Getting off the back foot – How to get your friends really thinking
If you’re anything like me, you’ll often feel on the back foot when it comes to talking about faith. People love to ask us difficult questions and we often don’t know what to say. So, I want to share with you a couple of ideas to help get you on the front foot, asking good questions of your friends, and making them really think. First off, here’s a little diagram that’s easy to remember but will do a lot of work for you:
Now here’s the thing—everyone has a way of answering these questions, and the answers we give reveals our most basic beliefs. So you might believe…
“We came from a big bang”
“We’re here simply to replicate our DNA”
“When you’re dead you’re dead”
“There’s nothing ultimately wrong with the world, and so there’s nothing to fix”
Or you might believe…
“There is a designer behind our world”
“That we are here to make it a better place”
“That there is a life after death”
“That evil is real, and something can be done”.
The most important question, however, is the middle one in the diagram - ”How do you know?”
So if you’re an atheist how do you know there’s nothing behind the big bang? If you’re a Hindu, how do you know we’ll be reincarnated? This question is a sure-fire way to get good conversation going, and it will help your friends see that the things we think we ‘know’ are actually more often about beliefs.
All of the above can lead you into a second diagram which begins to examine the authorities we listen to:
This one’s easy to remember as the initial letter of each authority spells the word ‘TRIBES.’
The diagram helps people to see which one (or combination) of the TRIBES we listen to.
So do we get our ideas from what everyone else thinks (society), or from our parents (tradition), from a particular book, or from our sense of intuition or experience?
When you dig deeper into each you begin to see that there are some problems with these authorities. What if my tradition, experience or intuition is different to yours? Who’s right? What if a society in one place or time thinks differently to another? Can these authorities really help us work out right and wrong, true and false?
So what makes the Christian answer any better? Well, we’re the only bunch whose authority comes from outside our universe. Everyone else looks within, or to others. Even other religions look to a holy person who claims to have heard from the gods. But in Christianity we are faced with the extraordinary claim, not that a holy man met God, but that a holy God met man. Jesus came, and Jesus claims to reveal God to us, and to answer our biggest questions. So if we’re to make sense of our biggest questions, we need to start by making sense of him. If you can tease out some of these ideas with your friends, I promise it will really get them thinking.
If you want to read more you can find a couple of useful, cheap books that you can buy and give away here:
Martin is part of the leadership team at Grace Community Church, Bedford, and also helps lead the youth work at the Keswick Convention.