Questioning The Faith Question 1: With no foundation to start from, how do we convey that there is a God, that you are separated from that God and action is needed, to someone unchurched?
Great question and one near and dear to AC3, because answering this is why we exist as a church.
A good response here will depend on the specific person with no foundation. What does that mean, exactly? You will need to know. I assume they have no real understanding of historic or biblical Christianity. But that does not mean they have no frame of reference for the Gospel at all. Were they raised in the Church and rejected it? Were they raised completely unchurched? Do they know any Christians? Have they read a Bible? Are they a hard atheist or a soft agnostic (IE they are certain there is no God, vs merely unsure and open to the idea?)? Are they a pantheist?
Asking these questions is what I suggest as your first step in conveying the gospel. Which is to say the first step is not to convey anything at first. It is to understand them better.
Tools for The Task
For this task, you have the main tool that Jesus used so often when he was reaching people far from God: Questions. Questions are your best friend in trying to convey the gospel. That might be counter intuitive, because we think answers are our best friend for making new Christians. But sometimes answers just shut people down. Answers raise defenses. We should have answers (1 Peter 3:15) but we should lead with questions first.
Your job then is first to uncover the reasons why someone does not believe in God, rather than start with arguments for belief in God. This will lead you toward which arguments may be most persuasive. Greg Koukl talks about this in his short book, Tactics. He says we should think, my first step is merely to gather info. Assuming a spiritual conversation has been entered into in the context of relationship and care, first find their reasons for unbelief using questions.
A Common Response
Now, they may give you their atheist manifesto in response to your questions. Fine, hear them out. This is a great thing to do and all you have to do is listen. It shows you care about their story. About what they think. About how they came to think it. But after they are done with that, you are not done with questions.
Next question on any point they’ve made is: “what do you mean by that?”
This is not mean to be combative. It is meant to get your friend to clarify what they believe. Some people are antagonistic toward Christianity, but they do not really have a clear idea of why. So, you want to know exactly what they mean by what they say. They might say, “I don’t believe in God because the Bible is full of errors.” What do they mean by that? Which errors? They say, “Science disproves God.” What do you mean by that? IE, what do you think science is?
Still More Questions
There are more questions to ask. Here’s a question that reverses the burden of proof: “How did you come to that conclusion?” This gets to not only what they believe but why they believe it? Just by answering the question, you may find that a friend has based a negative view of the Bible or Christian doctrine on a popular myth or something that was not really thought through or did not have very good evidence.
For example, they might say, “Christianity is just a superstition cobbled together from ancient Roman mystery cults.” The question to ask is, “how did you come to that conclusion?” And now you will see that they probably heard a meme on Facebook. Now, you do not have to know anything about the topic yourself, you are just asking where they got their information. If you do not know if Christianity borrowed from these cults yourself, this is great chance to investigate together. You will learn something!
Something to Remember
Remember, if the gospel is true, you never have to be defensive. Every question or critique has been leveled at the Faith before, and it is still standing strong. There is a great chance there’s a great answer that may counter the info they have.
Finally, questions also are useful to guide the conversation toward answers. Accept their arguments for argument’s sake, then ask questions. For example, if there is no God, do you think there is not real right or wrong? Would you agree it is not objectively wrong to torture babies for fun?
So, questions are the ballgame. Asking questions about what they believe. Questions about why they believe it. Or questions that begin to make a point without an argument.
Now, if you are asking how I would steer a conversation with a very unchurched person, to simply convey things like the existence of God, our sin problem and God’s solution I might start here:
The Moral Argument
- THERE IS A GOD: the moral law is inescapable and so it remains one of the best evidences for a Law Giver. A friend of mine recently was making a case against God because of evil in the world. People do this all the time, introducing the concepts of good and evil as if we are just supposed to ‘know’ they are real and valid. But these concepts presuppose a Law that exists outside our preferences. If there is no God, no such objective Law exists.
- YOU ARE SEPARATED FROM THAT GOD: If you can agree that some Law outside our preferences exists, we have to ground it someplace other than our whims. The friend might say that nature is that ground, but nature does not “prefer” anything. It just is. Law is about ‘what we ought to do’ not ‘what is’. So, if a Law Giver is the only viable option, it is not too far to see that while everyone knows this Law, no one actually obeys it. And if that is true, then we are not right with the Law Giver. The universality of guilt speaks powerfully to this fact.
- ACTION IS REQUIRED: If that point can be reached, then the last issue is what to do with our guilt. There are really only two options. One, you could work off your bad karma and hope God grades on a curve. I would point out that this is what all religions essentially are. It’s what binds them together superficially: they all seek to remedy our ‘separateness’ by our efforts. We feel a gap between us and ultimate Good and the solution is we work to cover the gap. Just a ruthless moral inventory may be enough to show how futile this option really is. It leaves us never knowing if being good is good enough. But that leaves only one other option: to be made good apart from our own efforts of works. Is there such a Way? The gospel stands apart as this way of grace. Religion: we try to be right. Jesus: God makes us right. The gulf of difference and the appeal of the gospel could not be clearer at this point.
Just One More Way
Questions about faith are just one of the ways to convey the gospel. And you can begin to move towards it, by having all the right questions, not all the right answers.
Have More Questions Submit them Here