Some Typical Faith Objections…
“The Bible was written by men…not God.”
“Different people interpret the Bible different ways. Who’s to say you’re right?”
“What have I ever done to deserve hell?”
“I can’t believe in a God who would condemn people that have never heard about Him.”
“If all it takes to go to heaven is faith in Jesus, than people can live any way they want. That’s not right.”
Any of those statements sound familiar? They sure do to me.
An Actual Conversation
Over the years, my wife Deb and I have tried to share the gospel with a number of people…some of them very dear to us. Recently, Deb and I were in the same room during a telephone conversation she was having with a family member. We often activate our telephone’s speaker when we talk to our families, as she did, so I could clearly hear their discussion. When the conversation turned to spiritual matters (which is a huge answer to prayer in and of itself), we heard different versions of some of the objections mentioned above.
Here’s Where It Gets Silly
Throughout the conversation, I felt my blood pressure rising as different objections were raised. These were questions that both of us had encountered before, and I knew that all of these questions had very reasonable answers.
So, I began passing notes to my wife. These notes contained comments I thought she ought to make in response to the objections being raised. Some of the comments were well-thought-out, and some weren’t (thankfully, my wife knew which notes to bring up and which ones to ignore).
As the conversation progressed, I kept searching for the silver bullet – the perfect comment that would break through all of the misconceptions and foggy theology, the question or statement that would finally open the eyes of this loved one to the truth. Sadly, neither of us found it.
Another Person’s Salvation Is Not About Me
There are a couple of reasons why my behavior was silly. First, my wife is no puppet. She’s a very capable woman with a sharp mind who really didn’t need any prompting from me to hold a conversation about her faith. I’m just thankful that she received my actions in the spirit I intended them.
Second, my behavior was silly because the salvation of the people we love doesn’t depend on our ability to persuade them. We can’t talk people into heaven. No matter how diligently we may work to hone our outreach skills or how elegantly we may craft our arguments, we can’t make others believe.
Belief is the province of the Holy Spirit. He’s the One who works in hearts to motivate saving faith. No amount of note-passing or silver-bullet-seeking can replace the ministry whereby the Holy Spirit convicts men of sin, draws them to repent, and grants them new and everlasting life (John 16:8-11; 3:3-7).
If That’s the Holy Spirit’s Job, What’s My Role?
So, if saving people is the Holy Spirit’s job, what are we supposed to do? Do we stand idly on the sidelines as our family and friends languish unknowingly in their unbelief? Do we cheer on the Holy Spirit, hoping and praying that He will act, without taking any action ourselves? That would be a whole lot easier, wouldn’t it? It just wouldn’t be biblical.
The Apostle Paul spoke about the need for our involvement in this process in the book of Romans.
Romans 10:14 (NIV)
“How can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
Though God is the One who makes faith possible, He uses us to reach those who need Him. We have the responsibility to shine the light of God’s love in the midst of a dark and dying world…and we are called to do just that, both through our actions and, yes, even through our words.
What Should I Do?
Study. Practice. Pray. Persist. And not necessarily in that order.
There are sound, biblically-consistent answers to all of the objections raised above. As those entrusted with the mission of reaching the lost, we have a responsibility to learn those answers so that we might earnestly contend for the faith. The Apostle Peter challenged us to do this.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
“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…”
There are some great books that can help you grow in your understanding of these issues. Kirk Fatool mentions several of these resources in his recent blog post.
Some people will think this advice is totally whack, but I’m okay with that. I think it can really help you.
There’s one major difference between live theatre and film (actually, there are thousands, but go with me on this). The difference is rehearsal. You don’t have to rehearse a lot for film productions. That’s because if someone goofs up, you can say, “Cut. Reset. Take 2.” While mistakes can become expensive, film allows you to cut out the missteps so that the audience sees what you want them to see.
That’s not how it works in the theatre. In theatre, you rehearse for weeks, even months, before you’re ready for an audience. You have to do that because mistakes happen. People get flustered, nervous. They forget their lines. They talk when someone else should be talking. In theatre, it’s rehearsal that allows you to cut out the missteps so that the audience sees what you want them to see.
I would suggest to you that our faith conversations are a whole lot more like theatre than film. They’re live. We tend to get flustered. Because of our nerves, we’re liable to forget important points that we might otherwise address.
To avoid this, my recommendation is to rehearse. I’m not saying that you have to sit down in front of a mirror and act out an imaginary conversation. After all, you don’t know what another person is going to say. Instead, I’m suggesting that you take a common objection (one like, “The Bible was written by men…not God”) and write out several bullet points to help you answer that objection. Keep that somewhere handy, and review it from time to time. Then, when you get into a conversation with someone who raises that objection, you’ll be ready to provide a thoughtful answer that addresses his/her concern.
You may not have all the answers. That’s okay. There’s no shame in saying, “I don’t know. Would you mind if I do a little research and get back to you on that?”
Remember, we play a very small role in this effort. The results depend on God. So, we need to be diligent to pray for those that we’re seeking to reach. Pray that God would give them receptive hearts and a willingness to wrestle with the truth.
This is something I heard from one of my fellow pastors, Dustin Folden, at a men’s breakfast. He explained that he had shared the gospel with one of his brothers on ten separate occasions. Finally, after nine seemingly fruitless conversations, his brother said, “You mean I don’t have to do anything to be saved? I just have to trust in what Christ has already done?”
Dustin had shared the fact that salvation is a gift of God’s grace during the nine previous discussions, but it wasn’t until the tenth conversation that this part of the message finally sunk in. What a shame it would have been if Dustin had given up after the first conversation…or the fourth…or the the ninth! Because of Dustin’s persistence, his brother is one step closer to embracing Christ.
This story is a reminder to me that we should “not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).