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EPISODE 62: Third Edition of Questioning Evangelism


God has blessed my (Randy Newman’s) book Questioning Evangelism far more than I could have ever imagined when the book was first released almost 20 years ago. We use the book in our CSLI Fellows Program and people have said the book has helped them share the good news in effective ways. This newest edition updates some illustrations, considers evangelism after the Covid Pandemic, and includes a new chapter on how Christians can answer questions about science.


Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman (2023)

Other books from Randy Newman


Welcome to Questions That Matter, a podcast of the C.S. Lewis Institute. I'm your host, Randy Newman, and today I'm not going to have a conversation partner. It's just me in the studio. My good friends and colleagues at the C.S. Lewis Institute said, “Hey, you should promo the third edition edition of your book, Questioning Evangelism.” It has just come out as a third edition. And so, like any author, sure, I'd be glad to talk about my book.

This podcast will be about 75 hours long. No, I'm just kidding. I do want to talk about this. I'm very, very grateful to God for the way He has blessed this book. This is the very first book I wrote, Questioning Evangelism, almost 20 years ago. And the publisher contacted me about two years ago and said, “Hey, we're coming up on almost 20 years, but we noticed that a whole lot of your illustrations are getting kind of old.” There's a lot of illustrations I used in the first edition of Questioning Evangelism, where I talk about September 11, 2001. Well, for a lot of people today, that’s almost ancient history. In fact, I was told by a friend who works in campus ministry, she said the students that she works with weren't even born yet in 2001. How's that?

So we put together a third edition, we updated a bunch of illustrations, and I also added a chapter on science. So for those of you who are not familiar with the original book, Questioning Evangelism, I'm trying to articulate—I'm not questioning whether we should do evangelism, but I am questioning how we do evangelism and that we should use a lot more questions and dialogue, rather than just statements and arguments. And so the book has three parts. The first part is why ask questions? Why should we do this dialogical or rabbinic style of evangelism? And then the third part is about attitudes that we need to have, attitudes of compassion and being good listeners. But in the middle, what I try to do, the second part is, “Well, what are the questions that people are asking? And how do we go about answering these questions in a dialogical kind of style?” How do we answer questions with questions?

And so the standard questions that are returning in this issue are the things like: Why are Christians so intolerant? Why does a good God allow evil and suffering, particularly after a pandemic? I do talk about what life is like as we sort of, kind of come out of a pandemic. Why should we believe the Bible? Why are Christians so homophobic? What's so great about marriage? And a number of questions like that.

But then I thought it would be important to address the topic about science, and so that's what I want to talk about in this podcast. The topic of science has now moved to the fore as one of the three most frequently asked questions about our faith. It used to be, quite a long time ago, people wanted to know, “Well, why do you believe the Bible? It's such an old book,” or, “How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?” and, “How do we really know that Jesus was a real person?” But today they're not asking those questions, or they're asking those questions much less often. What they are asking, and I get this summary from Glen Scrivener, another guest on the podcast, and we'll have him again soon, I hope. But Glen says that the questions people ask today come down to three S's. It’s suffering, science, and sexuality. Those are the questions that people are asking. Why are you Christians so intolerant and so hateful of gays? What do you have against the LGBTQ community? And so I updated a whole lot in that chapter in this book. And then the perennial problem about suffering is always going to be an issue.

But now there's also the question about science. And for a lot of people in our world today, they believe Christians are antiscience. And I won't try to say whether that's a fair accusation by them. In some cases, it's not fair. In some cases, it is. I'm afraid that some Christians, particularly during the pandemic, made some statements about science, and about, “How do we know?” and, “Why do we believe these things about disease?” But totally apart from that, we just need to be prepared for the fact of—whether it's fair or not for them to raise this question—they do raise that question. What do you Christians have against science? Why are you so antiscience?

And so what I want to say in this chapter is that the main argument I'm trying to make is that Christians should love science. We should be, of all people, ones who love the way God created His physical world. Science is the study, the very systematic, diligent, communal investigation of the world that God made, whether it's physical science or social science, the way God created people. God gave us the kinds of minds to explore these things. So we should be some of the most enthusiastic students of science. And I build part of the argument on Psalm 19, that pairs the study of the skies with the study of the scriptures, and both are saying, in that Psalm, that God has revealed Himself in the skies and in the scriptures. And the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands, and that the Lord also has revealed Himself in his word. The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

And so we should find ways to be fascinated with the newest studies that are coming out about science. We should be intrigued to hear stories from scientists and professors of science about why they love their science and why they love their research. And we should particularly find stories, testimonies, accounts from Christians who are in the sciences.

It always comes as a surprise when I tell people this, but for many years, almost 20 years, I was involved in campus ministry, focused completely on university professors. I was in campus ministry for over 30 years, and half of that time was with professors. And more than half of the professors that I met who called themselves Christians were professors of the hard sciences, physics, chemistry, engineering. And they loved studying the heavens or plants or biology or diseases, and to study about how God made His world, how sin has corrupted and harmed God's world, and how people can be used by God to bring about further exploration, further studies, further healings. So one of the big arguments I want to make in this chapter, in this book, is that Christians should be very pro science.

A second argument flows from that, and that is that science grows from the soil of the scriptures. And there's a great deal in history of Christians who believed the reason they could study was because God made the world the kind of world that could be studied, a world that was coherent. He gave us minds to think that way. So there's different quotes that I have, I won't share them here with you now, but I do hope that you’ll read the book, or read that chapter. There's this argument that says if the world is totally chaotic and totally the result of random chaos without a personal, intentional, designing God behind it, well then science would be impossible, and science would be fruitless and would lead us nowhere. So the very assumption that we can study and dig in is evidence that God created the world with design and order and study-ability, which I realize is not a word.

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So where all of this leads to is, “How do we have science faith conversations?” and, “How do we help people see that maybe what they've heard about Christians being antiscience may not really be the full picture?” I do want to say that, if you are a person who has graduate-level training in science, and you interact with other professors or other people with master’s and doctoral degrees, this chapter that I've written is nowhere near thorough enough. But I do think that the average Christian talking to the average non-Christian has some really good material that we can use for gospel-pointing conversations.

So I offer a couple of suggestions about how that happens. The first is I say: First, we need to be careful to do no harm. We need to be really careful not to make negative comments about science or scientists. The starting point is not to say of all of the places where science has made mistakes in the past. I don't think that's the starting point. But then, secondly—so the first: Do no harm. Second, call for complexity. And that is, allow this topic to be as rich and as multifaceted and as complex as our world is. We live in a world where there's a lot of reductionism. We live in a world where there's reductionism on the atheist side and also, I'm sorry to say, on the Christian side. On the atheist side, people want to say that all of the world as we see it is only the result of random evolution and only for the purpose of propagating the species. And I just find that to be terribly simplistic and reductionistic. I do a lot of reading about music, and there are a lot of atheists who say that music is only for the purpose of propagating the species, that music puts people in romantic moods, and that's why the species can continue. And I think music is so much more complex than that. And by the way, there's a whole lot of music that doesn't necessarily put us in romantic moods. They put us into very thoughtful, pensive moods. My goodness, Shostakovich just puts us in a very bad mood, at least for me. Apologies to those who are big fans of Shostakovich. But it’s just so much more complex, and the atheist/reductionist/evolutionist position is just too simplistic. “Well, that's all there is. There's nothing more than just notes. We're just nothing more than matter.” It seems to me that life is far more complex.

But on the other side, I do think some Christians are reductionistic and, “Nothing in this world matters. The only thing that matters is what will last for eternity.” Well, yes, people's souls and God's word are the only two things that last for eternity. But God made this world, this temporal world, beautiful and complex and rich and worth studying and worth delighting in. And there's all sorts of evidences of God's creative hand in this temporal world that we shouldn't minimize and be reductionistic. So in the conversation, we should allow things to be as complex and as rich as they are.

The third thing I say in this conversation we can have is to strive for humility, and that is again on both sides. And to try to be able to say, “Well, you know, science has really taught us a great deal about the world, but you know, there still is a whole ton that scientists don't know.” Every single published scientific journal article concludes, with a section of, “And here's what we don't know, and here's what still needs to be studied.” So good scientists and the professors that I met, both Christians and non-Christians, the ones who were good scientists, were very, very quick to say in a very humble way, “Well, here's what we still don't know. There's so much that we don't know.”

I love to tell the story about one of the professors that I got to know at George Mason University who is an astrophysicist who studied the planets. He was part of a team that was sending a probe to Pluto, and when the probe finally got there, after almost ten years of going out in space and finally getting to Pluto and circling and sending back data, what he told a group of us professors and others at a presentation on campus was how very surprised they were, how many surprises there were, so many things they had not anticipated or that they got wrong. And so it was a very uplifting and humbling experience at the same time. And I think that that uplifting and humbling attitude is what we need in our conversations about science.

So we begin by doing no harm. We secondly call for complexity. Third, we strive for humility. And then fourth, we bring in some experts. We should know what Einstein said about God. Even if he wasn't the most orthodox believer, Einstein had some very interesting things to say. And so did Sir Isaac Newton. And so did so many other scientists in the history of science. So we should do a little bit of research and know why is it that they find it so fascinating. And so where we go in these conversations can be to be able to say to people, “For some people, science pointed them away from God. But you know what? There's a whole lot of people who science also pointed them to God.”

In fact, that professor that I just mentioned, the professor of astrophysics, he grew up in sort of an anti-intellectual Christian environment, where they were told that you either had to believe in God or believe in science. You can't believe in both. And that seemed really foolish to him. He went off to college. He really fell in love with science. And so he thought he had to kind of distance himself from God and religion. And he did for a very long time. But then, the more he studied the planets and the more he studied the heavens and the more he studied science, the more it drew him back to a strong, strong faith in God. And so we need to be able to have these conversations with people and join them in their wonder and amazement.

So all of that to say, I hope you'll pick up this third edition of Questioning Evangelism. I know that sounds like shameless promotion, because that's exactly what it is. I will tell you God has really blessed this book, and it has gotten into hands of people, it’s gotten translated into other languages, and a number of people have told me that the encouragement to ask questions and to answer questions with questions, and when people make statements, to say things like, “How do you know that?” or, “I wonder what has influenced you,” or, “Who has shaped your thinking on that?” or to ask questions that start people talking about their beliefs.

One of the things I hope that comes out of this third edition, and the previous editions, is that our evangelism will be much more of a conversation than a presentation. And in fact, in many cases, that the other person, the non-Christian, actually does most of the talking. There have been studies that have found that people convince themselves of things far more thoroughly than they will be convinced by others. And so if we can ask questions and draw people out and, “What kind of things have influenced you?” we could perhaps help people get to the point where they go, “Well, maybe I don't really know about that as much as I thought,” or—here's one of the best places that I pray quite often, that people get to the point where they go, “Hm. Well, maybe I've been wrong about that.”

Becoming a Christian, among many other things that it is, it involves an admission that I was wrong. When a person becomes a Christian, part of what that process is is where they say, “Hm. I was wrong about who God is. I was wrong about who I am. I was wrong about the nature of being a person. I was wrong about how people connect to God. I was wrong about who Jesus was.” And so if they can get to that point of, “Hm. Maybe I've been wrong about these things,” then that opens them up to say, “Well, maybe I should read that part of the Bible you told me about. What was it again? John chapter what?” And the more people can be open to the idea of, “Hm. Maybe I need to rethink this,” we may find more and more people say, “You know, that question you asked me, that really bothered me, but it got me thinking, and it got me exploring, and it made me dig into that part of the Bible that you told me about.”

Anyway, that's the end of this episode of Questions That Matter. It's a little shorter than usual, but it's just me talking without a conversation partner. The question that matters is: Can questions be used in our evangelism? And I certainly think the answer to that is yes.

I hope that this book and all of the resources that you'll find at our award-winning website,, will be very, very helpful for you as you live out your faith, as you share your faith, as you defend the faith, and as you commend it to others. We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of Questions That Matter. Thanks.

Brought to you by the C.S. Lewis Institute and the Questions That Matter Podcast with Randy Newman

COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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