I’ve been watching the stream of the Defending the Faith conference all week. It’s been super.
One thing that’s caught my ear during the Q & A sessions is how many times the question is asked: “How would you answer _____ objection.”
Well, of course that type of question would be asked. It’s an apologetics conference after all. But, it feels a tad bit simplistic to me. There’s something missing from that type of question and I think I know what it is.
What I think’s missing is summed up in what David Calhoun said in his talk: “We should know something about those we minister to.” And, the “something” we should know is what their belief system looks like.
We each operate out of a large framework of beliefs that inform each other to form a belief system. Gary Habermas called it our “perception” in his talk.
One guy might think about history in a sort of Zeitgeist movie way, where history is just a sequence of power players pulling one over on the public over and over. So, if this guy then challenges you on a non-history related question, such as evolution, it doesn’t mean that your now working from a clean slate. His beliefs about history are going to have a large influence on his scientific thinking as well.
He’s probably going to feel from the get-go that any Christian has bought into the system, and thus can’t come at science in a neutral way. So, if you launch straight into a defense of creation you might as well pound sand. He’s playing on a different instrument altogether.
To me, it seems best to tackle the most far reaching beliefs first. The ones that have the biggest grip on all of the others. Tackle those in a straightforward argumentative way.
When it comes to the other challenges though, I can see greater benefit from just telling the person how you, yourself came to believe that particular thing. Leave out the technical arguments and do more story telling. For example, “I just couldn’t see how ascent by natural selection was possible given the incredible statistics stacked against it. It really felt like a huge leap of faith to me.”
I guarantee that would get you a lot farther than breaking out a William Lane Craig whitepaper.
You see, our theoretical guy’s historical narrative is probably the thing dominating his thinking – not evolution. And it’s that which needs to be addressed technically. The rest are more sideline issues.
So, re-visiting the question of what exactly is missing from the “How would you answer _____ objection” question – what’s missing is a clear picture of the objector’s framework. By, being more personal with the secondary issues and more technical with the primary ones, we stand the best chance of building a new framework for this person over time. And, it will take time.