(Photo: Heidi Mittelberg)
Christians should not shy away from engaging with people who ask tough questions about their faith even though they may not have the answers at the moment, four leading apologists agreed during a recent panel discussion.
Hosts Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg, co-founders of The Institute at Cherry Hills, were joined by university professors Craig Hazen and Douglas Groothuis at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., last Saturday to present "powerful responses" to six of the top questions that plague Christians today.
After each speaker led sessions to discuss the questions, the apologists came together for the panel at the event's conclusion and were first asked by Strobel: "What if you are talking to someone and they raise a question and you just have no clue how to answer it?"
Mittelberg said the best way to handle such a situation is to simply say, "I don't know. That's a great question. Why don't I do a little research. In fact, why don't we both look into this a little bit."
By suggesting to the person who asked the tough question that both people do some research to find the answer, that person will be encouraged, Mittelberg explained at the conference.
Strobel told The Christian Post that Christians will be asked hard questions about their faith eventually if they haven't already.
"If we talk enough with our spiritually curious friends, sooner or later they're going to ask a question that will stump us. And that's okay. None of us has every answer to every question on the tip of our tongue," Strobel, a former atheist, explained. "The best thing to do in that situation is use those liberating words: 'I don't know.' Rather than make something up or try to bluff our way through the conversation, it's best to simply admit we don't have the answer.
"However, then it's important to add: 'But let's go find the answer together.' That opens the door for the two of you to investigate the issue – and there are plenty of good Christian books that explore responses to tough objections that nonbelievers raise."
Hazen said the tough questions are an opportunity to compliment someone for their inquiry.
"I think we forget how affirming it is to people to say, 'You know, what a great question. I've never quite heard that one. I've got to look that one up,'" he said.
Hazen believes there's "a crisis of confidence today" and Christians are not really pushing forward like followers of Jesus Christ should. That's why conferences such as this one ("Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask" conference) are important.
"We are afraid to share our faith because we are afraid people are going to ask us some hard questions," he pointed out. "We don't have the confidence."
Groothuis said the study of apologetics can build up a Christian's confidence knowing that the knowledge of God is available and "we can relate in the open market place of ideas."
"We need to be loving and humble. You should never try to fake it. You should never try to impress someone. Never give a trick answer. Never give a debating trick. When someone raises a question, say 'that is a good question. I need to think about it. Let's do a follow up,'" Groothuis said. "There's not enough follow up on it in apologetics."
He added, "Sharing the Gospel, doing apologetics, having a Christian worldview that you bring into the sphere of public discourse is risky. Get used to it. You have to take chances. When any of us go to a college campus [to speak] and we open it up for questions anything can happen. And we are praying harder than you can imagine even though we spent our whole lives studying these things."
The Institute at Cherry Hills, an apologetics and evangelism ministry aimed at innovating new approaches to defending and sharing the faith, plans to host another conference called "Unpacking Atheism" in October that will also be available to churches interested in hosting a simulcast.