How Do I Respond to Someone Who Doesn't Believe in Christianity Like I Do?

What do you do when you have a friend, family member, or coworker that questions your faith? Here are five responses that can help.

How Do I Respond to Someone Who Doesn't Believe in Christianity Like I Do?

A while back, I overheard a conversation where one person said something like, “I used to grow up in the church, but after doing more research, I realized the Bible was outdated and irrelevant to many of the modern questions I was asking. Now, I’m not sure what I believe about God.”

Traditionally, when people who’ve grown up in the church or those new to the faith have questions, many Christians in Canada and the US fall into one of two extremes. One group says, “Stop asking questions and just have faith,” and the other says, “God loves your questions, so question everything and keep questioning and questioning…and questioning.”

The first response shuts people down, while the second often leaves people in perpetual limbo without any clarity about what is true. If you encounter people who have honest questions about the Christian faith, here are a few responses I’d recommend:

Response #1: Listen to care and listen to learn.

I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t always got this right. I have sometimes been too quick to ask questions that backed people into a corner and helped me win the argument but pushed them further away from God. I cared more about being right than I cared about the person. I’ve tried to change this, but I’m still a work in progress.

Posture is so important in tough conversations, and people sense when you care more about winning than loving. Regardless of how right you think you are, it’s good to practice the posture of a student. If you approach a conversation convinced you have all the answers, you might win the debate, but you’ll probably miss out on a potential friend.

Response #2: Ask clarifying questions to understand their position.

Sometimes skeptics have technical challenges. But often, their common objection is some variation of Bertrand Russell’s famous question he said he would ask God if given the chance: "Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?" In other words, “If God is real, why isn’t he more evident in my life?” (Note: I would argue this is more of a Western-based objection)

To clarify where a person is, it’s helpful to ask a few questions, such as: What was your church upbringing? Did you grow up believing the Bible was a house of cards where if one part didn’t make sense, everything in your faith collapsed? What do you believe the Christian life is all about? Only after asking these clarifying questions can you understand where someone is coming from. And sometimes, you might share their objections!

Response #3: Lay aside emotions and push back when appropriate.

If you’re a Christian, being a follower of Jesus should be the realist thing about you (2 Cor. 5:17). It is the primary source of your identity and more significant than your race, gender, or sexual orientation. Thus, whenever someone questions, mocks, or belittles your faith, it feels personal because it is personal.

But do what you can to lay your emotions aside and push back when appropriate. If someone says something like, “Well, all religions are essentially the same,” speak up. If someone’s only response to Christianity is to craft some individualistic spirituality that essentially says, “I define what is right and wrong,” it’s right to challenge this. Just keep your emotions in check.

Response #4: Be clear, but don’t overreach.

There are some things I’m very confident about. I’m confident God is real, Jesus rose from the dead, and the Bible is God’s authoritative word. But I’m not an answer man. I don’t have a perfect response to the relationship between faith, science, and astronomy. I won’t lie and say that certain passages in the Old Testament haven’t troubled me or that I completely understand why a loving God would send his Son to die on a cross.

So, the next time your skeptical friend raises some objections, be honest and don’t project a Christian image that doesn’t correspond with your inward reality. Overreaching gets you into trouble, and when you feel yourself starting to do this, it’s a sign you probably need to be quiet, go home, and do some more studying.

Response #5: Pray and trust God.

Being a Christian isn’t being part of an exclusive club where you try to recruit others to join your team. It’s about living in a relationship with God and allowing him to use you to channel his love to others.

This means you don’t have to get worked up when someone looks at you and says they don’t believe what you believe. Play the long game. To this day, I have people I’ve been praying for several times a week for almost two decades. I would love for them to know the love of God I experience, but it’s not my primary responsibility to “close the deal.” It’s God’s.

My responsibility is to share the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done and to love God and others at the highest level possible. God is the only judge of the human heart.

In summary, if you’ve got someone in your life who is questioning everything you hold dear, this is a grand invitation to get closer to God. Deepening your personal walk with him will transform how you see him and interact with others who question him.