Christian Apologist: Most Skeptics Doubt After Being Hurt by Church

Correction Appended

Christian apologist Dr. Alex McFarland concluded after interviewing skeptics for his new book,  10 Answers for Skeptics, that most developed their skepticism due to bad personal experiences with organized religion.

“Through nearly a year of research and numerous personal interviews, my goal was to really get ‘inside the mind of the skeptic,’” said McFarland in an interview with The Christian Post.

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“The most common type of skeptics I meet are wounded skeptics. They have been hurt by church, religion, or by another Christian,” added McFarland, who explained that “virtually all” the skeptics he talked to for this book came from a religious background.

In his book, McFarland identifies ten different types of skeptics. These various types include “The Educated Skeptic,” which is someone who holds intellectual objections to Christianity; "The Tolerant Skeptic," who thinks of all religious beliefs as being true and desires no serious talk on religion; and "The Wounded Skeptic,” which is someone who rejects Christianity because they had a bad experience with the church growing up.

"My heart goes out to many of the skeptics I meet. Intellectual doubt is often preceded by emotional pain," said McFarland, the former president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina.

The spiritual situation in the United States described by the well-known Christian speaker in his book can be distressing. He often describes how a mixture of secularism in public education and bad personal experiences has led many to reject Christian belief.

“Personal circumstances, emotional wounds, toxic church experiences – not to mention U.S. public schooling – all conspire to lead people away from belief in a benevolent, wise, and powerful God.”

McFarland considers the rise of anti-religious skepticism in America to have occurred in part because of the “retreat” many churches took from popular culture during the 20th century.

“The American church, to a large degree, has abdicated its role as leader in the classroom, the media, the judiciary, the marketplace, the arts, the sciences,” he said.

“In the minds of many Christians, it has become axiomatic that ‘religion and politics don’t mix.’ I would imagine that this dichotomy is exactly what the enemies of God and democracy want Christians to believe.”

Despite the overall melancholy situation described, McFarland nevertheless includes several promising anecdotes: A man who gives up a drug-filled life for a relationship with Christ, another whose feeling of acceptance at one church led her to convert.

McFarland stresses in his book that building relationships is crucial regardless of the type of skeptic. He writes at one point that “effective outreach to skeptics is probably about 80 percent relationship and 20 percent persuasive evidence.”

“The importance of establishing and nurturing an actual relationship is vitally important if meaningful dialogue with a skeptic is to take place,” McFarland writes.

The book is divided into three sections with a forward written by fellow apologist and best-selling author Dinesh D‘Souza. Section I, titled “Inside The Mind of a Skeptic,” gives an overview of the various kinds of skeptics and the experiences of various apologists who evangelize and intellectually defend the faith. Section II, titled “Answering the Skeptics,” is divided into ten chapters, each describing the ten categories of skeptics and then ends with a conclusion chapter. The last section is a set of appendices on various topics, including answering common misconceptions about Christianity and information on the beliefs of other major religions.

Besides authoring several books and being the president of a seminary, McFarland also hosts a talk show on the National Religious Broadcaster’s network, and participates in speaking tours on religion and culture.

10 Answers for Skeptics was released in October, and is one of several books written by McFarland released this year.

Correction: Wednesday, November 9, 2011:

An article on November 4, 2011, about Alex McFarland's new book identified him as the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina. McFarland is not the current president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, but formerly held the position.

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