The fear of being asked a question you can’t answer stops many Christians from wanting to talk about their faith. Many Christians choose to not share their faith at all because they are fearful they might say the wrong thing or not know how to respond at all.
You can’t possibly know every answer
The first thing to learn is to relax because you can’t possibly know an answer for every question. It is unreasonable for anyone to expect you to know all the answers.
A key verse for bridge-builders is 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Always admit if you can’t answer the question. If you try to bluff your way people will see through your lack of knowledge.
Start an open and honest discussion
Rather than just trying to answer the question, you could try to start an open and honest discussion. Answering a question with a question is a technique Jesus often used. Randy Newman, in his book “Questioning Evangelism,” looks at this in some detail.
For example, somebody asks you, “Why do you think Christianity is the only way to God?”
You could quote and explain John 14:6, Act 4:12 or 1 Timothy 2:5 but this might only give the impression that you’re as narrow and intolerant as your questioner thought you were.
Alternatively, you could try to discover what your questioner knows about other religions and at some point demonstrate that the major world religions have very different beliefs which can’t be reconciled.
The most common question people ask refers to how a God of love can allow suffering. Often the question is very personal. “If God is so good, why did he let my cousin die of cancer?”
One difficulty is that people ask big questions but demand short answers. It is impossible to come up with a relevant answer to the problem of suffering in a few sentences. Even if our questioner is willing to listen for hours, we must admit we don’t have a complete answer to the problem of suffering.
Listen empathetically and willingly
Empathy and willingness to listen could be more helpful than a slick but inadequate answer. Whilst working for Bridge-Builders as an Evangelist, I was visiting door to door when an older lady got very angry with me and talked about her husband’s painful death and how the Church showed no care. I had no answer but I asked if I could pray with her. As I prayed I saw her hardness melt. We both cried. She said to me, “You’re welcome to return any time.” I had not answered her question but I had demonstrated that I cared.
I often admit I can’t give a complete answer to their question and ask if I can explain why I am a Christian. If I get a positive response I either share my faith story or talk about the resurrection of Jesus. If I have a good discussion with a thinking person I often ask: “If Jesus did not rise from the dead, what happened to his body?”
Sometimes the questioner is a thinking seeker and their questions need answering. You can tell them that you will find out an answer. Say, “That’s an interesting question. Can I think about it and get back to you?” It would be good to arrange with them when you will meet to continue the conversation. Then, you can seek the advice of your pastor or another mature Christian or look at one of the books suggested below.
Books which have proved helpful include:
- ‘It makes sense’ by Stephen Gaukroder (Scripture Union)
- ‘Searching Issues’ by Nicky Gumbel (Kingsway)
- ‘Handbook of Christian Apologetics’ by Kreeft & Tacelli (Monarch)
- ‘Evidence that demands a verdict’ by Josh McDowell
- ‘I’m glad you asked’ by Kenneth Boa & Larry Moody
- ‘The Resurrection Factor’ by Josh McDowell
- ‘Who moved the stone’ by Frank Morison
- ‘The compact guide to World Religions’ by Dean Halverson
We would also recommend the following books: