questions skeptics ask
This MTI blog series aims to help you and your readers sharpen your skills in communicating faith matters to secular readers – skeptics, seekers, and the spiritually disinterested.

Do your secular readers–or your secular friends–ever doubt Christianity’s validity?  Probably so.

An earlier article, 7 Questions Skeptics Ask, posed common questions and suggested brief responses.  Here are seven additional common questions and sample responses.  Note that some are questions/objections that skeptics raise directly.  Others reflect inner concerns that they may not voice, but which may help kindle interest in spiritual matters.

1. The physical realm is all that is real.  Any supposed spiritual realm is purely imaginary.

At first glance, it may seem logical to believe that the physical realm is real, and any spiritual realm is myth.  After all, we can see and touch our bodies, feel pain and pleasure, smell, taste and hear.  We have apparent perceptible evidence that the physical exists.  But we cannot perceive any spiritual world through the five senses, so why believe in it?

Consider that most of us do acknowledge a non-physical realm: human emotion.  We cannot see, touch, smell, taste or hear an inner bond we feel with close friends, disappointment we feel from loss, exhilaration we feel from accomplishment, tenderness we feel from love, and more.

So maybe there is something besides the physical.  But a spiritual realm?  Here’s my take:  As a skeptical university student, I considered historical evidence for Jesus’ physical resurrection.  I concluded the case was solid.  He predicted his death and resurrection, and then both happened.  Because I can trust him in these important areas where he can be tested, I have grounds to trust him in areas where I cannot test him – e.g., the existence of the spiritual, how to know God, etc.

2. Why believe in absolute morality?  Or absolute truth?  Everything is relative.  There is no absolute right or wrong or truth.

When someone tells me there are no absolutes, I’m tempted to ask, “Are you absolutely sure of that?”  It is, of course, self-contradictory to absolutely claim that absolutes do not exist.  If absolute truth does not exist, how could we ever know that it does not?  The study of knowledge would be reduced to a guessing game.

When pressed, if people are honest with themselves, many want to believe in absolute morality.  After all, if there is no absolute morality, who’s to say that Hitler was wrong?  Some angrily reply, “Of course, Hitler was wrong.  He was an evil man who devalued human life, especially Jewish life.”  But if there is no absolute morality, then might makes right and life is survival of the fittest.

What if a supreme arbiter existed in the universe to distinguish right from wrong, and define absolute truth?  That’s what the biblical model describes.  An all-powerful, all knowing, all-loving supreme being created the universe and established truth and morality.  The question then becomes, is the biblical account of God and his ways true?  Where does the evidence lead?

3. How do you know there is life after death?

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger feels we cannot know.  Howard Stern asked him, “Tell me, governor, what happens to us when we die?”  Arnold responded: “Nothing. You’re 6 feet under. Anyone that tells you something else is a [expletive] liar…. We don’t know what happens with the soul and all this spiritual stuff that I’m not an expert in, but I know that the body as we see each other now, we will never see each other again like that.”

“Except in some fantasy, “Schwarzenegger continued.  “When people talk about, ‘I will see them again in heaven,’ it sounds so good, but the reality is that we won’t see each other again after we’re gone. That’s the sad part. I know people feel comfortable with death, but I don’t.”

I wrote a book about near-death and out-of-body experiences.  My mother had an NDE.  Some patients describe seeing a vision of light, departed loved ones, a religious figure, or frightening visions.  Interpreting NDEs and OBEs is complicated.  I concluded that causes could be physiological, pharmacological, psychological, or spiritual.

But again, Jesus and the evidence for his resurrection convinced me there was an afterlife and I could experience it.  Like the Governator, Jesus said “I’ll be back.”  And then he came back to life.  “I am the resurrection and the life,” he explained. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

4. What about all the hypocrites in church and in society?

This criticism is sad but true.  Christians have not always been faithful representatives of Jesus on earth.  Racism is a longtime personal concern.  During slavery days in my country, some ministers wrote books justifying slavery.  In modern times, some Christian leaders commit sexual or financial misconduct.  While the Bible encourages believers to live like Jesus, it recognizes that some will not.  It refers to them as “carnal” or “fleshly.”

Yes, it would be great if all Christians lived like Jesus.  However, Christian faith’s validity does not rest on Christian behavior but on the evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be, God’s son.  Evidence for New Testament reliability, for Jesus’ deity, fulfilled prophecy, and resurrection support the case for Christianity.

5. If there is a God, what is he like?  Impersonal?  Distant?  Kind?  Judgmental? 

The biblical God is personal and wants to have relationships with humans.  Jeremiah, an ancient Hebrew prophet, wrote that God said, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”  David, an Israeli king, told God, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.”

God will eventually judge all rebellion against him.  He sent Jesus to die in our place, to assume the penalty we deserved for our sin, and to offer forgiveness for us to accept.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

6. Sometimes my life seems hopeless.  Why keep living?  Can I have hope in uncertain times?

“Death is the only joy, and the only release.” “Contrary to popular belief, there is no hope.” … Anonymous statements from a university newspaper and classroom blackboard during my student years.

Jeremiah wrote, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”  When I asked Jesus to forgive me and become my forever friend, I experienced a new sense of hope: the certainty of eternity with God and divine friend to help me navigate life’s stormy seas.  Paul, a first-Century believer, wrote, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

7. 21st century life makes me anxious.  Pressure to succeed…fear of failure….  How can I find inner peace?

Anxiety has many causes, including challenging circumstances, emotional struggles, relationship deficiencies, aimlessness, poor diet or exercise, and chemical or hormonal imbalance.  Guilt, fear, lack of friendship, and lack of meaning can contribute.

When I placed my trust in Jesus, I received a new inner peace.  He promised, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  And it works!

In university, I wrote a paper for an abnormal psychology class examining how faith in God can help treat anxiety.  I was pleased that our textbook author, a prominent UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) psychologist, published adapted parts of it (my faith story) in his textbook.  I guess that makes me “a case in an abnormal psychology textbook!”  If interested, you can read the paper and see a related radio series  article.

A reminder:  As you tap nonbelievers’ interests and suggest Christianity’s benefits, including personal faith stories plus Christian evidences can strengthen your case.

Want to know more?

Gratis online resources:

  • Evidences for Faith:  RWC resources
  • 7 Questions Skeptics Ask.  How we can “be prepared to give an answer.”  (Article)  Spanish   Portuguese  French
  • Is there a God?  How can we know? Does it matter? Is it just wish fulfillment, simply believing because I want it to be true?  A look at this important question, plus related issues and facts for your consideration.  Includes transparent, personal stories.  (Online video; 26:25)
  • Churches That Equip.  What these churches are doing to help their members answer the tough questions that nonChristians ask.  (Moody Magazine article)  French
  • Oh, No…It’s Johnny! TV clipFrom a popular evening talk show in Manila hosted by “the Johnny Carson of the Philippines.”  In this interview, Rusty and Johnny have told some jokes and talked about love, sex and marriage.  The subject then changes to life after death.  Johnny interrupts a good bit with questions; here he asks some questions that open the door for spiritual input.  Video includes several clips from various shows, but the “Johnny” show portion runs from the time marks 3:47 to 8:11 (4:24 length).

Copyright © 2024 Rusty Wright

by Rusty Wright. Rusty is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

Photo by D koi on Unsplash

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