Lesson 9: Witnessing: Answering Questions and Objections, Part 2 (Various Scriptures)Related Media
Last week we began to consider some answers to common questions and objections that you will encounter when you share Christ with others. This assumes that either you are sharing Christ with others or you want to be prepared to do so. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify [set apart] Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” To obey that verse, you need to know how to respond to common questions and objections.
First I gave some general guidelines: Always be courteous, polite, gentle, and kind. Try to steer the conversation to the person of Christ. He is the issue! Keep in mind that you’re talking with a sinner who needs the Savior. Point him to Christ.
Then we began to work through some of the most common questions or objections, along with a simple way to deal with them.
Questions and objections concerning God:
1. “I don’t believe in God.”
2. “How can a loving God send people to hell?”
3. “If God is good, then why does He allow innocent people to suffer?”
4. “Why did God command Israel to slaughter entire populations and take their land? That does not seem right or fair.”
Questions and objections concerning Christ and the way of salvation:
1. “What about people who have never heard about Jesus Christ? Does God send them to hell?”
That much is review. We continue with this objection:
2. “I believe that there are many ways to God.”
This is often expressed with a self-righteous, condemning attitude: “I am a tolerant, open-minded person who believes that all religions have some good in them. Many roads lead to the top. Are you so narrow-minded and intolerant as to tell me that if people don’t believe in Jesus as you do that they are going to hell?” Underlying this attitude and accusation is the assumption that spiritual “truth” is subjective and relative. It’s really just whatever you like, and no one religion is absolutely true. There are smatterings of “truth” in all the world’s major religions, and you can pick and choose the “truths” that feel right for you.
One way to counter this objection is to ask, “Are you then saying that Jesus was in error?” If the person responds, “What do you mean?” you can cite John 14:6, where Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Or, Peter said in reference to Jesus (Acts 4:12), “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” If those statements are true, then other “ways” to God must be false. Jesus is either the only true way to God or He was mistaken. But you can’t take a little of Jesus and a little of Buddha or Mohammed and piece it all together.
Another defense is to point out that truth is very narrow. What if you went to a doctor and he said, “Here are four different prescriptions that people have liked; take your pick”? You said, “Which one is right for my illness?” He said, “Well, some people like the flavor of # 1. Others prefer # 2, 3, or 4. And some like to mix them together and down them all at once.” But medicine is not a matter of personal preference. It is a matter (we hope) of scientific truth. One medicine is best designed to cure a specific disease.
If God objectively exists as the eternal Creator of the universe, and if Jesus came to this earth as God in human flesh to reveal the Father to us, then His word is the truth and the only truth. All other religions are human speculations about God; but Jesus claimed to give us true revelation about Him. And He claimed to be the only way to the Father.
3. “Jesus never claimed to be God.”
I had a philosophy professor in college who made this claim. I raised my hand to protest and cited a couple of verses that showed her to be wrong. In a very unphilosophical manner, she retorted, “Which Bible are you quoting from—the Catholic Bible or the Protestant Bible?” The other students laughed and she never dealt with my question directly.
If someone makes this claim, you could ask, “Have you read the Gospel of John?” Chances are, he has not. But even if he has, you can then take him to many verses and ask, “How does this read to you?” In John 5:18-29, the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because he made Himself equal to God. Rather than correcting their accusation as a misunderstanding, Jesus goes on to show that He is equal with God. The Father shows Jesus everything that He is doing (5:20). Just as the Father can give life to whomever He wishes, so also the Son (5:21). The Father has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father (5:22-23). Whoever hears Jesus’ word and believes in the One who sent Him has eternal life (5:24). These are claims of deity!
You can also take the critic to John 8:58, where Jesus claims to be in existence before Abraham was born. Or go to John 10:28-33, where Jesus claims to give eternal life to His sheep and to be one with the Father. Or, in John 14:9, He tells Philip that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. Or, in John 20:28-29, when doubting Thomas sees the risen Jesus and exclaims, “My Lord and my God,” Jesus doesn’t rebuke him for blasphemy, but rather affirms his faith.
4. “Isn’t Christianity merely psychological?”
“Aren’t you guys just making this up in your heads? If it makes you feel good to believe in Jesus and heaven and all that sort of thing, that’s wonderful for you. But I’m not into that religion stuff. I believe in myself and in living the good life.”
This is another attack on the matter of absolute truth in the spiritual realm. It assumes that religion is a subjective preference that helps some folks, but it can’t possibly be true for everyone.
But it ignores that Christianity is rooted in history, especially in the history of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophesied specifically about Jesus. Here you could turn to Isaiah 53 and read it without giving the reference, asking the one you’re talking with, “Who is this talking about?” If he knows anything at all, he will correctly say, “That’s talking about Jesus.” You can then say, “Yes, and it was written over 700 years before Jesus was born.” You could do the same with Psalm 22, which describes Jesus’ crucifixion 1,000 years before His birth and hundreds of years before crucifixion was devised as a means of execution.
But, also, go to 1 Corinthians 15:1-19, where Paul stakes the entire Christian faith on the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If He is not raised from the dead, our entire faith is in vain. But if He is raised, then He is Lord of all. He is coming again to judge the world, as He claimed. That is not merely psychological! It has serious ramifications for every person!
5. “I’ve always believed in God and tried to live a good life.”
This person is trusting in his own good works and in his hope that God will be nice to those who have tried to do the best they could. The person may be a regular churchgoer or not. He may just be a decent person who has never committed a crime or done anything worthy of going to prison. He thinks, “Surely, God wouldn’t send a good person like me to hell, would He?”
You can ask this person, “How good do you have to be to get into heaven? Would ten sins keep you out? What about 100 or 1,000? Do you have any idea how many times you have violated God’s holy law?” Take him to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount or the two Great Commandments. Have you ever stolen anything or fudged on your taxes? Then you’re a thief in God’s court. Have you ever been angry at anyone? Jesus says that you’re a murderer. Have you ever lusted after someone? Jesus says that you’re an adulterer. And God doesn’t grade on the curve. If you break one of God’s commandments once, you’re guilty of breaking His whole law and will be condemned on judgment day. Over a lifetime of sins, you’ve not got a chance! If he feels convicted of his sins, then show him God’s remedy in Christ.
Questions and objections concerning the Bible:
1. “I don’t believe in the Bible.”
Usually, the person who says he doesn’t believe in the Bible has never read it as a seeker of the truth. So you can ask, “Have you ever read it through, asking God to reveal Himself to you?” Or, you can say, “The main message of the Bible is how a person can have eternal life. What is your understanding of what the Bible teaches on this crucial matter?” You will probably hear some version of being a good person or doing good works. You can listen and then ask, “If you were mistaken on this, would you want me to tell you?”
2. “The Bible is full of errors and contradictions.”
You can ask, “Is there an error or contradiction that keeps you from believing in Jesus as your Savior and Lord?” The Bible is amazingly consistent with itself, seeing that it was written by at least 40 different authors over a period of 1,500-2,000 years. Archaeology and history have consistently supported the biblical record.
Also, depending on how long you’ve been a Christian, you can say, “I’ve studied the Bible for [x] years and have found that many of the so-called ‘errors’ or ‘contradictions’ have reasonable answers. I can’t answer them all, but there is enough truth in the Bible that I’m sure that the seeming contradictions come from my lack of understanding, not from the Bible. The seeming contradictions between the gospel accounts show that the writers were not in collusion, concocting a story.” Encourage the person to read the Bible as a seeker of truth, not as a critic looking for errors. God doesn’t answer skeptics, but He will reward seekers. And encourage him to ask as he reads, “Is Jesus who He claimed to be?”
3. “The Bible has been through so many translations.”
There are many different modern translations, but they are all based on the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The manuscript evidence for the Bible is very reliable. And, no major doctrine is affected by any textual variant or reputable translation. (The Jehovah’s Witness translation, The New World Translation, is not reputable because they change the text and translation to fit their heretical doctrines.)
4. “You can’t take the Bible literally, can you?”
The Bible must be interpreted in its historical, literary, linguistic, and cultural context. Poetic sections and figures of speech are to be taken normally, just as we take them in English. Which “literal” interpretation bothers you the most? Why? Do you understand what Jesus means when He says that we must believe in Him to have eternal life?
5. “I can’t believe all the miracles in the Bible.”
The real issue here is, does God exist? If God is God and if He spoke the universe into existence out of nothing by the word of His power, then He can perform miracles. Just because you’ve never seen one does not mean that they have not happened.
The miracles in the Bible do not occur evenly through various times. They occur in clusters, especially around Jesus and the apostles. The key miracle to consider is Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. The entire Christian faith rests on it. Have you considered the evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead? There is: the empty tomb; eyewitness accounts; changed lives of the witnesses; integrity of the witnesses; and, willingness of the witnesses to die for what they had seen. Refer them to Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict or his More Than a Carpenter.
6. “I believe in evolution.”
You can ask a lot of questions here: What conclusions are you drawing from this belief? Are you saying that everything in the universe happened by sheer chance, without God? Do you believe that something came out of nothing? Do you think that man evolved out of pond scum over billions of years through random mutations and natural selection? Why does the fossil record not have billions of “missing links”? How could anything as intricately balanced and finely tuned as the natural world have happened by sheer chance? Where do you find evidence that random chance produces such evident design, even given a billion years? Would a billion years produce a 747 jet out of nothing without a designer and builder? How do you explain the concept of irreducible complexity? Certain biological features require all the parts to be together and working at the same time. This couldn’t have happened over a long time.
Moving to the more spiritual, if you believe that we just happened as a biological accident with no God, then how do you find meaning and hope in life?
7. “The Bible endorses slavery, the oppression of women, and homophobia.”
You can say, “I thought you believed that moral issues are relative to each culture. Are you saying that these things are absolutely wrong? Do you believe, then, that certain things are absolutely true and binding for every culture in every age? How can you rightly judge that the Bible’s views are wrong, if in fact the Bible teaches these things? Isn’t your view as narrow and exclusive as the views in the Bible that you find offensive?”
Again, ask, “If I can give reasonable answers to some of these issues, are you saying that you would become a Christian?” Most of these objections are smokescreens. The person doesn’t want to face his own sin before God.
Regarding slavery, while it was permitted in Bible times, it was far different than the expression of it in the U.S. Paul’s approach to slavery eventually led to its abolition in Christian lands. It was committed Christians (like Wilberforce in England and Lincoln in America) who worked to abolish slavery in the West.
Regarding women, the Bible elevates and respects women far more than other world religions do. Jesus befriended and taught women. Women ministered to Him when men did not. He first revealed Himself after the resurrection to women. Paul commands husbands to love their wives with self-sacrificing love. The fact that women and men are assigned different roles in the home and in the church does not belittle women or diminish their significance.
Regarding homosexuality, the Bible clearly declares it to be sin. But it is not the unpardonable sin. Christ’s death is sufficient to forgive and restore homosexuals who repent, just as it does with other sinners. If you deny that it is sin, how do you determine right and wrong? What is your standard?
Personal questions and objections:
1. “The church is full of hypocrites.”
“Yes, and so is the world. Jesus warned about and condemned hypocrisy, and yet many of them are in the church or in ministry. But this does not invalidate who Jesus is. We are not to trust in church members or ministers, but in Jesus alone. Do you think that He was a hypocrite? Was He a phony? If not, you must trust Him.”
2. “I don’t need the church cramming its narrow morality down my throat!”
Probably a person who says this had religion forced on him as a child by strict, stern parents. So you may want to begin by asking, “Did you have a bad experience in church or in your family as a child?” Listen sympathetically and then try to point out that he has missed the truth about Jesus because of the hypocritical or mistaken behavior of those who claim to follow Him. You can ask, “As far as you know, did Jesus have absolute standards of morality? If so, do you think He was mistaken?”
Or, you can raise questions about how this person determines what is right and wrong. If he says, “We should all love one another,” you can point out that that was what Jesus called the second great commandment. But how do we know what real love looks like? Jesus set the example by laying down His life for us. Do you know why Jesus died on the cross? Also, you can ask, “Do you always love others? Have you always loved your parents, your mate, your children, your neighbors?” If not, you have violated God’s commandment and stand guilty before Him. How will you answer Him when you stand before Him? Then, direct him to the cross.
3. “Christianity is a crutch.”
Yes, and you’re a cripple! We all trust in something. What are you trusting in? The person raising this objection is trusting in himself. He thinks that he is able to handle life’s problems and deal with life’s challenges without God or religion. Only weak people need religion. So he sees himself as “the master of his fate, the captain of his soul” (William Ernest Henley, “Invictus,” whose “fate” involved dying at age 54, by the way!).
God holds the “trump card” on each of us: death. You will die and it may not be at the time you choose. The question is, how will you answer to God, who sent His own Son to bear the penalty that you deserve for your sin? Will you say, “I don’t need a Savior?” Fine, you will pay the penalty of eternal destruction in a place of awful torment. You may say, “I don’t believe that.” Okay, but then you’re saying that Jesus was wrong, because He believed it and taught it often. You’d better make sure you’re right!
There may be a few more objections or questions that will come your way, but I think I’ve covered the most common ones. Almost always, they are a smokescreen to divert the conversation away from the person’s need to repent of his sins and trust in Christ. Your job is lovingly, patiently to direct the conversation back to the main issue: You are a sinner, under God’s condemnation. You need a Savior from God’s judgment before you die. God sent Jesus Christ as the only Savior. He died on the cross for sinners, to pay the penalty that we deserve. But you must turn from your sin and trust in Jesus alone as your only Savior and Lord. God gives eternal life as a free gift to all who trust in Jesus.
As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Are you willing right now to turn from your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life? If he says, “I’m not ready,” you can ask, “Why not?” Don’t pressure him, but you can ask, “I just want to make sure that I’ve made the gospel clear. Can you tell me what you must do to receive eternal life?” And, “If you were to die without trusting in Jesus Christ, where would you spend eternity? Have a nice day!”
Here are a few resources that will help equip you with answers to common questions and objections:
- Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions [Living Books, Tyndale House], 1988.
- R. C. Sproul, Objections Answered [Regal, G/L Books], 1978.
- Timothy Keller, The Reason for God [Dutton], 2008.
- Dave DeWitt, Answering the Tough Ones [Moody Press], 1980.
- William Fay, Share Jesus Without Fear [B&H Publishing], 1999.
- James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion [Tyndale House], 1970.
- Which of the questions or objections is the most difficult for you to grapple with?
- Why is it better to ask questions instead of refuting the critic’s position? Note Matt. 19:16-17; 21:23-25; 22:17-21, 41-45.
- Must a person give up his belief in evolution to get saved? If not, what are the implications for witnessing?
- How can we know how much pressure to put on someone to make a decision to trust in Christ? What guidelines apply?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2010, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation