“It’s the night of your weekly Bible study group. During the discussion of the Sunday sermon on the Great Commission, a newcomer remarks, “Who are we to say Christianity is any better than any other religion? I think the essence of Jesus’ teaching is love, the same as all religions. It’s not our job to tell other people how to live or believe.” The rest of the group fidgets awkwardly, but says nothing. How do you respond?” – Tactics, pg 42.
How would you respond?
That’s an important question to ask, and here’s why: there are a thousand variations of this situation. The reality is that someday, at sometime (hopefully soon if we’re proactive in seeking out these opportunities), questions like this are going to come up. How will you respond?
I want to make one suggestion, grounded in the principle that Koukl expounds in chapter 3 of Tactics:
To show you how effective this is at “de-fusing” the situation, let me give you a couple examples of how I might respond:
- You said, “the essence of Jesus teaching is love.” Would you tell me more about your study of Jesus’ life and teaching? How much have you studied his life?
- How are all religions the same? What specific things make them similar? Don’t you think there are significant differences as well?
And one from Koukl,
- “Isn’t telling people to love one another just another example of telling them how they should live and believe?”
Respond with a sincere question. This approach has a couple incredible advantages and effects. For today I’ll just give two that Koukl suggests:
1. Questions help us understand what they think
When you ask a question, you begin gathering information (trust me, I realize how obvious that is). You begin the process of actually understanding the other person. Asking questions stops us from getting preachy – “let me tell you what I think” – and makes us informed – “I want to know what you think.”
Sidenote: If you want to use a debate term, you might say that asking questions helps us avoid the “Straw Man” fallacy: “Instead of fighting the real issue (your opponent’s actual view), you set up a lifeless imitation (a ‘straw man’) that you then easily knock down.” Tactics, pg 51.
2. Questions help them understand what they think.
This may seem a bit counterintuitive. Why wouldn’t they understand what they’re saying? Because people often repeat slogans – not well thought out ideas. Questions help us drag superficially-profound catchphrases up to the light for inspection.
Asking the newcomer (in the beginning of this post) the simple question, “but how are all religions the same? What kind of study have you done?” will quickly draw him out to prove the claim he’s just made. It will, very quickly, help him understand what he’s saying.
Those are two quick summaries of why Koukl is a fan of asking questions. My hope is that they’ve at least given you a starting point for think through the question I posed earlier, “how will I respond to those who doubt the claims of my faith?”