As a child I went through my fair share of antibiotics, but on occasion my mom used home remedies to cure ailments. She made me drink tons of milk after I consumed oleander leaves. Lukewarm oil relieved my earaches. In one particular instance, my mom made me swallow a large spoonful of brown liquid. Obediently, I opened my mouth as she poured the spoon’s contents down my throat.
My whole body went rigid with shock. Apple cider vinegar! My face puckered as I swallowed the nasty liquid, wishing it was grape-flavored medicine instead.
Like that spoonful of vinegar, Christians who respond to questions or challenges with churlish behavior leave a bad taste behind. In high school I administered a few doses of bitterness to the opinionated class atheist. He did not hesitate to voice his less-than-flattering ideas about Christianity. I wish I could say that I reacted with saint-like grace—or at least ignored him—but, unfortunately, I returned fire with angry retorts.
Now the facts about science and faith that I’ve gleaned from Reasons To Believe have acted like an energy boost to my beliefs. They helped me turn sour vinegar into zesty vinaigrette (balsamic is my favorite) with which to “season conversations” with nonbelievers and even with Christians who hold differing views on secondary points. So when Sandra and I ran into a pair of defensive young-earth creationists, I had a chance to test out my new seasoning.
Recipe for apologetic vinaigrette:
- Ask questions and focus on listening to their arguments rather than on protecting your own view.
- Offer up a new idea for them to chew on. For example, “According to your perspective, Noah’s Flood is responsible for most of the geological formations and fossil deposits we see today. If this is so, how would you explain the ark’s occupants, and even the planet itself, surviving the intense heat and radiation given off by the amount of geological activity implied in your theory?”
- Knowledge goes a long way in dispelling fear. But don’t stress if you don’t have all the answers. Refer people to reliable websites, books, and articles.
- Flavor your words with a gracious demeanor.
RTB’s scholars do a wonderful job of demonstrating how to treat challengers with “gentleness and respect.” Hugh, for example, recently welcomed a couple of skeptics into his Sunday morning class on science and faith issues. Instead of dishing out vinegar when the guests became antagonistic, Hugh served up grace and integrity by answering their questions calmly.
Here’s hoping that you’ll always season your words with grace!
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Check out Ken Samples’ Today’s New Reason to Believe series on “The Golden Rule of Apologetics.” (Introduction, The Writings of Others, The Golden Rule in a Debate, Avoiding Fallacies, Six Practices of Apologetic Fairness, 1–2, Six Practices of Apologetic Fairness, 3–4, and Six Practices of Apologetic Fairness, 5–6.)