What To Do When You've Been Stumped

By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read

Thanks to Josh Copen for suggesting this topic. To make a suggestion for what we should cover in a Think Podcast episode, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook or drop us an email.

If you love apologetics like I do (or even if you're just getting into the discipline and think you might be growing kinda fond of it), you've probably come across verses like 1 Peter 3:15 (the charter verse of Christian apologetics), in which the Apostle tells believers to "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone," and 2 Corinthians 10:5, which promises that our God-given arguments are able to "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God...." 

My fellow defenders of the faith, those there are fightin’ words. And if you're like me, you enjoy a healthy debate. However, you can't always be the smartest guy in the room (to be honest sometimes I feel like I'm not the smartest guy in the room even when I'm the only one in the room!), and there are going to be times when you get stumped by an objection to the Christian message. What should we do when this happens? The following Scriptures will guide us: 

1. Be humble. 

  • "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2). 

  • "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11, ESV). 

  • "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, ESV).

2. Keep trusting God's word.

  • "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:5-6). 

  • "Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life..." (John 6:68, ESV).

  • "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). 

3. Take a break from the discussion and go find the answer.

  • "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding" (Proverbs 3:13). 

  • It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out" (Proverbs 25:2). 

  • "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11, NASB).

It’s About Jesus, Not Us

I know (from much experience) how it feels when you are neck-deep in an apologetic discussion, whether at a coffee shop or over Twitter. You can begin to feel like your reputation and honor are on the line, and that if you don't immediately answer every challenge to your beliefs, then your "opponent" will somehow have won (or, just as bad, he will *think* he's won!).

But apologetics is not about our honor. It's about honoring Christ the Lord as Holy. If you don't believe me, just go back and check the first part of the apologetics charter verse, 1 Peter 3:15 one more time. Before Peter tells us to be ready to defend, what does he say to do? He begins with, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy...." 

This is about Christ's honor, not ours. And Jesus Christ is not about to be dethroned because you or I can't come up with an adequate, knock-down, drag-out apologetical argument on the spot. No, King Jesus isn't threatened--either by challenges to his authority (which is absolute according to Matthew 28:19) or by the apologetical blundering of his ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). When Jesus is challenged, "He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision" (Psalm 2:4, ESV).

His honor is perfectly in place, and it will still be there in a few days, after you've had a chance to research the answer to your conversation partner's objection. So relax. Remember humility. Thank your discussion partner for raising the excellent question (provided it was asked in good faith). 

Tell him that, because you are a Christian, you hold the Holy Bible to be the ultimate authority over your life and the best explanation for the way things are, and you want to make sure you give an answer that's in line with its teaching. Then go find the answer. God is glorified in that, because its a way of loving him with all our minds (Luke 10:27). 

And who knows? God might use that time not only to provide you with an answer, but one that will edify your own faith and maybe even add a major stepping stone in your friend's journey to repentance and faith in Jesus.

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