Critical Thinking Skills for Challenges to Beliefs

Remember that faith crises don’t happen when you start asking questions. It happens when you stop seeking answers.

Posted on

When someone gives you a criticism of Christianity and you’re not quite sure how to answer them, these tools will help you.

I: Don’t panic
1…Nobody can answer all the questions right away.
2…Don’t think there aren’t answers just because you don’t know them.
3…Don’t feel like the answer has to be short. Some require lengthy responses.
4…Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you know there’s an answer to their question/criticism but you’ll have to get back to them on it. Then follow thru and get back to them.
5…Write down the question/criticism as a way to get back to them (usually by email). Doing this will help you to follow thru on getting them an answer to it.
6….Realize that the Bible is true and that anything that contradicts it is false. Every criticism will fall apart somewhere.
7…Try to determine if they’re really interested in hearing an answer. Are they willing to spend some time reading your answer or your link to an answer?


II: Compare the question/criticism to what the Bible actually teaches. An easy way to do this is to google a critique of the question/criticism.
1…If someone is demanding proof of the resurrection, google “proofs of the resurrection”.
2…Is the criticism of a major or a minor doctrine? If someone is arguing about the mode of baptism (whether you get sprinkled or dunked) that’s a minor point of doctrine. It’s not worth arguing about. But if someone questions whether Jesus really existed or if He’s coming back, then that’s the time to take a stand.


III: Make sure your definitions are in agreement. When someone says that America is not a Christian nation, ask them what they mean by a “Christian nation”. Do they mean a nation that’s based on Christian principles or do they mean a nation, like Iran, which is an Islamic theocracy (where the government and the religion are one and the same)?


IV: Is their question/criticism based on a desire to genuinely hear an answer or is it emotion-based?
1…Pro-abortion people usually base their arguments on emotion. They’ll point out that the girl should have control over her own body or that the baby may be deformed or that she cannot afford to have a child at this time. All of these are emotion-based reasons. Point out to them that the baby is a human being and aborting it is killing an innocent person. Or that the baby’s body is NOT part of the mother’s body, it’s only attached to it. These are rational reasons. An excellent resource is Scott Klusendorf’s book, “The Case for Life”.


V: Determine what parts of their question/criticism are facts and which are assumptions. Words like, could, might, maybe, probably, and may should be red flag words. They tell you that the critic is assuming or interpreting something rather than stating facts.


VI: Don’t be afraid to question their “facts”. An example is the divorce rate being 50%. They get this figure by taking the number of divorces in one year and divide it by the number of marriages that year. But this doesn’t take into account people who have been divorced more than one time. People like the late Elizabeth Taylor, who was divorced 7 times, really skew the number. The more accurate figure is obtained by going into the general public and asking married couples if either of them has ever been divorced. When they do this, the real divorce rate is about 30%.


VII: If their ‘facts’ sound suspicious, check them out. It may not be that the facts are incorrect, but that they are biased. An example is that Columbus killed millions of Native Americans. Most of those killed were because the Europeans brought diseases over which the Natives had no immunity. Germ theory was not known until the mid-1800s, so the Europeans and Columbus could not be held responsible for these deaths. This is not to reject how badly the Europeans treated the Natives.


VIII: Check their logic. Are they using ‘straw man’ arguments, ‘circular reasoning’, faulty analogies, etc? To find out what faulty logic they may be using, check out potential fallacies here.


IX: Try to figure out what the critic’s biases are. They may never be able to see beyond their biases. We all have biases but many of us are able to see beyond them. Some people will not agree with you no matter how much proof you can give them. For example, some people will not see any good that America or a certain politician has done. They only see the bad things about our country or about that politician. Over time, you may learn to recognize this type of person.


X: Don’t get angry if they don’t accept anything that you’re saying or if they mock your beliefs. Anger blocks rational thought. It may be time for you to leave the conversation.


XI: Realize that they may not be reacting to what you’re actually saying. They may be rejecting what you’re saying because they don’t want to give up sin in their own life. Aldous Huxley said that he didn’t not believe Christianity. He couldn’t accept it because it would mean giving up his sinful sexual lifestyle. He liked his sexual sin more than he wanted to believe in Jesus. This would definitely be time to leave the conversation.


Remember that faith crises don’t happen when you start asking questions. It happens when you stop seeking answers. Remember John 6:68-69 that says the evidence of your faith far outweighs the uncertainty of any unresolved questions you may have. The next time you get a question/criticism that contradicts the Bible, remember these critical thinking rules. Use them enough so that they become second nature to you. Then you’ll be able to think thru any challenging message and arrive at a biblically sound conclusion. Remember 1Peter 3:15-16…”…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect…”


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on bsssb-llc

Featured Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay


The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

He earned a Michigan provisional teaching certificate and a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in physics and minors in astronomy, chemistry & mathematics. He has done graduate work in astro-physics, worked as a physics graduate teaching assistant and taught college astronomy. He has worked as a research & development laboratory manager at a plastics company, an automotive engineer, a chemist and a public & private high school teacher in math, physics & chemistry.He is currently retired from his own advanced materials tooling company. He has taught Christian adult education since the mid 1990’s at 2 churches. He was Director of Adult Education at one church and is now a teacher of Adult Education at his present church. Since becoming a Christ-follower in 1974, he has been an avid student of the Bible, with a special emphasis on apologetics (rationally defending the faith).He & his wife, Patti, have been married about 43 years and have 3 adult sons and 9 wonderful grandchildren.