The 5-Step Guide to Answering Skeptics

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

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.

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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.




About the Author:

Alex Koo
Alex's Blog
Alex K Koo is the Executive Director of Paradigm, a university ministry that challenges students to see what they really believe. He holds weekly inter-faith discussions from a Christian Worldview and dares skeptics to doubt their doubts. He's a Missionary, Evangelist, Communicator, and Apologist at our nation's largest university, the University of Central Florida. Entrepreneur, speaker, musician and writer.

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Typical apologetic- manipulation, emotional appeal, and presuppositional logic puzzles. Apologists have had 2000 years to tweak the doctrines to make their worldview internally consistent, like all good fiction. Consistency does not make any of it true, what you need is evidence, not arguments and assumptions.


Rob, while I’m sure we can empathize with your apparent skepticism with this approach, this objection would only seem valid if the purpose of the approach was primarily to convince people of the validity of the Christian faith. In that case, yes evidence will need to be presented.

However, the point of this approach is to first get the skeptic to question his/her own worldview in order to move the conversation to evidence.


Oh, here I was thinking this was just a manipulative attempt to pick out inconsistencies in a skeptical worldview and then sneak in Christianity, without applying the same consistency test to your faith. Silly me.

In that case, I anxiously await the second installment, when the author presents his evidence for the truth of Christianity. Do give me a ring when that happens, please.


Lol silly you. It’s alright haha.


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