Rules for Discussion of Faith
The other day, while reading comments on a Christian writer's blog that than an atheist had raised some issues on, I was reminded of my time as part of an online apologetics forum. While I was mostly pleased with the conduct of both sides, some things don't change. As I had around 2,000 posts on that forum in 4 years, I offer these items for those who discuss their faith with skeptics.
Humility is hard for most of us in these discussions. One side thinks they have questions that can't be answered; the other thinks there is no such question. On top of that, the topic deals with the most important question in the universe. Flaring tempers and responding out of the spirit of Jesus will get you nowhere. You have to remember that you don't know all the answers. When you are asked questions that you don't know, humbly admit it. Promise to look it up if you really mean to, but don't try to make something up. Be humble, and remember that you do know the one you can answer every question.
You don't have to respond
There are nonbelievers who seek nothing more than to make Christian tempers flare so they can giggle and feel smug. Avoid these people. You will have better luck teaching a pig to sing than addressing any issue with this type. After a couple of posts with a person, you can tell if they are truly open to discussion or if they are seeking a fight. Work gently with the first and avoid the second.
Remember who you are speaking to
Notice that I do not call them your opponent. This is not a contest to see who is right and who is wrong. Your one and only goal is to bring the person closer to Christ. Most likely in these discussions, you will be focusing on evidence for Christianity and addressing doubts that the person has about specific passages in the Bible. At all times, remember this person is created in the image of God and needs to be reconciled to Him. This isn't the time to score points. This is the time to lead to Christ.
Do not seek to offend
While it is impossible to avoid offending everyone at all times, one should never set out to offend others. In one discussion I remember, the atheist was addressing the Virgin Birth and stated that the Holy Spirit "debauched" Mary. Not only is the statement incorrect, it's in bad taste. As Christians believe Mary was virginal after the conception, this statement had to be intended to offend. Either that, or the poster, who came across as very knowledgeable, had a serious hole in his research.
Don't lose your cool
I repeat, don't lose your cool. If posting on the Internet, you can always step away and calm down before posting. Name calling and failing to address the issue at hand makes not only you look bad but also gives a black eye to all Christians. Even when the atheist resorts to under the belt attacks and rudeness, take the high road. You won't have to repent when you do.
Remember through it all that God does the saving. As Paul said, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." (1 Cor. 3:6-7, NIV).