By Mark A. Taylor
Confronted with doubters, some Christians display one of two unfortunate reactions.
Some look away.
They prefer not to think about serious skeptics. Isolated inside the church with no real relationships outside it, they are comfortable with a faith they themselves may never have questioned. They ignore the skeptic.
But others attack.
They can’t pretend doubters don’t exist. They’ve heard the cynical sneers about Christianity from public critics, and the arguments make them angry. They view disbelievers as the enemy, and their instinct is to defend the faith with sarcasm, condemnation, or insult.
Those in either group may not be happy with this month’s issue. Here we allow doubters to have their say, not because we agree with them but because we believe we need to hear them. The church cannot pretend that doubters are some evil minority fringe. They are in our families. Many grew up in our congregations. They wrestle with questions quietly in private, not only in public forums.
But we will not reach the doubter by arguing, or even worse, assaulting his intellect, his character, or his motives. We may hunger for some well-known apologist to put the atheist in his place, but debate won’t be our most effective strategy.
We’d do better to listen to the skeptic’s doubts, consider her reasoning, and understand her frustration with the church as she sees it or the Scripture as she understands it.
• We may see that the doubter does not object to biblical Christianity but to an inadequate, incomplete 21st-century American version of Christianity. We might even admit that some of the doubter’s objections are right and questions are fair.
• We may realize that the doubter makes assumptions about the Bible that just aren’t true. We can help him if he believes we’re with him in the pursuit of truth, not against him in the quest to win an argument.
• We may admit that the doubter has questions about the Bible that we’re still pondering ourselves. Our God is not a puzzle to be solved. He is not found via a mathematical equation or a scientific proof. We invite the doubter to walk with us in faith, not certainty.
In short, we can abandon our fear. Just because we cannot answer an objection does not mean it’s legitimate. If we believe the Bible is trustworthy, God is real, and Jesus is Lord, why should we quake in the presence of someone who disagrees?
We live in a time when polarization is the norm, when accusations and suspicion have pushed aside civil discourse, when those on opposite sides of every issue seem unable to come together. But we, the redeemed of God, can model a gracious spirit and offer a listening ear. Especially toward those whose questions speak not just to our beliefs, but to their eternity.