The Intellectual Barrier


Part of our preparation for effective evangelism is to have an answer for the questions we know we are likely to encounter.

Socrates observed that the unexamined life is not worth living; it is also true that the unexamined faith is not worth believing. John Stott wisely stated that while we cannot pander to intellectual arrogance, we must cater to intellectual integrity.

There are different intentions behind the questions people ask, but if someone is genuinely seeking an answer, we are responsible to provide it for him or her. If a professor tells a class all the questions that will be on an upcoming examination, the students are without excuse if they don’t know the answers. Part of our preparation for effective evangelism is to have an answer for the questions we know we are likely to encounter. If a new question comes up and we don’t know the answer, we should honestly admit it. This will give us an opportunity to find the answer and get back together with our friend. But if we get caught again by the same question and failed to do our homework, we are responsible.

Many believers think they could never learn to defend their faith intelligently, because there must be thousands of objections that would have to be answered. But in practice, the vast majority of the objections to Christianity are variations and combinations of only twelve basic questions.

In our book, I’m Glad You Asked, Larry Moody and I outline the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Christianity.  When we learn how to deal with these issues, each of these objections actually becomes an opportunity to clarify the message about Christ. If people ask difficult or detailed questions for which we don’t have good answers, there is no reason to become threatened. Simply affirm that they have raised a good question and that you will get back with them when you have found the answer. In this way, you will gain skill and knowledge by being involved in the process.

The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects. Since many of the intellectual barriers result from distorted information, we are really seeking to help our friends make a well-informed response to the claims of Christ. But it is also important for us to do this in a gentle and loving way, since “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Peter also gives us clear insight into dealing with the intellectual barrier: “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). This verse presupposes that the quality of our lives will cause people to ask us to explain why we are different. This requires spiritual preparation “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” as well as intellectual preparation “always being ready to make a defense” and relational preparation “with gentleness and reverence.” We need both knowledge (what to say) and skill (how to say it).

Peter tells us to make a defense without being defensive. Similarly, Jude tells us to take the offense without being offensive: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

When the opportunity arises, it is important to be able to make a simple and clear presentation of the message of salvation in Scripture. There are a number of helpful tools that can help you do this, and one of the most effective is the material in “The Search,” a little booklet published by Search Ministries. This booklet looks at God’s position, our condition, God’s provision, and our decision. Other helpful tools are available from Evangelism Explosion and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

We learn to listen with love (Proverbs 18:2, 13; James 1:19) by asking helpful questions and actively listening for expressions of felt needs and concerns as well as emotional and intellectual barriers. By giving our friends the other-centered gift of focused attention and taking a genuine interest in them, we create an atmosphere of love and acceptance in which the seed of the gospel can be planted.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth



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