Arguing, Quarreling, and Questioning

According to 1 Peter 3 : 15, Christians are commanded to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in us. But that isn’t all Peter had to write. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle added, “…yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15b-16, ESV).

This is easier said than done. On the one hand we are commanded to to defend truth against lies, but on the other hand we are also commanded to do this with gentleness and respect. Most people are either combative or cowardly.

The English journalist G.K . Chesterton once remarked, “People generally quarrel because they cannot.” Arguing and quarreling are not the same thing. An argument is an claim supported by reasons. A quarrel is a claim supported by rage and maybe fists. On is rational and persuasive, and the other is emotive and coercive. Quarreling is what happens when we either cannot think of good reasons for our beliefs.

Some people, who mistake arguing for quarreling, avoid confrontation at all costs. Not only does this shirk the biblical command to be ready to give a reason, but this is contrary to the example set by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus constantly confronted the the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Paul engaged with Greek philosophers in Athens. I doubt Christianity would still be around today if the early Christians had remained in the shadows, sheepishly keeping their convictions to themselves.

One of the most effective ways I have found of confronting skeptics without the conversation devolving into a quarrel is to question the questioner.

This was a tactic often used by Jesus. There are a few examples of this in the New Testament, but my personal favorite is the account in Luke 10 of the lawyer who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered his question with the question “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus agreed and advised him, “Do this, and you will live.” But the lawyer wanted to look clever, and asked the Lord, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan, and in conclusion asked, “Which of these three [the priest and the Levite who left the man for dead, or the Samaritan who helped him], do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Apologetics is not just giving answers to questions — it is questioning people’s answers, and even questioning their questions. When you question someone’s question, you compel him or her to open up about his or her own assumptions. Our assumptions must be examined.~ Ravi Zacharias

Questioning the questioner also shows that you are open minded, willing to listen to opposing views. It will provide you with a clearer idea of the questioner’s beliefs. The right questions can even direct the questioner to figure the truth out for themselves, without further argument from you.