A tough reality that many of us have had to learn is that there are no silver bullets when it comes to evangelism. Have you ever become frustrated that your arguments were not enough to persuade someone? This is an especially common struggle for those of us who study apologetics. Many of us tend to approach defending the faith in the same way a competitive debater approaches an argument, or an attorney approaches a court case. We are always trying to have the perfect evidence, form it into the perfect and succinct argument, and as a result, perfectly convince people of the truth of Christianity. People are not that simple. It is not how most of us are wired. There are no silver bullets in evangelism, but that may actually be a good thing.
I was recently in a conversation with a fellow Christian about how to handle conversations about difficult objections thrown at us, like the Old Testament destruction of the Canaanites. The issue was not lack of answers, but difficulty explaining them in a quick, persuasive, and satisfying way. This objection, like other tough questions like the problem of evil, has been brought up and answered countless times. However, while we have good answers to these objections, they take some time to fully explain.
Resist the Snappy Comebacks
We all love those snappy phrases that blow our minds and have us grabbing a pen to write it down, or smash that like and share button. With some practice, we can all learn a few of these “mic drop” responses that we think are guaranteed to make skeptics stop and rethink their lives. Have you ever actually used one in a conversation though? It doesn’t usually end that well in my experience. When Drew and I write a “Quick Challenge Question,” we’re not trying to write a snappy comment, but to quickly walk through an issue so that it can be properly understood and give you some talking points.
That said, this is going to depend a lot on context. If you are in a public conversation with an audience, maybe that kind of memorable comeback is the way to go. Especially in something like a formal debate or a radio show, you want to make the most of your very limited time. However, even if you are in a context where you will not have an opportunity to follow up or engage this person again, resist the urge to overdo it. Make sure you remember your tactics and questions, and are presenting the message with humility and character.
The Power of Conversation
Instead of looking for that perfect silver bullet to win someone to Christ, guide them through the issues gradually. Some of the most powerful tools a Christian has are humility and compassion. It’s a lot easier to make those a part of your message when you have the time to take it slowly and build a relationship. But even academically, longer conversations allow us to slowly work out the details of an issue. Something like the problem of evil, or Old Testament violence, we have good answers for. But they are answers that take time to develop in an emotionally satisfying way.
Sometimes the best way is to take it slowly, acknowledging just how difficult the questions are. Taking your time to fully present the case, rather than resorting a quick retort is not a sign of weakness or lack of confidence in your view. It is quite the opposite. If you have taken the time to understand your view well enough to explain it in depth, rather than fire back with something you heard on a podcast, it shows that you have not only done your homework, but taken it to heart.
What Should We Expect if It Were True?
Some assume that if either Christianity or Atheism is true, there should be a silver bullet. Do we have that perfect evidence that cannot be ignored? While both sides will be wrestling with confirmation bias and emotional barriers, I think if Christianity was truly false one might rightly expect something more decisive. Whether that be in the form of the body of Jesus, documentation that the apostles gave up their “lie,” or even something like evidence that the universe had no beginning, would send us rethinking a great deal.
However, if the claims of Christianity are true, that means that the evidence we have is exactly what God wanted to reveal. Given the value he seems to place on freedom, it makes sense that there would be no single overwhelming argument. He has given us enough evidence to find him, but the leeway and human faculties to reject him if so desired. If God is real, of course there are no silver bullets for evangelism.
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