Monday, May 09, 2005

Planning to Defend the Hope Within You

One of the reasons that I appreciate the folks at STR so much is that they work really hard at thinking through conversations with unbelievers and the tough—or awkward—objections that might be raised. Few of us invest the time to simply stop and think about conversations and objections before they occur. Suppose you were in a conversation with an unbeliever, whom you believed was going to hell, how would you respond to his question, “So do you believe I’m going to hell?” If you answer no, you are lying. If you answer yes, you’ve walked right into his trap and the answer will be misunderstood as callous and won’t get to the heart of the issue. So Steve Wagner suggests answering the question by saying, “Only if you’re as bad as I am.” Greg Koukl suggests responding like this: “Well, I believe in justice, do you?” “Yes.” “What is justice but that people who are guilty get punished in an appropriate way to their guilt? I believe that people who are guilty pay for their crimes unless they have been pardoned.”

These answers are true and provocative. They are interesting, not pat. They are conversation propellers, not conversation stoppers. They involve not only playing defense, but offense. The unbeliever thinks he has backed you into a corner, forcing you to answer a question that makes you look insensitive or unloving or nutty. But with these answers the unbeliever’s inconsistency is revealed and he suddenly has to begin defending an indefensible worldview.

So here is my question of application for you. Are you prepared and ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you? Have you ever shut off the TV and the email and the phone, and tried to think through tough questions that might come up in witnessing on behalf of the truth of God? There is much stress these days on the spiritual disciplines—Bible reading, Bible memorization, prayer, journaling, etc. I agree with that stress. But why not plan some regular time simply to think through a difficult theological question or a winsome way to answer a difficult question? Why not put it in your planner. Think of a common objection—or something you’ve never had a good answer for—and commit to spending some time to work through it. For help along the way, you might want to consider signing up for STR’s Ambassador program.