You’re at the gym and you strike up a conversation with the person near you. For some reason, the conversation turns religious. He makes the remark, “The Bible was fine for people thousands of years ago. But to intelligent people now, it’s outdated.”
How would you respond? You could quote a Bible verse. You might toss out a church phrase such as, “You have to take it by faith.” If you’re feeling ambitious (or defensive), you might try to refute his statement with an argument that you heard somewhere, if you could remember it. Or you might switch to another topic because you can’t think of anything convincing.
Let’s face it. Most of us are not ready to engage skeptics in a meaningful conversation about God. We assume that to answer them we must, a) think fast on our feet, b) have an encyclopedic mastery of right answers or, c) both.
Bill Foster’s new book, Meet the Skeptic, shows that “none of the above” is the correct answer. This highly readable book is not another apologetics treatise. With an easy-to-follow format, it offers practical approaches for moving confidently into meaningful conversations and speaking truth.
A New Way of Thinking about Skepticism
Foster lays out a simple framework to understand unbelief. He sorts out the tangle of seemingly random objections into four patterns or categories: spiritual, moral, scientific and Biblical. For each category he includes a chapter explaining the root idea that must be brought to the surface and how to use a probing question to do it.
Consider the objection in the opening scenario, “The Bible is outdated for intelligent people now.” As an example of Biblical skepticism, this statement is rooted in the assumption that the Bible is manmade. Foster suggests digging up that root idea by asking a probing question: “If God gave us a book, how would we know it really came from Him?”
Few if any who dismiss the Bible have ever considered that question. Unbelievers are much more accustomed to playing what Foster describes as “fetch the objection.” This is a game in which the unbeliever throws out one objection after another, which the Christian thinks that he must chase down and refute. That is an unwinnable game.
The game changer is to see that when unbelievers launch objections, they are making truth claims. Therefore, it is they who bear the burden of proof. By asking probing questions, we can prod them in a friendly way to reflect on how thin their claims really are. We can then offer a positive case for accepting the Bible’s claims. Meet the Skeptic offers very substantive but uncomplicated and memorable ideas on how to present truth for each skeptical category.
A New Way of Communicating with Skeptics
As the owner of a brand image and design company, Foster is attentive to how unbelievers hear church jargon. Phrases that sound convincing when we talk to each other at church seem to limp in the “real world.” He devotes a full chapter to tuning our ears and minds to how church talk is often misconstrued, and how to speak truth in plain, everyday language, as Jesus did.
Unbelievers often use loaded words instead of reason and evidence to make their claims. Because they have been socially conditioned to repeat them, they often do not know what they themselves mean by the words they use. Meet the Skeptic offers simple ways to recognize and disarm these “Red Flag words.”
Boldness comes from the Holy Spirit, not techniques, and Foster is keenly aware that it is the Holy Spirit who draws people to Jesus. For that reason, he reminds us that “our task is not to convert or even to convince them; it is to communicate truth.” Meet the Skeptic is a valuable tool to help us do that.