the State of New York. And I've been with RZIM for about five years, and I bring a little bit of a different twist of, I guess you can say apologetics RZIM, in the fact that my degrees tend to be more in the justice realm. And so, with my Undergrad's in Criminal Justice and Sociology, and my Master's is Social Justice. And so, that essentially means that I tend to use crime scenes, sometimes, when I explain the Gospel. Imagine, you walk into a room, there's blood on the walls, and somehow that links to the cross. So I, kind of, bring a different twist, in terms of really looking at, where does evidence leave us, and how do we know, what can we conclude, based on the evidence and circumstances we have around us?

Michael Davis: Nice. Don't do anything bad, Shawn.

Shawn Hart: That's right. She's watching.

Michael Davis: She is watching.

Shawn Hart: My name's Shawn, I'm actually born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and I came to Christ at the later age of 22, and then from there, went out, and served time as a missionary. So, I actually first heard about RZIM on the radio, started following Ravi, and then eventually ended up, after serving in Africa, from 2008-2012, with Africa Inland Mission, ended up getting involved with the OCCA, and came on board with RZIM about three years ago.

Michael Davis: Awesome.

Shawn Hart: Little bit about me.

Michael Davis: Absolutely. You should hear his testimony, it's pretty awesome.

Alycia Wood: Yeah.

Michael Davis: Okay, let's jump into it. This first question is actually one of our Instagram questions, and it's from Mr. Merse. I'm sure there's a wonderful story behind that. So here’s the question. “With Atheism's new idea of bashing Christians, how can we share our faith in a civilized manner?”

Alycia Wood: Well, it's funny, because I was actually speaking, this past weekend, and afterwards, we had a Q&A session, like a mini Q&A session, and one of the young ladies asked me, "What is you experience with Atheism?" And she says, "Because I've had several conversations with Atheism, and they didn't go the way I expected. I expected them to be very hostile, I expected there to be a lot of tension. She goes, "But it really wasn't like that."

And so, I shared with her, "Well, you know what, a lot of times, my experience speaking with Atheists isn't like that either, and I think what's happening, is we have some very vocal people, in our society, who have come out a little bit more, of the bashing kind, against Christians and Christianity, and maybe religion as a whole. And because they're so vocal, a lot of times, people think that they are the dominant view.

But the reality is, is that I find that most people are willing to talk with you, as long as you have something really worth saying or with listening so. So, if you get into a conversation, and somebody say, "Well, tell me why you believe." And you're like, "Well, I just believe by Faith." They're going to shut you off, right then and there. The dichotomy that's, kind of, placed in our society, is that Religious people are not the thinkers, and the Atheists are the people who are the thinkers, and the rational people, and the logical people. And so, the minute you come in saying, "Oh, I just believe it", people tend to tune you out.

And so, I've actually had great conversations with people because of the fact that they actually love engaging with Christian thought, I mean, Christian Theology is so deep, we are so blessed, as Christians, to have such a rich abundance of theology and ability to really be able to unpack things, on a deeper level. And people actually, really enjoy those conversations.

So, I think it comes a lot with our approach. Really be able to know that you can express Christianity in a way that is rational, that there is evidence for it, that it's thoughtful, that it makes sense in the world around us. And then, people will really be able to actually end up enjoying the conversation.

Shawn Hart: Yeah, and I think even thinking about this. Sometimes I ask the question, well sometimes, "Who's bashing who?"

Michael Davis: Yeah, that's a good point.

Shawn Hart: Because I mean, I've actually seen people who wear the title Christian, and actually not behaving in a way that would be, maybe, very Christ-like. Maybe, not what scripture calls us to, when it calls us to give an answer that is to do it with gentleness and respect. And, one of the questions I'll ask someone, because there is, I mean, I want to give Mr. Merse, here, the... I want to agree with him, in some sense, in that there are some times where, at Q&A, someone will yell very loudly, and passionately, or someone will stick a finger, I had a finger put right in my face, with some pretty big accusations.

And, at that point, we really have to, this is where it talks about in 1st Peter 3:15, "Set apart Christ as Lord." This is actually, we have to make a decision, going into this, that we are going to actually set apart Christ as Lord, and he will be our model. Humility. We actually have to stop and think, "How am I going to respond when this does happen?" And I think, one of the best things, is actually to ask a question, to validate their feelings.

So, what I said is, "You sound very passionate about this." Whatever the topic is, whatever they come at me with. "You sound very passionate about this. Is there a reason why?" Because, if you think about it, why, if you're getting bashed, if someone's very passionate about a topic that they don't believe in, God. Atheists, "I don't believe in it". Well, why are you getting so excited about this? And, if you do that calmly, and actually just using good counseling methods, speaking slowly, speaking calmly, not escalating with them. They will come down, just speak quieter.

Some of these tools, just basic conversation and counseling tools, are actually, I think, really helpful. But, we also need to remember one, I agree with Alycia, one of my best friends, when I was in Portland working as a Campus Minister, was an Atheist. We'd play basketball together, we'd share meals together. I grew to really love this guy. We got along, we had a lot of good discussions, so I meet more nice Atheists, than I meet ones that would bash. But, one thing we always have to remember is, what scripture says about when we are bashed.

I read in Acts 45:40,41, and it says, "And then, when they called the Apostles," this is the Sanhedrin, "they beat them and charred them not to speak the name of Jesus, and let them go. The left the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." I think we need to remember that historically, we've not had this place of privilege in speaking the Gospel, and we need to remember that. That there are people against his name, but we have to be like Christ. Meek and Humble.

Alycia Wood: Yeah, absolutely. And, often times, I'm trying to put myself in their shoes, because I think about that...When was the last time that this person was actually able to encounter a Christian? In the sense of, a lot of times, people sit there, and they do their research on Atheism or why Christianity isn't true. They're watching different YouTube videos, they're reading different articles, and then seven years later, they finally meet a Christian, and they verbally dump. Seven years worth of anti-religion research on that person.

And a lot of times, some of their claims can be true. So, I always want to really listen and say, "Okay, where is somebody coming from? And is there a place, in this whole conversation, where I need to recognize that they have a point, here." I don't think God ever requires us, and in fact, I would say I don't believe God requires us to make excuses for sin, but rather, to apologize for it, if something happens. And so, if somebody has really faced some sort of sinful action, because of a Christian or a Church or something like that, I think it's perfectly okay for me to say, "Yeah, that is wrong." And to acknowledge the wrong, when it does happen.

And so, I think a lot of times, people are coming from these positions, because they do actually have a legitimate point. And I find, when I give credibility to that, and I don't knock it or dismiss it, they're much more willing to say, "Okay, maybe you're actually a rational person, maybe I can actually get somewhere with you, because you actually can think straight, and see where things have gone wrong."

Shawn Hart: And I think, what we think about, what scripture even says, that they will know we our Christians by our love, our love for one another. I think that also extends to our love for them. I think we're called to love radically, as Jesus did, and we know the depth that Jesus went to, to show his love for us. So sometimes, our pride will rise up when we are spoken to, in a bad way. And we need to remember was done, what we're called to do, and that is to take up our cross, and follow the one who was crucified. And so we need to crucify our pride. It's like one of those whack-a-mole machines. You know? Every time my pride rises up, it's not that I'm ever over, the whack-a-mole- comes, I got to hit it again, and hit it again, and hit it again. So, I always try to think of my pride that way, except a lot less fun.

Michael Davis: So, it's interesting, because you spent four years as a Missionary, in Africa, probably in a much different, well, in a very different environment, than it is here. Considering Americans are very used to very easy, where religious freedom is a real thing. What would you say the difference was for people who are genuine believers, let's say, in Africa, where things aren't necessarily as easy.

Shawn Hart: Yeah.

Michael Davis: I mean, can you explain? Because...

Shawn Hart: Oh, man. Yeah. I was with an animistic people group, and then I was also with a Muslim people group. And in South Sudan, with animistic people group, they were completely unreached, so we were in mud huts, and had to fly in to a 6-800 feet elevation, so we were in the mountain. A two days walk away from the nearest place you could drive a car. So, it was out there.

One of the guys came to Christ while we were there, one of the few guys who spoke English, as we learned the language. There was...Too long of a story to go into in what happened, for why we had to leave. But, one of the interesting things is, he and some of his friends tried to start a Church, there. And, he ended up getting stabbed multiple times.

Michael Davis: Oh no.

Shawn Hart: He's okay, he's alive. We've corresponded a little bit, just through mail, one of the other Missionaries who's in a different town. But, it just...The cost is very different. Our cost is often times, to look just foolish, have people laugh at us. But we have colleagues, over in Africa, one of them just, a person who's training as a pastor, just was murdered. I mean, this is something that, we have to look at that and say, "What cost are we really counting?" And just to be treated poorly, I can endure that.

Michael Davis: Yeah, that's exactly right.

Shawn Hart: Yeah.

Michael Davis: And they love...I mean, love our enemies, right?

Shawn Hart: Yeah, exactly.

Michael Davis: Okay. Well, that leads us into the next question, this is from Molly. “If someone believes Morality is objective, and there is no good and evil, what would be the next step in talking with them? How do you continue a conversation that there is such a thing as good and evil?”

Shawn Hart: Yeah, this is a great question, Molly. And, something that is, surprisingly, quite common. Everybody has, I want to say first, stay with your personality. Don't try to do things that, maybe, some people like myself, might do that is not within your personality. I often times, use the controversial way of saying, "What if I were to punch you in the face right now?" Now, usually that's with a guy, I would never say that to a female.

Michael Davis: That's a good idea.

Shawn Hart: Please.

Alycia Wood: Wise man, wise man.

Michael Davis: We got the person in law enforcement, person here.

Shawn Hart: Exactly. She's watching me. Don't do as I say, or do as I do on that one, no. What I'm trying to do there, is I'm actually trying to draw out a natural response to say, "No, that would be wrong." So, that's just on a funny point, some times what I've done, and have had people, kind of, laugh at, but really.

I think one of the first things I would say, is ask questions. And, some questions might be...Sometimes people, like Alycia just said about, on that other question, they do all this research, and then they just say stuff. I think, we want to actually question that. So, do you really believe this? And then, just silence. Let them sit with it. Do you really believe this? Because, often times they just say something, and not thought about it before they spit it out, when, they might say it, they're like, "Do I actually believe that?", when asked.

And so, I think you have to know good questions, and you want to explore that. If you know the person well, then you likely know something that's been done too them, or the way their family's been wronged. Some real wrong that's happened I their life. And, I would explore that with them, and say, "Is that thing that happened in your life really wrong?" And I think, even better, if it's someone you're close with, or you've ever wronged.

Bring that up again, because one, again, it shows humility. The fact that you would be willing to address a time when you wronged them, and you needed to apologize to them. Say, "Hey, remember that time where I didn't return, I took your half and half out of the fridge, and used it, and you didn't have it for your coffee the next morning. And I apologize." You'd probably appreciate that I apologized for that, to you. Right? Well, yeah of course, well, implicit in there, is that I did something wrong to you.

And so, I think that the closer, and more personal you can get, the better. Now, you meet someone on the street, that's where you have to be a little bit more creative, and just talk about societal things. I'm sure Alycia would have stuff to say about this idea, especially studying justice, where you have to have a basis for this. Right?

Michael Davis: No. Absolutely. I mean, that's exactly where I was just about to go. I fully agree with Shawn. The funny thing is, when you ask someone who's a criminal or social justice major, whether or not there's good or evil, one of my responses would be, "Well, if there is no such thing as evil, then we need to open up our prison doors. We need to eliminate our court system. We need to stop fighting against genocide, in other countries, we need to stop protecting people from human trafficking. And so, for me, when we look at all these nonprofits, and we look at all these social justice, and activist causes, we're implying that there's something wrong here.

And so, we need to do something, we need to change it, we need to bring back the good. So, what we're trying to do is, we're trying to get rid of the bad and bring back the good. And the same thing with the court system, I mean, when we say to somebody, "We are locking you up for life", or even "locking you up for forty years." So, what we're saying, essentially, is that there is something that you did wrong, and that you chose to ignore. And, because of that, we're holding you accountable.

And so, I think that, when we talk to friends, and we talk about good and evil, and we're in a normal conversation. I think, generally, what we're talking about is just like, is gossip really that big of a deal? Or, is premarital sex really that big of a deal? But, I think, that might be too narrow of a view of good and evil. I think we need to go bigger and think about, what are the implications, that if we say that there's no such thing as good and evil, what does that mean, across the board?

I actually had a student at MIT, that I was speaking with, at one point, who was an atheist, but he would say, "I don't know what to do about the fact that, even though I'm an Atheist, I believe that there can be no subjective morality. I just still think that there are certain things that are just wrong. Like, I just think that things like rape are wrong, and I recognize that that's inconsistent with my viewpoint. But, I just believe it, and I don't know what to do about that." And so, I think that, maybe, in his honest and humble acknowledgment of there's just certain things that are just evil, and I just don't think there's a way I can explain them away as subjective.

Shawn Hart: Yeah. And, I think that, right there, is a great opportunity in how to engage with people. Often times, we see the image of God, and people shining through. And, we need to take those moments, take hole of them, and help them actually say, "There's a reason that you're having this wrestling. It's because what you're currently experiencing is an outflow of the moral framework. The Romans II says the law has been written on our heart, it's like God had written moral law on our hearts.

And we take that, and we can say, we can identify that, and then we want to actually affirm that it's a good thing. "It's a good thing you're actually thinking about this." And then we want to, then, confirm it in the Scriptures, and we say, "This is actually confirmed in the Scriptures, that the law is written on your heart." And then, we want to actually say, "The reason, actually, Christianity makes more sense of your life and what you're experiencing than what you are seeing. That's why you have a little bit of this inconsistency in why you're feeling this wrestling.

So, I often times say we want to identify the image of God, we want to affirm it, we want to identify it, affirm it, and then confirm it in the scriptures, and actually challenge them to justify it. Which in this situation, with your friend, they're actually having a hard time justifying it. They see that. It's really interesting to think about. Right?

Alycia Wood: Yeah, yeah. And I just notice, as Shawn was saying, I think we advocate the things that are, we can be inconsistent with. So, I think about a company, who may not have an issue with their employee being a little bit shady with their customers, because it's benefiting the company. But, if that same employee wanted to be shady, and do some certain practices that weren't okay, towards the company, then the company would have a problem. So it's like, sometimes, we say these things, that we don't necessarily believe that there is an evil or good, or wrong, or whatever. But, yet, when it happens to us, all of a sudden, it's a little bit different.

Shawn Hart: Right. And, if I could just say one more thing on this. I think, because the particular question here, that Molly's asking, as well, is next steps, and talking with them. I just, I love that it's like, "Okay, how do I engage on this topic?"

What I've found, often times, in talking about morality, is people will start. They might get to the personal level, and they might say, "Okay, yeah. Personally, wronged me, you should apologize." That's because society dictates that. We've made laws, and we have laws, that go, "Well, that's why we lock people up. It's because we've made laws." And, I say, "Well, what makes that law? Are there some laws you disagree with?" And there may be laws where...Look at the political system, we're debating on what we can change, what we can't.

So, there, we're talking about society. But then, I take it even further, and I'm like, take my Sudan experience. A lot of the children were starving because some of the people would make the corn into beer. I go into there, I have a moral objection to this. So, someone would say, "Well, what people do in Africa, what people do in this tribe in Sudan, they have their own moral code." So, I ask them, "Okay, me going in as a westerner, with my moral code. If I go over there, and I see a child dying because they've been starved, am I allowed to say that's wrong?" And they'll say, "Well, yes, at some point."

And what's interesting is, when you continue to push this out further and further, and then you use our favorite person to use in moral arguments, is Hitler, use him and you say, "Okay, let's just assume Hitler won. Like 200 years ago, and we are now at a point of history, that...

Michael Davis: He won 60 years ago...

Shawn Hart: Yeah, right. But, you know…It's okay, just roll with me on this, okay? Just roll with me. Let's just say that the 200 years had passed, and now we're down the road, and everyone in the world, every citizen of the globe, believed that Hitler was a good guy, and what happened was good. Does that make it right? No. Even if every single person in the world believes something, that does not make it right. Which then, pushes us outside of ourselves, and that's where we get to God. But, I don't think we want to stop, just at general God.

Alycia Wood: No, but I think that's exactly it. I mean, going through this whole thing of, how do you continue a conversation, once you're showing, "Look, I think you actually do believe that there's a right and wrong." And then, we point to this next thing. But how do we know, then? So people like Shawn and I, fly quite a bit. I remember sitting on a plane once, waiting for it to take off. We're just sitting in the, right where you get on the plane, in the... I don't know what you call that.

Shawn Hart: The boarding section. The gate.

Michael Davis: Yeah, that gate, the boarding section.

Shawn Hart: She flies so much. Doesn't know what it's called. She's like "I'm just going to that place. Where to?"

Alycia Wood: You know, where you get on. And yeah. So, we're sitting on the plane, and I remember just having this feeling of, almost like nausea, or feeling of what's happening. And, I wasn't sure if the plane was moving. So, I remember kind of just looking around me. And, of course, what do I do, in that moment? I can turn around, and I can ask the other people on the plane, you know, "Is the plane moving?" And what are they going to say, "No" or "I don't know", or whatever. But they're all in the same world. No matter what answer they give me. They're all in the same boat with me, and they're not able to help me determine whether or not the plane is moving.

So, in those moments, I remember what I did, was I, immediately, was like, "Okay", I just looked out the window, and I looked at the airport. And I realized, in that moment, that what I was doing was trying to find something that wasn't necessarily in my world, or was experiencing the same effects, and the same causes as I was. And, looking at something outside of that, to help me understand what was happening, because in that moment, all five of our senses were betraying us. Our sight, and touch, and hearing. All of those were useless. I need something that went beyond that.

And so, when I looked at the airport I realized, "Oh, actually, we're not moving." It was just, actually, I thought something was going on, but my body was playing tricks on me, or whatever it might be. And so, I think that one way that we can help people into the next step, is therefore, since we're all in this system, how is it then possible for us to determine what is the right way and the wrong way. And, maybe, we can look at something that's outside of this system that actually can see the whole picture that actually can see the whole plane, and actually make the accurate judgment, as where we should go and how we should live, and what actually is happening in our circumstances. And so, I think that just leads us right, easily, into a conversation about some kind of divine source.

I would obviously say Christian God would fit that well. But, I think that's a good way for us to be able to launch from, "Hey, we do think there's a right or wrong." But then, the next thing, of course, is how do I know.

Shawn Hart: Yeah, that's great. That actually happened to me at Costco, just this weekend, I was like, "Wait, is the shopping cart moving next to my car, or am I moving?"

Alycia Wood: Yes. Exactly.

Michael Davis: It is interesting, that the only people who believe this, are people in suburban college towns and affluent places. You guys travel a lot. How many times have you been to India or Africa, where people say, "I don't believe in subjective good or evil."

Alycia Wood: Exactly.

Michael Davis: Yeah, exactly. It just doesn't happen. They're like, "What?"

Alycia Wood: Yes.

Michael Davis: "Say, what?"

Alycia Wood: Yeah. Like, when I'm in an orphanage in Haiti, and I see a young girl who's been burned, nobody's wondering about whether or not it was okay for her mother to burn her. Exactly, you know? When you get outside of America, and you experience some of these other things, I just don't think we can look at the world around us and say that evil doesn't exist.

Shawn Hart: Yeah.

Michael Davis: Absolutely.

Shawn Hart: Yeah.

Michael Davis: Well, let's get to our next question. This is another Instagram question, this is from BibleSteve16. “How can I explain God to a non-believer, without referring to the Bible?”

Alycia Wood: So, there's a couple things, I guess, I would think here. And, I think this is a really fair question, because I think this is something that's coming up more and more. And, a lot of times, it has to do with the sense of distrust for the text. So, if I quote the Bible, somebody's going to say, "Well, I don't trust the Bible. So, you have to give me another source." And so, because they say they don't trust it, therefore we feel like, "Oh my goodness, we can't use it."

Now, if the Bible, was indeed, not trustworthy, then yeah, I would say that you shouldn't use it. But, if in fact it is, just because somebody doesn't believe in it as such, doesn't mean that you can't use it. So, what I would do, and what I often do, is I quote from the Bible, or I reference the Bible without people realizing it.

In one of my talks, I talk about meaning, and I talk about how there was a wise King, who had everything that he could have wanted. Plenty of money, plenty of land, all these kinds of things. But he looked around, at the world around him, and saw that it was, kind of, not... All of these things really, ultimately, at the end of the day, weren't for anything. And, you work really hard, you spend all your life working really hard, but then you die, and you leave your stuff with the person behind you, and who knows what they're going with the things that you worked so hard for.

Now, what I don't say, is that I'm reading the...I don't necessarily tell people that I'm reading out of the book of Ecclesiastes. Because I don't think, necessarily, that if I said that, that it would be absolutely essential. I think it's helpful to reference the Bible, but I think that they can still get the point, and not have to bring in some of their other issues of confusion, or distrust or completely dismiss the point because I mentioned that it's from the Bible.

And so, there are certain times when I say, "Well, you know what? I want somebody to grab the impact of this." And then, there's other times when I definitely quote straight out of the Bible, and can even mention it and do, then, mention it. So, it just depends on what's happening. But, I guess, the thing that I like to keep in mind, is that the Bible, if I believe that the Bible's true, and it truly is, then the words in it are impactful. Not just then, when it was written, but now.

And so, I think that it's still powerful, and it can still reach people where they are, at this point. So, I think we reference the Bible, if they have an issue with the credibility, well then, hey. Maybe, I don't say the chapter and verse, but I still want to speak truth. And if I've got to speak truth, then there's the source, and I'm going to for it.

Shawn Hart: I agree with what you're saying, Alycia. I think, a lot of times, people will, even Christians will say...I love this questions, but it has, like sometimes a common assumptions. Like, how do I talk to people without referring to the Bible because they don't trust it. And I love what you're saying. One of my favorite things actually, is when someone would say, "Where is that quote from?" And you actually go, "It's actually the Bible." They're like, "Oh." There's an element of surprise there, that's actually pretty cool to watch them be like, "Oh, the Bible actually says something that practical? Something that meaningful? Something that connects with me so closely? Interesting." And looking at that, I want to say that we can't avoid getting into the topic of credibility, when people are wanting to escape talking about the Bible... The whole credibility of scripture episode there, with Michael, Vince, and Jo.

Talking about God, to a non-believer, without referring to the bible, I think, we can do the general revelation. We could talk about moral- what we were just talking about, spent so much time on, with morality, that points to God. I actually think about just our ability to reflect. The reflective nature of being a human is an interesting thing to reflect on, it's interesting reflecting about reflecting. It's like, "Where did I start? Chicken or the egg?" But, think about the imagination, and stories. I've been reading, I love reading stories to my kids, but my older son, because he's a little bit older, he can get into things I maybe enjoy a little bit more, rather than ABCD.

But, I was actually talking to one of my college, Ivy, that day. I was like, "When my mouth opens, and I speak those words of this story, to my son, all of a sudden, both of us are in different worlds. All of a sudden, the imagination is just so interesting to me. All of a sudden, I'm in this land called Narnia, and Narnia is different to Elias, than it is to me. We're imagining Aslan as a different person, probably. The picture's not the same. That, to me, is just absolutely phenomenal, to reflect on the fact that our imaginations can just spark and create these images in our mind.

Just wondering, I was actually reading about this development book to Elias, last night. It talked about pregnancy, it talked about what happens with children's eyes. When I start to read about what happens in the womb, I'm just like, "How could people not believe in God?" I mean, the fact that the eyes are forming, and the eyelids are just one sheet, and eventually they'll separate. Wait, how did this perfect cut in the eyelids happen? I look at you guys, and look at those beautiful eyes you guys have, and those are...

Michael Davis: You had me at hello.

Shawn Hart: Yeah, there we go. So, I don't know. I think, when we actually slow down, step back, and actually wonder, and reflect on just little things. For me, that just really points to God. And then, we don't want to stop there. We do want to go into Jesus, more particular, and on this particular topic of not referring to the Bible, and talking about Jesus, there is a whole set of studies, historical Jesus studies. A good book to read, on this, would be, “Who Is Jesus”, by Darrell Brock. It's a popular level book, written from more of his academic things.

And the goal of this, the historical Jesus studies, is to play by the rules of skeptical Historians. So, some people will get concerned, they're like, "Wait. Do you not think the Bible's true? Because we're not going to use the Bible?" No, we say the Bible is the word of God, but, in order to play by their rules, in order to play this game, we're going to go by some particular rules. And there's particular rules like Multiple Attestation, which means that something is cited in multiple sources, with distinction to those sources. So, John's Gospel, in this, can't really be used, under these rules, because it's so unique.

Now, again, it's true, we believe that. But, in order for this type of exercise, you can only use certain types of scriptures. But, even when we go outside of historical sources, you look at, even just looking at the topic of Jesus as a miracle worker. You can build was Daryl Bach calls a historical echo, you look at some of the debates between Just and Martyr, you look at some of the writings of some of the Rabbis.

From the Sixth Century on, it is very clear the understanding was that Jesus was a miracle worker. Then you go back to the Bible, so you go through all of those historical sources. It builds a really strong case. Well, now we say, "Okay. Well, what does the Bible say about this?" You go into some of the multiply attested scriptures, which would...again, skeptical historians will say these scriptures can be used, in this game. You go to that, and you see, "Oh, wait. The Jews weren't actually arguing over whether the miracles happened or not, they're actually arguing over by what power." When my opposition agrees with me, that something happened, that's a big credence for it.

So I think we have to...Just looking at Jesus as a miracle worker, within the historical studies. I think we can see, "Okay, you're not referring to the Bible at first, but then, bringing in the Scriptures that others would agree with, outside of Christianity. I think, actually shows that there is, one: it gives credence to the authority of Scripture, and I think, implicitly. But, it allows them to say, "Okay, there's more to this. You've actually thought this through a little more, rather than just being...because I think part of the problem is, people are like, "You just keep quoting that religious book to me. I don't agree to that, with that religious book."

And we do have to, sometimes, say, "Okay, how do we talk to them, where they're at and not force them to take this authority that we take?" If they've not become Christians, they don't actually have that as an authority, yet.

Alycia Wood: Yeah. I mean, that's great, Shawn. Because I think, the way I view, an apologist, is, I just look at it as, I get in front of an audience and I'm just explaining Christianity. And where am I getting my understanding from Christianity? The Bible. And so, whether or not, they realize it, or not, I'm referencing the Bible the entire time. And so, I often times, quit that apologist or theologist, who are good communicators. And there's just a sense, in which we are trying to unpack theology, and trying to unpack, I know Mike is probably shaking his head, he's like, "There's more to it, than that." And there is more to it, than that.

But, the bottom line for me, is just that there's theology, there's the understanding of God, there's the understanding of Jesus, understanding salvation, there's understanding of the cross. But, you're not going to necessarily hear me saying salvation or the cross. I've got to communicate it in a different way. So, I've got to understand what the Theology is, what all these things mean. Redemption, and sanctification, and all these kind of things. But, without using those words, I've got to be able to better explain and teach the Bible, in a way that people can understand it.

And so, often times, I just think of it, in terms of that. You're starting at the bible, and then, how is it that you can break it down, so that somebody who had no biblical knowledge can understand it? But, you're still using the bible, they just don't realize it, because you're just having a conversation.

Michael Davis: To the Jew, to the Greek, you're a Greek. Absolutely. Well, absolutely. Well, Guys, we are out of time. Shawn, sum it up for us.

Shawn Hart: Great. Well, I think as we've gone over today, when bashed, when persecuted, we need to actually respond with humility, just a Christ. I think, this whole episode, we're thinking, "How can we communicate Christ well?" And part of that, is not just by what we say, it's who we are, and how we live. And that is one thing to just keep in mind, as we desire to proclaim the message. That we not only proclaim it with our words, but that we proclaim it with our lives. So, live in such a way that people will ask for a reason for the hope that you have, and then you can respond with gentleness and respect.

Michael Davis: Alycia, Shawn. Thank you guys, for joining me.

Alycia Wood: Thank you.

Michael Davis: Thank you all for listening, and we will catch you next week.

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