Post Author: Bill Pratt
One of the most difficult things to do is carry on a rational and calm conversation with someone that disagrees with you. When I first started studying Christian apologetics, I figured that all I had to do was learn all the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity and then tell people that evidence.
Boy, was I wrong! I have learned a great deal of that evidence through my seminary courses and also through the great past and present apologists, but often when I pass that information on, I find myself in a heated conversation where rationality has gone out the window.
One of the best apologists of our day is Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. In a session I attended at an apologetics conference, Koukl reminded the audience of some simple guidelines when conversing with someone who does not agree with you about Christianity.
First, he stressed that we must listen carefully. Instead of trying to talk first, listen and let the other person do the talking.
Second, when your conversation partner makes a claim with which you disagree, instead of attacking him, ask what he means by his statement. In other words, dig for more information and try to find out what the other person is really saying. Often, what you think he meant is not what he meant at all.
Third, after you have learned exactly what he means, ask how he came to his conclusion. Why does he believe what he believes? What is the evidence or the argument that convinced him?
Once you have listened to your friend and tried to understand his point of view, you have earned the right to present your side. Only then will your friend will be more willing to listen to you and consider your viewpoint.
This same advice can be applied to the online world where we have heated exchanges on blogs and Facebook. I have noticed that there are precious few people who consistently try to understand what the other person is saying before attacking. We all have a lot of information and a lot of opinions, but we stink at discussing those things with people who may not see things our way.
My hope and prayer is that Christians (including myself) can greatly improve in this area. What about you? Can you do better?