Summary: Being a student of other’s views is one of the best ways you can love your neighbor, learn more, and share Christ. We can start by asking a simple question, “What do you mean by that?”
“Your initial goal is to gather as much information from the other person as you can before you move on. You want him to talk as much as possible about his own convictions first. This approach gives you the best chance of “making the most of the opportunity,” as Paul put it in Colossians 4:5.” (Location: 867)
Note:There is a second side to this as well. Most people have very few opportunities where another individual is genuinely interested in them. Even with social media, many people are pumping out information for everyone to see because they don’t have anyone specific asking them about it, or showing real interest. What a gift we could give to someone else, the chance to be heard and understood.
“Would you like a model question that will help you get going? Here’s the one I use: ‘What do you mean by that?’” (Location: 893)
Note:There is a reason this is the first question. It is so crucial. But many times I just assume I know what they mean and have formulated an argument even before they have finished.
“When someone says to me, ‘Reincarnation was originally part of Christian teaching but was taken out of the Bible in the fourth century,’ I ask them to explain how that works (a variation of our first Columbo question). The devil, as they say, is in the details of such a challenge.” (Location: 913)
Note:There are so many of these textual statements made from individuals who have no idea what “textual criticism” even is. Taking a moment and listening to what they think happened is a good opportunity for someone to see they don’t know what they are talking about. It is also a challenge to me, how many things am I repeating which I have no idea of?
“There are three reasons why gathering information is important. First, you don’t want to misunderstand the person you’re talking with. Second, you don’t want to misrepresent him. Third, you don’t want him to misunderstand himself.” (Location: 921)
“Sometimes the reason you are confused about another person’s meaning is because she is confused too. She objects to Christianity for reasons she hasn’t carefully thought through, and her objection flourishes because no one has challenged the lack of clarity that led to her muddled thinking in the first place. Your first question compels her—maybe for the first time—to be more precise.” (Location: 952)
Note:We often don’t really know what we believe until we say it. And once this person has said it, they need to own it.
“I know that sounds surprising, but it’s true. Even though people have strong opinions, they rarely reflect on their views. Often they’re merely repeating slogans. When you ask them to flesh out their concern, opinion, or point of view, they’re struck mute. They’re forced to think about what they do mean, so be patient with the pause in the dialogue. You’re doing them a favor by requesting clarification.” (Location: 961)
“And be forewarned. When someone says there’s no proof of God’s existence, it’s sometimes a trick. It may be a reasonable request for evidence, but often it’s not. Unless you know in advance what kind of evidence would count (scientific data? historical documentation? philosophical arguments? revelation?) or what kind of proof would be satisfying (absolute proof? proof beyond a reasonable doubt? proof based on the preponderance of evidence? proof that’s a reasonable inference to the best explanation?), you’ll probably be wasting your time. If you’re not clear on his criteria for proof, it will be too easy for an intellectually dishonest person to dismiss anything you offer. ‘Not good enough,’ is all he needs to say. ‘That’s not proof.’” (Location: 988)
“Believing in leprechauns is irrational. Believing in God, by contrast, is like believing in atoms. The process is exactly the same. You follow the evidence of what you can see to conclude the existence of something you cannot see. The effect needs a cause adequate to explain it.” (Location: 997)
Note:There are those who would belittle others for believing in God, stating that they are “weak minded”, “ignorant”, “deniers of science”, etc. The questionis, though, who is more open minded: the one who disregards any possibility of God before considering the evidence, or the one who believes that their own senses and scientific method could be missing something, and thus there could be a God? I think Keller’s book, Making Sense of God, is a great resource for this.
“If you want skeptics to believe in the Bible, don’t get into a tug-of-war with them about inspiration. Instead, invite them to engage Jesus’ words firsthand, then let the Spirit do the heavy lifting for you.” (Location: 1,045)
Note:Yes! Read “One to One Bible Reading” for an excellent example of this.
“As to legislating morality, Aristotle famously observed that all law rests on a necessary foundation of morality. If the government’s use of force is not in the service of the common good, then its actions are illicit. Put simply, morality is the only thing you can legislate. Anything else is simply a raw exercise of power.” (Location: 1,058)