“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny...”
C. S Lewis
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
How would you respond to the following?:
If God exists, then why is there evil in the world?
There is no truth. All roads lead to God.
You can’t know anything for sure
We don’t allow the view of Christianity, we allow all views.
Christians shouldn’t be so intolerant
Christians shouldn’t judge.
Again, I want you to remember what Jesus states in John 13:34-35.
John 13:34-35 Jesus states "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
As I indicated in the title page to this section, it is easy and natural to feel personally attacked when our beliefs are challenged, and then feel negative toward those making the challenge(s). When feeling this way because a challenge has been raised, it is important to remember that ultimately it is God who is being challenged and not us. We must remember that God doesn't need our help to defend Him. However, if we have developed the skills, which this guide and other resources will help with, He does offer us the privilege of being involved in the process. A process not so much to defend Him, but to present truth and thus correct error. And unfortunately there is much error in the beliefs people have about Christianity, by non-Christians and even Christians.
If we are prepared, there is no challenge to Christianity that should upset us. If we find ourselves upset we need to increase our knowledge on the subject and remember Greg Koukl’s statement,
“When talking with someone, if either of you get upset, you lose”.
This section will provide you with information to be able to improve your skills in responding to the challenging statements made by others. This way, you don’t need to feel unprepared in responding to someone’s challenge or possibly feeling insulted or upset by their challenge. As well, you won't feel the need to be offensive but informative.
I believe one of the reasons some people make these challenges against Christianity is personal to them. Some may fee that they were let down by an experience they had in a church. They could have been offended or hurt by an individual in that church and then associate the actions of that person with Christianity. Maybe others were convinced by professors who persuaded them that God doesn't exist and that the Bible isn't from God. Still others have had a personal tragedy in their own family or someone close and wondered how this could happen if God supposedly loves people.
Those who have been persuaded that there is no God may look at the money collections taken by churches and religious ministries as a rip-off. Whatever the reason, they've decided to challenge what they now believe is a lie, possibly thinking they are actually doing good because they believe they are exposing what they believe to be false. Can you also see that a person who has been convinced to turn away from what they now believe is a lie, will need to be persuaded to consider possibly significant evidences before they might reconsider their decision. After all, who wants to be wrong twice?
I believe the best way to answer the challenges made by others is not to get defensive, or even offensive for that matter, but to present truths which correct the incorrect information others believe and thus persuade them with truth. This way, not only do you answer their false challenge, but in doing so you may motivate them to not repeat the false challenge to others now that they know it is false. This may also bring them to a point where they honestly consider the teachings of Christianity. If providing a reasoned answer to a challenge causes the challenger to not make the challenge further, this can be beneficial even further in that other Christians who don’t know the answers to the challenges are possibly less likely to be confronted with these challenges. It can also be beneficial in that there will be fewer non-Christians hearing these false challenges and then repeating them to others.
It is important when answering challenges that you do so with an attitude of love and respect. Our Biblical mandate as Christians requires that we do all we can to reach others and to do so with love and respect. We are to share truths to correct the errors of those who repeat these challenges in such a way that does not disrespect them and doesn’t embarrass them for using these challenges. Realize that it is logical for someone who doesn't have an accurate understanding of what true Christianity is to challenge that inaccurate belief.
I see two important reasons to be respectful and non-embarrassing to those raising challenges against Christianity. One reason is because most don’t realize that most of these challenges have been proven false. I believe it is very important that those who make these statements be given the benefit of the doubt in their motivations for saying them. It is highly probable that they have never heard responses to the challenges which show the problem with the claim(s). If those raising the challenge have never heard an answer to it, they have never had a reason not to believe the challenge and thinking that the challenge is valid, they repeat it. The second reason is that if we show respect for others and strive to keep from embarrassing them, they might be willing to consider our reasons and evidences for what we believe.
Many Christians often avoid challenges to their beliefs because they haven't learned there are answers to most challenges. We don't want to be seen by others as believing something there doesn't seem to be good reasons for believing. We don’t want others to see us as confrontational or defensive. We hesitate to speak up because we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we can be embarrassed because of our inability to effectively defend what we believe. As well, we avoid challenges because we want to avoid the possibility of embarrassing others. We've all heard about situations where Christians have been confrontational, defensive, or lacking in answers and have put Christianity in a negative light with non-Christians. When you are properly prepared you significantly reduce the instances of these situations taking place.
So let’s consider some of the challenging statements you are likely to hear. The statements in this section can cause a Christian great concern if they haven’t learned the problems with the statements and how to respond effectively to those making the statements.
When you first hear these statements they can sound very convincing. However, when you examine the statements considering additional information, you will quickly discover the inconsistency in each of them. As you will also see, the inconsistency in the challenge can be brought to the attention of the person making the statement showing the error of the statement, and also done so in a way that is not offensive or rude.
I stress again that it is very important to be able to respond to challenger with respect because as Christians we are to be winning hearts, not winning ARGUMENTS to the point of silencing those who are raising the challenges. The ARGUMENTS I refer to here are the ARGUMENTS of the non-legal type, the type of ARGUMENTS you find in a heated discussion. Just because you have silenced a person doesn’t mean you have changed their heart.
There is a saying that captures this idea quite well,
“A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still”.
When a person feels silenced and disrespected they may become even more determined to hold onto their belief. So, do you want to disrespect them and win an argument or be respectful and possibly win their heart?
The inconsistencies in the challenging statements typically come from the statements being what are called SELF-REFUTING or SELF-CONTRADICTORY . That means that the statement REFUTES its own claims, it CONTRADICTS itself. It can’t pass its own claim. The following few statements are simple examples of self-contradictory statements. If you’ve not worked with these types of statements before you should be able to start to understand the concept.
What is wrong with the following statements?
“I can't speak a word of English.”
“No sentence can have more than three words.”
"My parents had no children who lived."
It should be easy to see that these statements contradict themselves. If you’re still new to this, you may realize there is something wrong with them but no be quite sure how they contradict. So let’s examine them.
This first statement contradicts itself because a person stating it is using English to state that they can’t speak English. The second statement contradicts itself because it is a sentence having more than three words stating that no sentence can have more than three words. The third statement is made by a person who can't possibly exist if all the children of their parents have died. They would have died also.
You should see by these examples that self-contradictory statements are automatically false. There is no possibility that they can be true.
Now, consider these statements:
“There is no truth”
“There are no absolutes”
Can you tell what’s wrong with them? The contradictions are a little harder to identify, right? Again, these statements are usually made by people who have heard them stated by others but who have not examined the statement’s truthfulness. Haven’t we all been guilty at times of doing this? Think about yourself. Have you ever repeated something you’ve heard without verifying whether it’s true or not? I'm sorry to admin that I have.
The surprising thing is that these statements are sometimes made by professors who one would think would know better. Some professors who know better might be motivated to repeat the statements knowing they are false, because they know that many Christians haven’t learned how to respond to them. We’ve already seen in the WORLDVIEW section the motivation of some professors.
Let’s cover these statements so that you will know how to respond to them when you hear them.
THERE IS NO TRUTH
As indicated earlier, the statement “There is no truth” infers that we can’t know anything with any real confidence, because we can't be sure about anything. If we can’t be sure about anything, we can’t be sure about Christianity, the existence of God, etc.
When someone states, “There is no truth”, they are stating THE TRUTH that THERE IS NO TRUTH, also called MAKING A TRUTH CLAIM . This is a clear contradiction because there can’t be a TRUE statement about there being NO TRUTH if TRUTH doesn't exist. If there is no truth then the statement “There is no truth” can’t be true. Do you see how this statement contradicts itself?
THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES
When someone states, “There are no absolutes”, they are stating the ABSOLUTE , that there are NO ABSOLUTES . Another contradiction.
Again, I believe that some professors will make these claims to cause Christian students to doubt what they believe. I believe the professors who do this do so because when you as a student doubt what you believe you are much easier to persuade to believe differently. Or if you are not persuaded to believe differently, at least you will probably be less motivated to persuade others to believe in Christianity. Think about yourself. If you are less confident that Christianity is true, are you more motivated or less motivated to persuade others to believe it? Check these videos:
WHY CHRISTIAN KIDS LEAVE THE CHURCH IN COLLEGE -Minutes 1-8
WHY ARE SO MANY YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING THE CHURCH
HOW DO WE KNOW? EPISTEMOLOGY
When you think about the concept of TRUTH , if there is no truth then nothing can be known for sure. If there is no truth then what Jesus claims in John 14:6 can't be true.
John 14:6 “I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life”
If the Jesus' claim isn't true then Jesus is not who he claimed to be, and is either a lunatic or a liar. If there are no absolutes then there can be no MORAL ABSOLUTES. Since the Bible presents moral absolutes, this statement challenges the legitimacy of the Bible.
Are you starting to see how effective these statements are at challenging the foundational teachings of Christianity and the beliefs of Christian students?
Let’s for a moment look at one of the sentences in the last paragraph. You may have been surprised or possibly offended that I said that if Jesus wasn't “The Way, The Truth, and the Life”, he was either CRAZY or a LIAR . My apologies if I offended, but let’s consider a few things. Have any of your friends, family, or teachers ever claimed that they were God and that they could forgive sin? If they did and were sincere in their claim, would you consider them a good moral teacher? Of course not. You’d think they were crazy or lying. If Jesus is not God and only a person, for him to say the things He did would prove that he was a liar or a lunatic.
Many who refuse to believe that Jesus is God consider him just a good moral teacher, but did He leave this as a possible option? If He was just a man and was claiming to be God and forgive sin, would He be a good moral teacher? No. He would either be a liar or a lunatic. He left no other option. This is referred to as the LORD, LIAR OR LUNATIC TRILEMMA. Check this YouTube video of an excerpt of C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity.
Lord Liar or Lunatic C S Lewis
Jesus: Lord Liar or Lunatic? (@CFIMission)
Trilemma (Lord, Liar, Lunatic?) | Jesus Is Unique
Belonging -- Liar, Lunatic, or Lord
Some will say that there is one option missing from this "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" trilemma. Some say that Jesus wasn't any of these three, but that he was a legend, that He was just a man, but others over time presented Him as a legend. I think of the illustration of someone using their hands in the air to indicate the length of the fish that they caught. Each person who repeats the story holds their hands a little further apart, "The fish they caught was this big", creating the legend of the catching of this "very large" fish. But can the label of Legend be applied to Jesus and his life?
Why We Know the Story of Jesus Isn't A Legend
Jesus Legend // Amy Orr-Ewing // Unbelievable? Conference 2013
So, how do we respond to these two challenges?
“There is no truth”
“There are no absolutes”
Here are a few possible responses which should bring the person to the realization of the problems with the claim.
When someone states,
“There is no truth”,
“Is that the truth?”
When they say
"There are no absolutes”
“Are you absolutely sure?”
If they state,
“There are no moral absolutes”
let them know that they are actually stating a moral absolute.
It is the "absolute" where there are no morals.
The response to a self-contradictory statement will start to show the person making the statement the contradiction in their statement. People making these contradictory statements have usually heard someone else make the same statement but without the statement being responded to. The statement initially sounded convincing, and since it wasn't responded to they themselves never questioned it. Because of this they now repeat the statement because they’ve never had a reason to question the statement’s validity.
Do you see that responding to a self-contradictory statement first requires that we recognize that the statement is self-contradictory? It only takes a little knowledge and practice to be able to start recognizing them. And as you will see later a significant benefit of asking questions over making statements is that questions are less confrontational so you show greater respect to that person. I stress again, our job is to persuade minds and win hearts, not win arguments of the non-legal kind, and shut them down. Our motivation should always be the concern for the other person in light of the realization of everyone having one of two possible eternal destinations.
Another observation about these statements. If someone is claiming “There is no truth”, they are suggesting that NOTHING CAN BE KNOWN FOR SURE. As such, the claim of the person stating “There is no truth” can’t be known for sure, and so it can’t be true.
If the person saying this is an Atheist, anything they write or say about God not existing, can’t be true either. If someone states,
“Nothing can be known for sure”,
You can ask,
“Well how then can they know THAT for sure?”
One of the increasingly common phrases which is similar in meaning to
"There is no truth”, is
“That’s true for you, but not true for me”,
“I’m glad you found a truth that works for you”
These statements imply that different people can believe different “TRUTHS” which are even contradictory to each other.
When you say something like,
“The Bible says . . .”
a person might respond,
“I’m glad the Bible is true for you, but it is not true for me”.
Think about the statement. Can the Bible be both TRUE and NOT TRUE at the same time and in the same way? Do you see how this is self-contradictory?
Here are a few more statements. See if you can determine how to answer them? I’ll give the answers at the end of this sub-section.
We should doubt everything!
We can’t know the truth about reality.
That's true for you but not for me.
Truth statements must either be analytically or empirically verified.
We must deconstruct all truths.
Truth is always changing.
All of these statements demonstrate what is referred to as relativism , where the statement is relative to the person saying it. It’s like each person having their own truth. There is a name for this type of truth. It’s called SUBJECTIVE TRUTH . SUBJECTIVE TRUTH is based upon the SUBJECT, on the person and their preference, not the object. This would be similar to which type of ice cream a person believes is the best. Not that that ice cream, the object, is actually best, but that it is the preference of the person, the subject making the claim.
The other type of truth is OBJECTIVE TRUTH . OBJECTIVE TRUTH is true for all people at all times. It isn't determined by each person’s preference. An example of a statement of objective truth is, "insulin is the best treatment for diabetes". This statement is a statement about insulin, the object, and not the preference of the person, the subject.
You will see these concepts of differing truths presented in more detail in the TRUTH section.
Two specific terms to be familiar with for this subject are
RELATIVISM and POSTMODERNISM.
RELATIVISM is the philosophy (belief system) that the different points of view people have are all valid and true. That a person’s point of view is true if they believe it is true.
POSTMODERNISM is the philosophy (belief system) that centers on there being NO ABSOLUTE TRUTH. As you can see, they are closely related concepts.
There are some who believe that since Einstein proved the Theory of Relativity, then RELATIVISM has been proven. They believe that RELATIVITY and RELATIVISM have similar meanings, since the words look very similar. They do not have similar meanings. The following audio will give you a good understandinof both terms and their differences.
PAUL COPAN INTERVIEW: RELATIVISM
Remember the Bible’s warning about the acceptance of certain philosophies?
Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
The following links also have great information in this area. They will allow you to gain a much better understanding of these concepts. This will help you to learn more and give you the ability to more readily recognize a person’s worldview and any contradictory statements they might make.
MORAL RELATIVISM: FEET FIRMLY PLANTED IN MIDAIR
RELATIVISM: FEET FIRMLY PLANTED IN MID-AIR – More in depth video on relativism!
"THAT’S JUST WHAT YOU THINK”: RESPONDING TO RELATIVISM
GREG KOUKL EXPLAINS HOW TO BE A CONSISTENT MORAL RELATIVIST
CHRISTIANITY: BOLTED TO REALITY
Here are the questions you can ask when presented with those earlier self-contradictory statements:
"We should doubt everything!"
If we should doubt everything, should we doubt this statement?
"We can’t know the truth about reality."
How can they know that they know this?
Note: If you can't know the truth about reality, you could never make this statement.
"True for you but not for me."
Is this statement true for you but not for me? Or is it true for me but not for you?
"Truth statements must either be analytic or empirically verified."
Can this statement be either analytically or empirically verified?
(See the challenging statement Science Is The Only Way We Can Know Reality)
"We must deconstruct all truths."
Should we deconstruct this truth?
"Truth is always changing."
Since this is a 'Truth' statement, then isn't this truth, that "Truth is always changing", always changing too?
Now lets look at the challenging statements indicated at the beginning of this section and how to respond to them. I've added a concise response directly beneath each challenging statement/question followed by the more in depth explanation of the challenge and why the challenge doesn't work.
Next Section: If God Exists, Why Is There Evil?