Over the past few months I have been ask numerous times how to answer an atheists question. But it is not just the atheist we need to answer. In fact, it may very well be the follower, or someone that is confused and truly needs clarification, (not that they atheist isn't or doesn't). It may be a family member, friend, or someone that is a follower of Islam, Mormonism, or any other of the many religions. For that matter, many of us may never encounter an atheist, as they are a small minority. So what do I tell those that ask for my help in answering questions? I tell them to stop giving answers...so quickly!
I know, I know the Bible commands us to have an answer. So why would I tell anyone that asks how to answer questions to stop giving answers? Besides it is part of my job, not only as a Christian, but as an apologist, and I use the second loosely as I will never feel worthy in referring to myself as an apologist. But anyway, there are numerous reasons in not simply spouting an answer back to any question posed. Many things need to be considered, such as, situation, who is asking the question, setting, and well, do we know the answer? You see, many times when ask a question we immediately want to answer with scripture, or an easy "canned response" we have learned, when in reality the question. or objection, is really just a smoke screen to avoid the conversation entirely. This is why we need to stop giving answers, so quickly, anyway. Let me explain...
Have you been to the doctor, bought a car, or if you are married, argued? Of course most of us have been in each of these situations and many others like them. What do they all have in common? If you go to the doctor, buy a car, or argue, what is the first thing that is done? In each situation we are ask questions, just as we are ask about our beliefs. But the key here is what is the other party actually doing? Listening! Why would any of the examples given ask questions and then listen? Other than to use everything you state against you, each situation given is trying to find out more information. How do we gather information, we ask questions and listen to the answer! Most of the time if we are ask questions there is more to it than the question being ask. In fact, most of the time, if we ask questions and listen we will be able to offer a better answer to most any question or objection, regardless of our knowledge on the subject.
The point is a simple one: stop answering questions! Listen, ask your own questions, then, and only then, attempt to give the appropriate response. It is a tried and true method. It is non confrontational. It avoids arguing. And if you do not know the answer, it gives you a way to respectfully ask that you have time to obtain an answer. Not only that, I am going to give you two examples I have learned from Greg Koukl and his book Tactics, used by some of the best apologists out there.
So the next time you are confronted with an atheist, question, objection, (be careful when using these with your spouse), simply reply with these two questions: "What do you mean by that?" and "How did you arrive at that conclusion?" It is that simple. Actually it isn't. However, it is a very good starting point! Stop giving answers...so quickly!