Asking Good Questions—Part 1

J. Warner Wallace has a series called “Quick Shots.” (Search for that among the many good helps on his site.) The feature is designed mainly to tutor Christians in answering questions that skeptics typically ask. As he explains—and this is my position too—when you care and want people to know the truth, the goal is to keep the conversation going. You’re not trying to shut someone down or win an argument. The Quick Shots are a great resource if you don’t know how to make the case for Christianity.

But what if you’re talking with Christians? When I was 22, I was in an adult Sunday school class where almost everyone was older than I. During the Bible discussion, one woman said, “Well, I know the Bible says ___, but I think ___.”

And the topic wasn’t one of those confusing, heavily debated themes that even scholars disagree on. It was a very straightforward passage. The woman simply thought that she had a better idea.

Being kind of stunned, I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask that woman something like this:

  • “That’s interesting. How did you decide that? I mean, how do you know which parts of Scripture to accept and which to reject?”
  •  “Is there any way you might reconsider your position?”
  • “Really? It sounds like… well, does that mean God is wrong? What else do you think God might be wrong about?”

These days—even more than was true back then—we can’t assume that other Christians necessarily believe foundational teachings; that is, Almighty God as Creator, the truth of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, the atonement… Any conversation might be perpendicular if we don’t first get that settled.

Here are some potential questions to see where your friend is going for spiritual guidance (and of course, your tone and demeanor are important):

  •  “How did you decide that this book/teacher was a reliable source for your spiritual training?”
  • (About a specific practice/teaching) “Where is that teaching in the Bible?” (Be sure the person references a Scripture in its correct context and, preferably, shows multiple Scriptures that validate the same thing.)
  • “How do you determine whether or not a specific practice or teaching is true or false? What’s your measuring stick?”
  • “What would it take for you to decide that this book (or practice or teaching) is a bit off-track?”
  • “If you hadn’t considered before that that practice/teaching is ___ (say, Hindu), are you willing to go to official Hindu websites—or websites of Christians who formerly were Hindu—and see what they say about it?”

Go forward to Part 2 or Part 3 of this series.


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4 thoughts on “Asking Good Questions—Part 1

    1. That’s exactly what I thought when I found it! It really was a direct answer to prayer and perfect timing! Talking to church leaders today.

  1. Questions are the best way to keep the conversation going on any topic. But, ask meaningful ones like the ones in this post and ask in kindness. After all, your concern may be that someone is moving away from God, so naturally you want to help them. However, they usually won’t realize anything unless they hear themselves say their own views aloud. It doesn’t always go smoothly either. I once asked my neighbor who is a former Catholic turned Atheist socialist, “Would you accept that God is real if you were shown evidence?” To which he replied, “No.”
    I was dumbfounded…

    1. Thanks for this! Yes, the great Christian case maker Josh McDowell had similar experiences when talking with university students over the years. When he asked them “What if you were shown absolute proof?” . . . they still sometimes said that, no, they wouldn’t believe. In some scenarios we’re in, the person just hasn’t seen enough evidence. And we can help. But as McDowell concluded, sometimes it’s a heart problem and not a head problem.

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