The 5-Step Guide to Answering Skeptics

Iwrote this brief guide after a few requests from those who wanted to better engage with people that were skeptical about faith. Though I’m far from being an expert, I’ve learned some valuable principles as a missionary to the University. Some may have expected a list of answers to the top ten questions asked by skeptics. But that isn’t the solution.

That is to say, having a response to tough apologetic questions is important, but more important is our need to communicate effectively to reach both the skeptic’s mind and heart. If you talk to enough atheists, you’ll realize quickly that most questions raised are smokescreens concealing a problem of the heart. I am confident that Christianity can answer all the objections even the most ardent objectors wield, but the goal is and always will be to win hearts to Christ.

Below are five steps (the acronym is SWIPE) that I take whenever I’m talking with students. This might happen in one conversation, or over multiple conversations. In order to convince people of the Truth, our goal is never to demonstrate our intellectual prowess but to strategically enable them to see the flaws in their own thinking and come to the conclusion themselves. This is done best by asking good questions.

Lastly, we must remember every individual is unique. Some questions will be more helpful to one person than another. Some people will need more time to think it through. Ultimately, we must pray for God-given discernment and wisdom to know what to say (and NOT to say), and ask the Spirit to open their heart.

If you don’t have time to read this right now,
download the guide as a PDF file below:



I rarely ever go into a serious discussion about faith until I’ve had time to let the person trust me. This happens when they believe that I genuinely care about them. Some helpful questions that I enjoy asking are:
  • So, what’s your story? How did you get to this place in your life?
  • What keeps you busy in your spare time?
  • What does a typical day in the life of Bob/Jill look like?
These questions give me a window into who they are as a person and what they care about. I try to intentionally find commonalities.
I try to be specific:
  • You’re an entrepreneur? Awesome! What do you think of Tim Ferris’ last book?
  • You do web development? Migrating my server was a nightmare! I hate propagation!
  • Skateboarding huh? Can you laserflip?
But if I can’t find anything in common, general follow-up questions are:
  • Oh, you’re from [city or state]? How’s that like compared to here?
  • So, you’re studying [field you know nothing about i.e. medieval literature]? Cool! What got you into that?
These questions build trust and an authentic relationship between you and the person. However, at this point you must discern if it is an appropriate time to move to the next questions, or if more time is needed for him/her to get comfortable with you.
  • Do you come from a religious background?
This question will allow you to gauge how open this person is to talking about spiritual things. More often than not, they’re willing to talk about it.
  • How did you come to that conclusion?
  • If you found out what you believed wasn’t true, would you stop believing it?


If a worldview is the lens through which we interpret the world, then it follows that everybody has a worldview. The next step is to determine the person’s worldview. Often times many students don’t even consciously realize the worldview they hold (similar to how we don’t think much about our glasses or contact lenses). These following questions will reveal their worldview.
  1. Where do you believe everything came from?
  2. Do you believe there is an absolute truth concerning morality? If so, how do we determine it?
  3. How do you find your identity?
  4. Do you think there is actual purpose and meaning in this world?
  5. What happens when we die?
At this point it is helpful to do some personal study on worldviews so you can identify which worldview he/she subscribes to, be it atheistic, agnostic, humanistic, or other religions. I recommend the books “What’s Your Worldview?” by James Anderson and “Jesus Among Secular Gods” by Ravi Zacharias.


Christianity is the only coherent worldview. Christianity is the only worldview that can answer all the questions above and remain consistent. After you’ve asked questions to help the person identify and admit his/her worldview, the next objective is to graciously point out the inconsistencies. This takes practice, but the more you have these conversations, the more easily you can recognize them. Here are some examples.
  • You say you don’t believe in absolute truth, but aren’t you also suggesting that statement itself is true?
  • You say you DO believe in absolute truth and we determine it through science, but what about things we can’t prove with science like meaning, history, math, beauty, or morality? Do you not believe those truly exist?
  • You say that we create meaning and identity for ourselves; we don’t need it to be objective. You also say you believe in reason. Isn’t pretending there is actual meaning a bit unreasonable?
  • You say you don’t believe in a Creator because that’s not reasonable. But isn’t it just as unreasonable to say that everything came from nothing?
  • You say we don’t need God to be good people and for societies to flourish, but who gets to decide what is good or bad?
There are many more questions that can be asked to find inconsistencies that will become more evident the more we learn about the Christian worldview and other worldviews. Again, the goal is not to end the conversation, but simply to begin one. The goal isn’t even about proving Christianity is true (if they throw questions back, it’s okay to say you don’t know). Rather, the goal is to encourage the person to be honest enough to admit that their own worldview is faulty and unreasonable.


This next step is usually the most the difficult. After we’ve convinced him/her of the fact that their worldview is not all that stable, we must seek to find the question behind the question – the question they are truly asking. By revealing that the reason for their secular worldview isn’t because of its intellectual coherence, we see that their problem probably isn’t intellectual, but emotional or spiritual.

At this point, some questions to begin this conversation are:

  • If all your questions about Christianity were resolved, would it still be difficult for you to believe in God?
  • If God was real, do you think believing in God would make your life better or worse?
  • If God was real and you could ask him one question, what would it be?
These questions must be asked graciously and with care as they tend to elicit very personal responses. Often the student I ask will suddenly bitterly admit with a visceral pain an incident that he blames God for. Many times, it comes down to their flawed view of God’s character that repels them.

At this point in the conversation, we must move from apologetics to theology.

Our tone must change from being persuasive to pastoral. We must demonstrate Christ-like empathy and not disregard their real pain or anger. There have been times at this point in the conversation I simply had to weep with her as she asked how God could let those atrocities happen to her as a child. I dare not answer on God’s behalf nor dismiss her pain.


Finally, the last step is to explicitly invite and encourage the person to consider and explore the Christian faith. We must always present this invitation on their terms, or they will immediately be repelled. This might be an invitation to meet again for coffee the next week, or an invitation to read the bible together.

How this may look like will depend on how their pain points. Regardless, they must walk away convinced that we care for them, there is grace for them, they can be completely honest with us, and that there might just be more to life.

For those of you that scrolled down here to see how it all ended, here’s your summary: The 5 steps are
  1. Set the Stage
  2. Worldview Check
  3. Identity Inconsistencies
  4. Pain Points
  5. Encourage Exploration


Interested in being part of a movement to mobilize new evangelists to reach a skeptical generation? Learn more here.




By | 2018-03-08T10:11:20+00:00 March 8th, 2018|4 Comments

Failing The 2017 Reading Challenge

I almost did it. I came so close. And yet, as the year dies, defeat looks me in the eye. Yes, I had many challenges fighting against me — several months rendered useless because my time was monopolized by ministry, and three months not even being home. But I had overcome them, I made up for what was lost, I was almost there, I almost made it — but didn’t. I didn’t complete my reading challenge. I only read 45 out of the 52-book goal that I attempted.

But all dramatics aside, my reading challenge wasn’t a failure in any sense. There’s never not a good time to read, and my commitment gave me a goal and accountability to be intentional about picking up heavy tome. Or slim e-reader, as the case may be.

Top Christian Books of 2017

Looking back now, I ran into some interesting adventures in Literary land.  I had a hurdle initially trying to even organize and label all the titles I read. Where do I file The Great Divorce? As fiction, or Christian living? How do I define The Story of Reality? I also read many things I didn’t enjoy this year (I’m looking at you, Steinbeck), things read solely because they are on the List-Of-Things-You-Are-Supposed-To-Read. I wonder if the List-Writers have ever read anything themselves. Yet, I also gave myself rein to read some light things solely for enjoyment. I found some new favorites. Good Christian dystopian fiction does actually exist. (There’s a sentence I truly believed I would never see.) I even read a book that hasn’t been published yet, as an alpha reader for a friend.

But the easy part of being a reader is the actual reading. The impossible part is answering the inevitable question. “Which was your favorite?” And I have forty-five to choose from. So, instead of attempting the impossible, I shall instead pick the cream of the crop, making both my task and my suggestions a bit more manageable.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 books from 2017



1: This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years, by Jaquelle Crowe

This was my first book of the year, written by a first-time author, who just happened to be one of my first supporters in getting my first article published on Rebelution. So perhaps I’m a bit biased when I say this book is magnificent. But I’m not the only one. Winning both TGC’s award for best first-time author, as well as Christianity Today’s award of merit for best Children and Youth Book, This Changes Everything reminds us that we can’t just give God part of our life. Every single aspect of it, He declares dominion over; and what He lays claim to, He makes change to. I personally stayed up far into the night finishing this book in one sitting, because it was so very good!



2: One Thousand Gifts; A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Areby Ann Voskamp

I recognize that there are varying opinions on this book. But if nothing else, it reawakened my delight in the beauty that God is, and the beauty that should be our writing when we speak of Him.



3: Out of Time Series, by Nadine Brandes

Remember when I claimed good YA dystopian novels do exist? Remember when I claimed that good Christian YA dystopian novels exist? Well, here we are. I don’t remember why I picked up A Time to Die, but I remember doing so with the mindset of, “Well, this is Christian, so it’s probably going to be just some clean, cheesy, tolerable dystopian clichés with a few Bible verses thrown in.” Wrong. My expectations were subverted. The stakes were serious. And faith living in a dystopian future was handled thoughtfully and well.



4: Wars of the Realm Series, by Chuck Black

And while we’re on the subject of good Christian fiction that refuses to play to our expectations of Christian media and stereotypes, let’s talk about Chuck Black. If you haven’t read his Kingdom or Knights of Arrethtrae series yet; then sir, get thee to a library. Easy reads but none the less intriguing for it, The Wars of the Realm explores spiritual warfare from an interesting perspective — one of a non-Christian protagonist.



5: A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s Worldby Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet

“What is cultural success? It’s a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl, deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” An excellent and expertly handled overview of life in our 21st Century, which you can read my full review of here.


6: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Lifeby Douglas Wilson

Is this the book recommended by all writers for all writers? Yes, yes it is. Does it deserve such acclaim? Yes, yes it does. I received it on Christmas, read through it the very next day, and promptly placed it on my read-every-year shelf.



7: What He Must Be: If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, by Voddie Baucham

If there’s anything more exciting, terrifying, confusing, and frustrating than navigating relationships and trying to find a spouse, I must not be old enough to know it. What He Must Be lays out some guidelines and challenges for young men in what they should be aiming for, young women in what they should be looking for, and parents in what they should be training for. To quote one of my favorite phrases from Pastor Baucham, “If you can’t say Amen, you oughta say Ouch.”



8: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi

You may have heard of Nabeel’s passing this last year, and read some powerful tributes. But much more powerful is his story. Part autobiography, part documentary of the clash between Islam and Christianity,Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is a thought-provoking, laughter-making, tear-inducing journey following Nabeel to his conversion, with a convicting look at our own complacency and lack of passion for the Gospel. If you only read one biography, one book on Islam, or one book on apologetics in 2018, make it this one.



9: The Weight of Glory, by C. S. Lewis

This list would be amiss if I didn’t include at least one C. S. Lewis. I read five different books by Lewis this year; yes, I slacked off quite a bit. Even though I didn’t finish Weight of Glory before the end of 2017, it’s one I’ll always recommend, as I read through it yearly. It is not only an ever-masterful discussion of what glory really means (with thoughts on friendships, living in light of eternity, and others in the essays included with it) but also the book that made me sit back with eyes full of wonder and think “I want to be able to do that. To make beauty with words.” Also, it’s by C. S. Lewis. Enough said.



10: Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Gregory Koukl

This is a book I recommend for everyone. Absolutely everyone should read it. And as all of my friends will tell you, I recommend it all the time. (To the point where it’s now an ongoing joke in our group.) Do you want to be able to engage people well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to understand and love others well? Read this book. Do you want to be able to deftly handle your apologetics? Read this book. Do you want to comfortably and gracefully have conversations about faith with others? Read this book. But perhaps I’m being too subtle with my hints. Seriously, you should read Tactics.


There were dozen of others books I’d like to talk about, but as Douglas Wilson taught me this year, know where to end.

Did you complete the 2017 reading challenge? What were your top books of the year?


By | 2018-01-31T02:27:13+00:00 January 20th, 2018|0 Comments


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