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EPISODE 81: Street Smarts in Evangelism
Questions are some of the best tools we have in evangelism. They help more than long arguments of things we want people to believe. Greg Koukl helps us use questions in helpful, kind, and gospel-promoting ways.
- Street Smarts: Using Questions to Answer Christianity's Toughest Challenges by Greg Koukl (2023)
- Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl (2019)
- Questioning Evangelism, Third Edition: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did by Randy Newman (2023)
- Stand to Reason Website
Welcome to Questions That Matter. This is a podcast of the C.S. Lewis Institute, where we pursue discipleship of the heart and mind. And today my conversation partner is Greg Koukl. Greg, welcome to Questions That Matter.
Thank you, Randy. I love the name of your program, Questions That Matter. Of course, you wrote Questioning Evangelism. It's a fabulous book. We are kindred spirits in this regard. And it's been a long time since we actually connected. I remember a joke you told when I sat in on your session. It was wonderful. It was the EPS conference many years ago. Maybe that was the last time we saw each other. And you, “I've heard all the Jewish mother jokes, and they’re true, and they're not funny.”
Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. That wasn't a joke, Greg? Let me tell you. And years of therapy have only confirmed that. Well, it was quite a while ago that we were together at the same conference, and I think there's a reason why we we haven't been in the same place, because you and I say very similar things, and we both talk about the importance of questions. And I think organizers of this conference felt like, “Okay, we shouldn't have Randy and Greg on the same bill, because people are going to feel like they're not getting their money's worth.”
That's right. I ended up speaking on some New Age concepts. But I sat in on your session. It was wonderful. So nice to see you again, Randy.
Oh! Good to have you. And let me tell our listeners, if they're not familiar: Greg holds degrees in apologetics and philosophy. He's an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. He's had a long career in the world of apologetics, particularly leading one of my favorite ministries, Stand to Reason. We'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Greg, give us a little commercial about Stand to Reason. I think it's just a great resource for people to access answers to questions. But give us a little background of it.
Thank you. Yeah, actually we’re in our thirtieth year right now. It's our thirty year anniversary. It's just hard to imagine that God has taken us along for all that time. And for me it's been like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I started because I wanted to try to…. Yeah, crazy! I wanted to try to make a contribution to the conversation in our culture about important things. And I saw a lot of the Christians that were engaging publicly in conversation, their answers were often shallow, and they were shrill. Or Christians were often just silent. And so what I wanted to do is to develop an enterprise that would—and this is our mission statement—train Christians to think more carefully about their convictions and offer a thoughtful, gracious, but incisive defense for classical Christianity and for classical Christian values. And our goal is incarnational. We're trying to build or produce a certain kind of person. We call them an ambassador. An ambassador is somebody with knowledge. If you think about an ambassador representing a sovereign somewhere, they have to know a few things, they have to have ability to maneuver effectively in conversations. and they have to have a character that commends the message and doesn't detract from the message. So the way we characterize this at Stand to Reason is knowledge is an accurately informed mind. Of course, apologetics plays a big role there. Wisdom is the second one. And that's an artful method. And this is an area that you and I have worked in similar ways, with the questions. It's a tactical approach. And character is an attractive manner. So our thirty years have been trying to build Christians in all those areas and to get more people out in the game, as it were, and make the case that Christianity, properly understood and properly articulated, is worth thinking about, that the smart money is on Jesus of Nazareth.
And so that's what we've been doing for thirty years, and God has been just really gracious to us. Like I said, I really feel like I've been along for the ride here. I didn't make all this happen. I've got a great staff, about nineteen people right now, our different speakers, but I was there when it all happened from the beginning, so I feel very privileged to have been part of that.
And I've told people a lot of times, I think a lot of us, a lot of Christians, feel like, “Oh, I'm alone in this evangelistic enterprise. I’ve got this friend. I've been talking to him. I answer questions.” And I want to say, well, first of all, we're not alone, in that the Lord is involved, and He’s the one really doing the impossible work of drawing people. But we also live at a time with such incredible resources online. And so str.org is one of several sources that we can say to people, “You know, there's this article that I think you should read. I think it can probably answer your question, a whole lot better than I can. Greg Koukl is smarter than me.” Koukl. Pardon me. Everybody needs to know. Pay attention. Pronounce his name correctly. So we have all these resources that we can point people to, which is also a very, very helpful thing.
So let's dive in. You wrote a book several years ago-
Before we do that, let me toss this out as an encouragement from what you said, we feel alone. But what I've noticed, traveling around—maybe you've seen this, too, Randy—is that there are all kinds of boots on the ground operations, enterprises, grassroots things that the Holy Spirit is doing all over the world, especially in the United States. So lots of great things are happening, even if we don't see them. I get visibility of it on occasion, and that's one thing I’m amazed by. You're not alone. The troops are out there. We're doing the job. We just have to worry about what's right in front of us right now, and that’s what we’re going to get into. Thank you.
Yeah. I’m glad you said that, because I do see that, and the vast, vast, vast majority of them are very ordinary, everyday churches that are connecting with lost people, churches, pastors that are preaching really good messages, but they're never going to be famous. They never are. They're not going to write bestselling books. And they don't want to. And that's not what God has called them to. But there's great stuff going on really, all over the world. And we don't hear about it enough. But we need to look for it because it is very, very encouraging.
Well, you wrote a book a while ago called Tactics. We actually use it in our Fellows Program as evangelism training, apologetics training.
And it's about how to ask questions and use questions, but now you've written—I guess it's a sequel, is it? Street Smarts. Tell us… Well, the subtitle is important: “Using Questions to Answer Christianity’s Toughest Challenges.” So tell us what made you say, “Oh, I need to add to what I wrote in Tactics.”
Well, the liability of the game plan that I offer in tactics—it's a three step game plan. And the third step is the hard one. The first two steps are very, very simple. All the steps use questions. But the third step, we use questions not to gain information or to ask a person why he believes what he believes. That's the first two steps. We’re just really in the shallow end of the pool. No risk to us. We’re gathering information that will help us understand their view. And it's amazing how often God will use just those two steps. We're not even trying to make our point, and the Lord will do something amazing in that, even for beginners who know only the first two steps of the game plan, which by the way, I review in Street Smart. So if you've already read Tactics, great. If you haven't and you want to, fine, but you don't need it to do the street smarts aspect, because Street Smarts focuses on the third aspect, and the third aspect is using questions to make a point, using questions to make a point. And the particular point that we're pursuing in this regard with Street Smarts is dealing with a challenge that's offered to Christianity or a point of view that is contrary to Christianity, so atheism or pro choice, for example. These are two views that people have contrary to our view. And now, how do we disabuse people of their false ideas? Or how do we at least get them wondering about whether they're sound?
And this is something I'm really more after here. And maybe I can make a point about a foundational concern that I have in this whole enterprise. And It's a little bit controversial. I'll acknowledge that right away. But I actually don't worry about leading people to Christ. That is, the action of praying with somebody to receive Christ. The harvesting, so to speak. Because you're not going to have a harvest unless you have a season of gardening. And when I look in the New Testament, what I see is gardening, gardening, gardening, And then, when people come to Christ, a lot of times the fruit just falls into the basket. That happened to me fifty years and about a week ago. I just had my 50th birthday as a Christian. And when I was ready, I harvested myself, because the fruit was ripe. And, Randy, when I take polls now—every time I give this talk, I take a poll. I did two different presentations this last weekend. And I asked people how many who are Christian did not become Christian by walking down the aisle for an altar call or praying with someone to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, which are the motifs that most of us are imagine are the kind of standard ways of this happening. And 60% to 70% average raise their hand. In other words, they were harvested by the Holy Spirit. I mean, it's amazing. I was shocked, but they were harvested by the Holy Spirit.
And so, since a lot of people, when presented with an evangelism model that requires them to try to get people to pray to receive Christ, those Christians are going to sit on the bench because that's too unnerving for them, especially in a hostile environment. But I tell them, “Don’t worry about that. Worry about the gardening,” and then give them a tool to garden. I'm telling you the audience just comes alive with that. And I've had people tell me, because that's the emphasis in the Tactics book here. I've had, time and time again, people tell me, and I'm sure you've heard it as well, “This book changed my life. When I started adopting this approach to engagement, using questions and not really trying to close the deal, everything changed for me,” including their effectiveness for the gospel’s sake. And so this concept of gardening is really important.
Man! Well, I've been saying things like this for a while, but I don't think I realized until just now. So that's a big part of my story. I didn't pray with someone in a one-on-one conversation. I didn't stand or walk forward in a group thing. Now there were tons of conversations with people beforehand. But at some point, I realized, “Oh, now I believe.” Well, when was the moment of conversion? I don't really know. Well, C.S. Lewis Institute, and we love C.S. Lewis-
… so I'm not really required to quote him every time, but I just feel I can't stop myself. But Lewis's conversion to Christianity-
On a motorcycle!
… That’s right. He said, “I got in the side car of Warnie's motorcycle, and we went to the zoo. When I got in the side car I was not a Christian, but when we got to the zoo I was.”
Right! There you go. That’s exactly what I'm talking about here.
Yeah. Just clarify a little bit. Gardener versus harvester, just in case people are not… I mean bring that to a clearer picture for us.
Yeah, okay. Think of John chapter 4, woman at the well. Jesus has the conversation. Then He tells the disciples, “You are about to reap where you did not sow.” Okay. You’re going to get the easy picking, so the low-hanging fruit. Somebody else did the heavy lifting. Now this is side car, and so what's going to happen? There's a harvest. He said the fields are white for harvest. I think he was talking about side car. Even in the conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus didn't lead her to Christ. He spoke to her about the truth, challenged her about her immorality in a very coy way, and then she ran off to side car. And she told everybody, “Maybe this is the Messiah,” and then people came, and they spent a couple of days there, and there was a harvest, that the people ended up believing. Okay. That’s the harvest. But before the harvest, there's always going to be gardening. And this is true. You mentioned it in your own life. It was true in my life. It's true in a region, too. Before a big revival in a region, a lot's going on. And I think that happened also in the book of Acts, because the thousands that became Christians on Pentecost and subsequent to it, just came into the kingdom believing based on the preaching, and the preaching had been going on for forty days after the resurrection and, Jesus had done this preaching, too.
Ironically, you never see an altar call in the book of Acts or the gospels, and you never see anybody being challenged to pray to receive Christ. That motif, though I'm not against that, is actually about 150 years old. It’s historically new in Christianity. This concept then frees us up to think about doing a little here and doing a little there. And there are a lot of examples that I give in Street Smarts. And the reason I titled it Street Smarts, by the way, is because the street is where you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, which is just about everywhere nowadays, spiritually speaking. But if you’re properly trained, if you're capable, if you know the answers to the challenges, if you know how to handle yourself in the street, so to speak, then you're not as frightened. It's not as difficult, and you're willing to venture out.
And this is the gardening technique and the game plan that I offer both in Tactics and review in Street Smarts, and then apply to a host of different issues that I go into detail in in Street Smarts and is what’s unique about that book. So I have two chapters on atheism. I have a chapter on the problem of evil. I have a chapter on whether you could be good without God. I have two chapters on abortion. I have two chapters on issues with the Bible, say slavery and alleged genocide in the Bible, or science in the Bible. And I have a chapter on gender and sex and marriage. And so the whole point is I'm trying to cover the basis that people are going to encounter in the street. But when you are, so to speak, armed with a game plan that includes the answers to the challenge, you know what's wrong with these challenges, that's where I go into depth into the book. But then I say, “Okay, now here are the questions you can use to begin to expose the problems with these views. And here are the dialogues as they might unfold.” It helps people have stepping stones for every single one of these issues, so that they can have genial yet productive conversations in an atmosphere that they thought in the past was really unnerving or even frightening.
This gets you street smarts.
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Good. Boy, you're touching on so many things. And so today's episode of Questions That Matter is going to be seven hours long. Hang in, everybody. Oh, no. No, I’m just kidding. But I want to go back again, gardener versus harvester. The terms in John chapter four are sowing and reaping. If I'm remembering correctly, Jesus said that the sowing is the harder work. I think He says this is the hard part, is the sowing part. The reaping is relatively easy, like you're saying. Am I remembering correctly?
I don’t know if he uses that language, but the point is—He said some sow and some reap, okay? And all you have to do is just reflect on it, and you realize that's true. I mean, even in agriculture, it's the gardening that takes a long time. When the fruit is ripe, it just falls from the vine. Ripe fruit is easy to harvest, okay? That's really critical. And that's why it happens so automatically with so many people, 70% of the time. It’s just automatic, in your life and in my life. I talked to Kirk Cameron the other day. I was on his show, and he said, “That same thing happened to me.” So even people in public visibility, it turned out that that's the way it happened with them. So for me, the key is—and this is an important concept that I have in both books. What is my goal then when I'm talking with someone about spiritual things? My goal isn't to lead them to Christ in that moment. My goal is to—the way I characterize this—put a stone in their shoe. I want to annoy them in a good way.
Right. So they keep thinking long after your conversation with them is over.
Exactly right. Exactly right.
Now, some people might call it, “Well, it’s planting a seed.” I don't want to plant a seed. I want to put a stone in their shoe. I want that image. And by the way, it's become iconic. People say this to me all the time now. And I think that's a good goal. If I can talk to somebody, Randy, have even a brief conversation or maybe a longer one, and what I've done is given them something to think about, stone in the shoe, I’m a happy camper. That’s my only goal. And then if they want to talk more, fine. But I try not to overwhelm people too much in one sitting. And it doesn't mean that I have to make sure I get the gospel, squeeze that into every conversation. Jesus didn't do that. I don't see why I have to do that, either. But if somebody has a good gardening tool, this will allow them to advance in a very genial, relaxed way with the kinds of questions that can really make a difference.
So I want to go back a little bit, because you it was a three-stage game plan. And if I pick this up correctly, a first wave of using questions is just getting to know the person. Well, it's getting to know the person. That’s part of it if you're total strangers. You’re just drawing people out. But the goal is to gather information. That's the key of the first step. But this is especially helpful, Randy, if you're talking with someone, you're already in a spiritual conversation, and they’re offering challenges. And the modeled questions. So I give two model questions for the first two steps. Very simple. The model question is, “What do you mean by that?” “What you mean by that?” Now, that’s the model question, which shouldn't be delivered in a wooden way. Somebody says to me, “Well, I'm an atheist. I'm not a Christian, I'm an atheist.” I say, “Oh. All right. What kind of atheist are you?” Okay. I'm just tossing the ball into their court. If the person says, “Well, what about the problem of evil?” I say, “What about it?” “Well, it's a problem for you, isn't it?” “Well, what exactly is the problem? Now, I'm not trying to avoid answering, but I want them to talk as much as possible about what's on their mind, what they think the problem is. “Well, the Bible's been changed.” We hear that. And, “Okay. In what way? Explain that to me? What's the difficulty there? Tell me about that concern.”
“Well…” et cetera, et cetera. “All right.” So the point here is we want to let the other…. This is counterintuitive for a lot of Christians. We want to let the other person talk as much as possible about their own view. It's counterintuitive, because I think, “Why should I let the other guy have all the time talking about a false view?” And here's the reason: For one, it'll help you understand their view. That's really important. No straw men, all right? Secondly, it will help them understand their view.
And I have found in multiple circumstances, when I've requested somebody to explain their view in more detail, removing any ambiguities for me, it’s just got them thinking about the legitimacy of their view.
Because if their view is false, the more they talk, the bigger the hole is that they'll be digging for themselves, probably.
All right. So, wait. I'm slow. I'm sorry, Greg. So the first phase is using questions to gather information. What's the second? What's the second step?
Okay, it's to gather a second type of information. The first is the detail on their view. The second is detail on why they hold their view.
Got it. Got it.
The atheist gives me more detail. I say, “Why are you an atheist? Why don't you believe there is a god?” Now, I don't know what they're going to say, but see, it's what they say next that is going to give me kind of a platform for discussing their issues. Now, of course, in the next step, the third step, we're going to talk about difficulties in particular issues and use questions to expose those. And I'll give you some examples of that. But the value of these first two steps is, first of all, I like to say, “Questions keep you safe.”
You say that very clearly. Yeah, good.
The more that you ask questions, the more information you're getting, but the less information you're giving. If you give less information at this stage, then you have nothing to account for. People aren't going to hold you responsible for a view you don't express. Now, that's a position of safety. Now some more aggressive types are thinking, “Wait! I want to get down to business!” All right. There’ll be a time for that. But there's a whole lot of people who aren't ready to get down to business who are Christians. What I'm saying to those Christians is, “Look, if you just get in conversations and, politely and with an interest in the other person, ask them what they believe and get detail and ask them why they believe it, first of all, there's no risk. You're in the shallow end of the pool. Ankle deep. That's it. Easy. Secondly, I promise you you are going to get an education, and God is going to work just through that.” So even that truncated game plan is going to make progress. Okay, that's mostly the Tactics book.
Street Smarts is dedicated to taking it to the third step. And that is showing a weakness or a flaw—making a point by showing a weakness or a flaw or parrying a charge that somebody might make to you. So there's the three steps: Gathering information, “What do you mean by that?” Finding the reasons for somebody's view, “How did you come to that conclusion?” That's the model question. “What are your reasons? How did you come to that conclusion?” Very simple. Two steps. Now, what we're going to do, if we're able, and this is a little harder step, you're going to make a point, and you have to know what point you're going to make. So you’ve got a target you have to shoot for. And this is what I dedicate all those chapters to with regards to individual issues. So let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. So let's say an atheist says to me, “Well, there's no evidence for God.” Now, I happen to know—and I go into detail in the book on the backstory for all of these issues—that one of the most powerful evidences for the existence of God is the fact that the universe had a beginning. All right? Big Bang cosmology, whatever you want to call it. Some Christians don't like that. That's all right. It does not matter. Don't worry about that, because what matters is both the Christian and the non-Christian believe the universe had a beginning.
Yeah, yeah. That’s right. Common ground.
Okay. That’s what we’re going to work with. Okay, common ground there. So with that in mind, here is how my conversation would go, very simply. The atheist says, “Well, there's no evidence for God.” And I say, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” “No. Go ahead.” There you go. You know what's coming. Randy, you're thinking, “If I say, ‘Do you mind if I ask you some questions?’ they ought to duck, right?”
But let me just dive in here. When you say, “May I ask you some questions?” when they say yes, that has an effect on them. It's, “Okay, I gave this guy permission to broach this further.”
So it can have a softening effect.
And again, we're not trying to do this, so that we’ve, “Ah! Gotcha!” We're really trying to love this person and serve them by allowing our questions and their wonderings to help them move out of darkness into light.
That’s right. It’s not a gladiator event. And too many public discussions—you know what I'm talking about, right? Who can draw first blood? They're the winners? Even Christians do this. Not a gladiator event, right?
Yeah. You're right.
Okay. So we get permission. Okay, the first couple of questions are pretty easy. I tell them, “Just play along with me, okay,” and I say, “Okay. First one is: Do you think things exist?” Now when I was at University of Toronto, and I had an atheist at the microphone, he was really reluctant to follow my lead of asking questions, so finally he said, “Okay, this microphone exists.” It was front of him. I said, “Okay, I can work with that. I agree with you. It does exist, so we're on the same page, right?” I said, “Secondly, the things that exist, whatever they are, have they always existed?” “No, they haven't always existed.” In other words, they came in to being at some point in time in the past. “Yeah, right.” So there was when there was no universe, and then there was a universe?” “Yes.” “Well, I agree with you on that one, too.” Okay, notice I was asking a couple of little clarification questions to get these points firmly on the table, as it were. I said, “Okay, now here's the third question,” and this is the most important. “What caused everything to come into existence?” By the way, there's only two options. I tell them either something or no thing. “Something did or no thing did. Now what do you think? What's your answer?” Now, they don't want to say something because they're atheists, right? They’re skeptics or whatever you want to call them. And if it's something outside of the material universe, that means that materialism is dead in the water. And that means it would have to be something powerful and pretty smart and probably a person to initiate the creative series of events. And so they don't want to go there, but there's only one option left. The universe came into existence with no cause, for no reason, with no purpose. That's all that’s left to them. I'm not trying to prove God's existence. I'm asking the question, “Which is the best explanation for the way things are?” Maybe things could come into existence out of nothing. By the way, if it did, then it is for no reason and no purpose. No cause, no reason, no purpose, and you're kind of stuck with that. You can go other places with that realization. But nevertheless, maybe it's possible, but it isn't the odds on favorite. That's the point I’m trying to make.
Yeah. Let me jump in again. I think there's a very, very powerful word you just said in our efforts to reach out to people, and it's the word maybe. I think we should use that word, so that if someone says, “Well, I think there's no purpose.” “Well, maybe, maybe, but maybe there is purpose. Maybe there is. Which one do you think is more fitting with the reality that we see?”
Exactly. I like the word fitting. Right.
Fitting. Resonates with what we see and what we know. And, for me, there's a freedom of, okay, I don't have to prove that your atheism is completely, totally, completely wrong. I just want to say, “Okay, maybe, but here's another thought: It seems to me this one fits the way we are as people, the way we see a world that has design and beauty.”
That’s excellent. And what you're talking about, Randy, is explanatory power, and this is a term that's often used in science, and so what we're asking…. When my daughter, when she was eight years old, asked me, “Why do we believe God is true?” I thought about it for a moment, then I just simply said, “Because He’s the best explanation for the way things are.” Now notice I said best, not only. He’s the best explanation. God’s existence makes sense out of so many things. Think of Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist in the world, who starts out his bestselling book that put him on the map really, Blind Watchmaker. “Biology is a complex field that gives the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” So he acknowledges biology looks like it’s been designed for a purpose, and yeah, well maybe it looks designed because it has been designed.
We here at the C.S. Lewis Institute are very excited about a new monthly publication we are launching, and have launched already, and have sent out a few issues. In the legacy of C.S. Lewis, this new publication which we're calling Challenging Questions tackles subjects and issues regarding the Christian faith, with a hopefully winsome and thoughtful approach to provide believers with good reasons for their faith and to provide seekers and skeptics with some food for thought. This new publication will be distributed monthly. We hope that you'll share copies of it with friends of yours, neighbors, colleagues. Go to our website, look for Challenging Questions. There’s also a place where you can send us feedback and comments about it. Maybe you could offer some possible topics you'd like to see us address. So we really hope that this resource helps you as you reach out to people who are posing challenging questions to you.
Sorry. It’s not good to laugh in the face of someone if you're trying to help them, but that is sort of comical.
Yes. It’s common sense.
It gives the appearance that it looks like it was designed. Hmm. Well, here's another thought: Maybe it was designed. But boy, I have to fight internal desires to be sarcastic and mean spirited. I have to pray. No, I'm not joking. I pray a whole lot, “Lord, give me compassion and love for this person. May I care more about them than I do about making myself look good.” And there's a whole lot going on inside of me-
Yes. Of course. Well, we all need those kinds of prayers. I feel the same way. By the way, just another line, along that line, about the best explanation, is I was at Cal, at Berkeley a number of years ago, and I spoke to an overflow, I mean a huge audience. And at the end, I addressed the issue of human guilt. This is the existential question. Why is it we feel guilty? And all I said was, “Well, maybe you feel guilty because you are guilty.” “Is that in the running?” I said, and, “The answer to guilt is not denial. That's relativism. The answer to guilt,” I said, “is forgiveness, and this is where Jesus comes in.” And it’s powerful.
It is. It's powerful, and it’s beautiful. It’s powerful and beautiful. I want people to feel as I tell them, even if, “Well, gee, I don't believe this, and I don't think it's true, but man, I wish it was.” That's good progress, if they’re like, “That sounds really good.” Anyway, you were going to go back.
I love the way you put it. It's beautiful. I wanted to go back to that little illustration, the conversation I had with the atheist using the cosmological argument. The way I put it is: “A big bang needs a big banger.” That’s a pretty straightforward way of putting the cosmological, or at least that form of the cosmological argument. But here's something that may have been missed, but I want to point it out, because it is an essential part of the Street Smarts approach. I could have made the same argument with an atheist by putting all those pieces on the table myself. I could have said, “Well, things exist, and the things that exist don't always exist. The universe is not eternal. It had a beginning at the big bang, and therefore something had to cause the big bang. And it doesn't make any sense to say nothing caused it, so something probably caused it. Therefore God exists.” Okay, so there it is. That’s the same argument. But notice that, if I had done that, I'm preaching, right? And it gives an opportunity for the skeptic to jump in at every single point I try to put a piece on the table. “Well, things exist.” “Well, maybe we're just butterflies dreaming.” Okay. “And they haven't always existed.” “Well, some people believe the universe is eternal.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I don't get anywhere. But I didn't do that. What I did is subtly enlisted the skeptic as an ally in making the case against himself, because I use the questions then to get him to put the pieces on the table, not me. And this is key. In all my dialogues, we have the same thing going on, these little questions that are meant to elicit a common sense response. But when the pieces are all in place, then you have what might be called the mic drop moment, okay? Which is the last question that really matters. Now, are they cornered a little bit? Yes, they're cornered, but they're cornered in all the right ways. They're not cornered in a way like… Yes, I’m not trying to make them look stupid. I'm trying to get them to think of their view, which has a serious liability that maybe they have not confronted. And that's the stone in the shoe concept that I talk about.
And do you find this sometimes? I find with some people, if I do this, they say what they believe, and I ask a question, “Tell me why. What has convinced you of that?” and, “How have you arrived at this point?” For a lot of people, as they talk, they almost start talking themselves out of their beliefs, because they start seeing, “Oh, no. Wait a minute. That’s not a very good explanation. Oh. Why didn’t you say that?” I'm just repeating myself, but it's important for me to keep repeating this to myself. It's not because I want to get them. It's because I want to help them. If people are believing foolishness, it's not doing them any good. It's doing them a tremendous amount of harm. And if I can have a conversation where they go, “Oh, maybe that's not so good,” I'm helping them. And that's a crying need in our time. I think people are believing some things—they're not just wrong, they’re deadly. They're really harmful for them. And they may not figure out the consequences until ten years of damage done. And we want to try to say, “You might want to rethink that before you go too far down that path.”
Yeah, I'm glad you put it that way, because we don't want to get them. We want to get them to think. We want to get them to think in a fair and honest and accurate way about these things. And you have found, too, just with your own work, that asking questions, especially if they are germane to the issue, that are germane to the weakness of the issue, then that gets them to think. Just back to this question about evidence for God. “If you saw footprints in the sand on the beach, what would you think?” “Well, I’d think somebody was walking there.” “Well, why wouldn't you think that this just happened by waves and wind and seagulls and shells and stuff like that?” “Because that doesn't make sense, plus there's a better explanation.” “What's the better explanation?” “Well, that somebody was walking with shoes. That's what it was.” “Okay, great. Got it. All right. So what do you think about the human body?” “Oh, I think that evolved by chance.” “Well, wait a minute. Help me out here.” And then, what I'm going to try to do is go back to this original illustration. By the way, that dialogue’s in the book.
Or, “If you saw a blueprint, what would you think how that came to be? It was lying on a desk somewhere. Would you think it just kind of blew there, and wind and ink and everything fell together?” “No, of course not. There's a better explanation. Somebody made the blueprint. I mean that's crazy to think that way.” And of course it would be. “And what do you think of the DNA and the double helix in every cell of your body?” “Oh, that blueprint? Oh, that evolved by chance.” “Okay, wait, wait. Help me put these things together.” And so what I'm trying to do is give them…. “The footprint couldn't have developed by chance, but the entire 80,000 volumes of information in every cell, that could evolve by chance. Is that what you're telling me? Really? Why would you think that?” So notice that these are all questions, but they’re questions to help people to see things aren't fitting together. This is not the best explanation for the way things are. And this is true about every topic that I cover. Do I have time for one other example?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yeah.
A biblical example. There’s a lot to say about this, but genocide in the Bible. People are concerned about genocide in the Bible. I get that. I understand. Okay. So when somebody says, “What about genocide in the Bible?” I say, “Well, what do you mean by genocide? What is genocide?” Now that seems like a silly question to ask, and this portion is not in the book. I do deal with genocide, but I just thought of this a few weeks ago to help me out. And when you get in the Street Smarts pattern, you'll be able to think of things like this. So I just say, “What is genocide?” And they say, “Well, you know, genocide is when you kill a whole bunch of people.” “You mean like when the Germans killed the Jews?” “Yeah. That was genocide.” “Were the Germans wrong for doing it?” “Yes! Of course they were wrong for doing that.” “Okay, I have another question.” “What's that?” “Well, when the allied soldiers came and killed millions of Germans who were killing millions of Jews, was that genocide?”
Ah, good. Very good. Yeah.
“No, that wasn't genocide.” “Why not?” “Because they were killing the bad guys who were doing the genocide.” “So in other words, genocide isn't just killing a lot of people. It's killing a lot of people for the wrong reason. Is that right? Is that what I'm hearing?” Now I’m looking to get that affirmation. Okay, so now what I have in place is genocide is killing a lot of people for the wrong reason. Okay, now I’m in a position to go back to the accounts in the Hebrew scriptures about whether or not God had a good reason to kill a lot of people when He did. And that's something I develop in the book. Okay. Notice how that sets things up, and it sets a very different tone in this discussion. And I'm getting all the information from the other person that I'm asking questions of to set up the next step.
Oh, this is so good!
You can do that with all these issues that I talk about.
So you're helping people to think, and you're helping people to delve into difficult issues that they've probably only looked at from a very shallow, simplistic kind of thing.
Well, as our listeners might be able to guess, Greg Koukl and I could talk for hours and hours, and we would probably ask each other lots of questions and maybe even get to the point where we would be like, “Why did you ask that question?” “Why didn't you ask that question?” And it would be obnoxious. So we really need to bring this to a close, but I want to give you the last word. Is there anything else you want to say? I don't want to say too much more about your book, because then people won't buy it and they won't read it, because you've given everything away. And publishers will call me and say, “Don’t.. so much!” No. There’s a ton in this book that we didn't even get anywhere near.
So it's very helpful book to help us think, but it also gives us very precise: “Here are some things to say. Here are some good questions to ask.” So any last thing you want to say about the book or your approach?
Yes. It’s completely understandable to be apprehensive of the street, spiritually speaking. In fact, the first line of the book says, “I have a confession to make: Evangelism is hard for me.”
Yes. I saw that. I highlighted that one.
And so I'm with everybody listening. People don't like to take tests unless they know the answers to the tests. In Street Smart, I give you the answers and a way of using the answers that's congenial, that's relaxed, that's easy going, that doesn't get you in a fight with people characteristically, but can have a powerful impact, moving people closer to Christ, even if they don't pray with you at that moment to receive Christ. God's responsible for that. We aren’t. Just do a little gardening, put a stone their shoe, and watch what happens.
Oh, well said! Well said! And brings this to a great close. The book is Street Smarts. My friend is Greg Koukl. Please check out the links that we put on the show notes for this show. Also visit our website. Take a look at resources. All that we put together here is to help you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to tell others about how wonderful this great God is. Thanks for listening.