Answering difficult questions: by Dave Symons

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1 Peter 3:15: ‘Always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ is for many of us a daunting scripture.

Always be ready, always! What about if you are just not feeling close to God or worse still if someone asks you one of the questions you can’t answer? Best thing you may think you can do is to stay quiet so you don’t make a mess of it and leave it to others to do the evangelism.

Struggling to answer those tricky questions we may be asked, is one of the main reasons Christians give as to why they are not confident about sharing their faith and yet, with a little thought and prayer, I believe all of us can be ready to give an answer for the hope we have.

The good news is we don’t have to have all the answers, but the even better news is that the answers to the most commonly asked questions are fairly straightforward to give.

Today, with amazing resources online, and in the form of Christian books and tracts, the information we need to defend our faith from sceptics or enquirers, has never been so easy to obtain.

It is so important we all take the chance we have to engage with people’s questions otherwise we risk non-Christians coming to the conclusion we are ‘pie in the sky spiritual people who have blind faith’, rather than believers who have put our faith in a God who has revealed Himself in Jesus and given us plenty of evidence to back up all we know to be true.

Apologetics websites such as: Gotquestions.org, Carm.org, Alwaysbeready.com and Chatnow.org.uk, as well as thegoodbook.co.uk and 10ofthose.com have lots of wonderful resources to help us in our witnessing.

To start with why not challenge yourself to think through or look into answers to the following commonly asked questions:

Is there more to life than this?

A searching for meaning is so common in a society devoid of hope. A great chance to talk about eternal life but also the differences God makes in our day to day lives.

How will Christianity help me and is it relevant to me?

In essence this question is to do with happiness. Testimonies are good for this question, speaking about the freedom, hope and the forgiveness Jesus brings.

Isn’t faith just psychological? Where’s the evidence?

There is of course so much that can be said about evidence for God but I usually just give someone a Bible and say here’s 66 books full of evidence! Our faith is not based on feelings or a philosophy but a person, Jesus Christ. Christian faith is not ‘all in the mind’ it’s rooted in history.

Isn’t Jesus just one of many spiritual leaders? How do I know which faith to follow?  

A great question for focusing on Jesus, his unique claims and his unique life, death and resurrection.

Aren’t Christians just hypocrites?

I will usually say, if by hypocrite you mean they don’t live up the standards set in the Bible then yes, absolutely! This gives a great chance to speak about God’s grace and forgiveness.

Aren’t Christians intolerant?

I usually ask what people mean by intolerant with this question. Christians of course are not to be intolerant but to love people and accept them as they are. This is the second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:39. However, if by intolerant they mean not agreeing with liberal values/lifestyle then I say yes, we are ‘intolerant’. As Christians, we have a very different way of viewing right and wrong. Our values come from God and are not based on what’s politically correct according to the media or government.

Hasn’t the Bible been changed down through the years?

Easy one, no, our English versions are translated from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts not from later translations. I usually ask people how they think the Bible could have been changed, by who and when? In fact, such a task would have been impossible with hundreds of manuscripts, spread over three continents, held by groups of Christians who would have certainly taken exception to someone trying to change their Bible manuscripts!

Hasn’t science disproved God?

Here, it may be helpful to speak about scientists who are Christians: Issac Newton, Louis Pasteur and modern-day scientists, Frances Collins, William D Philips or John Polkinghorne. It may also help to ask these tough questions of sceptics: In the beginning what happened? What exploded? Why did it explode? Where did it come from in the first place? Where did the laws of the universe/physics come from? How did the first life originate? How did the caterpillar/butterfly possibly evolve? This should be enough to sow seeds of doubt in the ‘science has all the answers idea’.

If I’m a good person, won’t God let me into heaven?

Great question for talking about the standard of heaven: perfection. Romans 3:23 shows us that we are all in the same boat; sinners, imperfect people in need of forgiveness, in need of a Saviour. Entry into heaven is not about being good enough, but about being willing to accept the forgiveness Jesus offers us all.

Finally, perhaps the biggest question of all: Why does God allow suffering?

First of all, I usually ask people why they are asking the question. If they have experienced the loss of a loved one, then the nature of the answer will be focused on the peace and comfort God brings. The God who meets us in our place of need. Sharing about Jesus’ own suffering may also be helpful.

If, on the other hand, the question is more generic, then I usually ask people what would they like God to do about it? The answer is often - stop all the suffering and the follow-on question is therefore, how might He do that? To which the answer often is, punish all the bad people. In this case I usually share something about the fact that I can be ‘bad’ sometimes, so if I am a bad person, how should God punish me?

Recognising that solving the problem of suffering is not straightforward, is a good first step. Help people to see that God cannot deal with suffering without dealing with the causes of suffering, namely the Devil, the fallen world and the human race. Of course, one day he will deal with all of this when Jesus returns and makes an end of all suffering and evil but in the meantime ‘he is patience not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).

If you would like more information on how to answer these or any other questions non-believers may ask us, please do take a look at the links given or contact me on symons@countiesuk.org

May God help us and empower us to be His witnesses, sharing the Good News of Jesus with those around us.

Symons David