Caring for the soul of the ‘resident contrarian’

Have you ever known someone who seemingly always took the position of “voice of dissent?”  Sooner or later, we’ve all met them: the person who reflectively counters all new ideas by saying, “Let me play devil’s advocate….”  I’ve interacted with some who, I think, would argue if you told them that water is wet!

It can be tempting for Christians to simply write off or ignore those who reject the Gospel, but what if we took the time (and invested the energy and emotion) to get below the surface and find out what drives a person’s skepticism about God?  It has been the goal for most of my Christian life to try and understand doubt and minister to skeptics whom God places in my life.

There have always been skeptics. Some are bright and sincere, but also misguided or unwilling to embrace the truth once they have encountered it. Some make a living from their skepticism. Recent books by celebrity atheists have generated media coverage, fueling a resurgence of religious skepticism. There are websites that exist solely to try to debunk Scripture. Many are specifically aimed at teens, urging them to renounce their faith, or even post a video online affirming their newfound skepticism.

For good or for ill, the assumptions people have about God and Christianity are influenced by the way we act and the things we say. Christians should employ good arguments, but they should never become argumentative. Try to steer the conversation toward the subject of Jesus, just as the Lord did when talking with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26. Ancillary issues often fade away when the discussion focuses on Christ. Even as you’re talking, silently pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the situation.

In British courtrooms, the accused does not sit at a table with his defense counsel, as you might have seen in the movies featuring American courts. Instead, he sits in a cordoned-off area called “the dock.” C.S. Lewis employed that image when he titled his book, God in the Dock, which implies that to many skeptics, God, if He exists, that is, is the accused. He is the one charged with a crime. His Word, the Bible, is considered guilty until proven innocent.  This is sad, because one duty of the Christian is to worship God through continual nurture of the intellect (see Matt. 22:37 and Rom. 12:2). Nevertheless, our goal should not be to win arguments. We are simply called to testify in hopes of persuading skeptics to consider the facts with an open mind and allow the Scripture to vindicate itself under cross-examination.