Answering Skeptics: 4 Simple Strategies

December 18, 2012

Do you have to believe in miracles in order to be a Christian? Can you be a follower of Jesus without believing that he literally rose from the dead?

Woman-with-doubtful-expression-question mark

As the cultural influence of Christianity continues to wane, people are more often skeptical of the Christian story.

If you haven’t encountered a skeptic lately, you will soon. And there’s a lot riding on your response to their questions.

“Jennifer” was an intelligent successful professional, and my coworker at a large corporation a number of years ago. She was also a skeptical inquirer into Christianity.

Knowing I was a Christian, she drew me aside to ask a question. “Do you have to believe that Jesus is God in order to be a Christian? The whole thing makes sense to me except that part—the supernatural thing.”

How would you have answered?

After more than a decade of dealing with similar questions, I’ve learned these strategies for responding to honest questioners about the Christian faith.

Take Doubts Seriously

Let’s acknowledge that the Christian story is incredible. We believe in an unseen God who frequently breaks into the natural world. The very fact of the incarnation is unbelievable—let alone the resurrection.

Minimizing questions or offering trite answers only drives honest seekers away from belief. Acknowledging that the facts of our story are, well, unbelievable is a first step toward having real faith—which is, by definition, belief in the unproven.

Admit that doubt is an okay thing, and that many Christians experience it.

Don’t Waver on the Facts

From the beginning some Christians have been squeamish about the facts of our story—especially the resurrection. But it is true, literally true—including the virgin birth, the miracle stories, and the resurrection. God really did this.

Our story claims to bring the supernatural world into our world through the birth of Jesus. And it claims to take us into the enteral world through resurrection.

So if the Jesus story isn’t factual, then we have believed an entirely misguided storyline for the universe—and for our own future. Don’t waver on the facts of the case. They are accurate.

Present Faith as a Choice

Many people would like religion to be like arithmetic or engineering, something you simply draw out on paper for any rational person to see and accept.

But faith isn’t like that. It is a choice to believe without proof. It involves personal judgment, personal commitment, and risk. Call others to make the choice to believe.

Invite Them to Follow First

I recall reading in No Compromisethe life story Keith Green, that the late Christian songwriter struggled with this very issue—the deity of Christ. Green called it “the God question.” While he reluctant to walk away from the beauty of Jesus’ teaching, he faced serious doubts about the central facts of the Christian message.

His solution was to follow first, and let faith come later. And it did.

We do not calling people to accept a set of ideas, a list of principles, or even the historical facts of the Christian story. We invite them to follow a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Where the heart goes, the head will follow.

Credulity is the first level of faith. We believe that this story is factually accurate—it is true. Christians are called believers for a reason. We choose to believe that this story is true.

How would you define skeptic?



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Lawrence W. Wilson

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I write about life and faith and what it means to be fully human and a fully devoted follower of Jesus. I've written a few books including A Different Kind of Crazy and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering. When I have ideas that might help you transform your life and community, I post them here.