The Christian faith almost always meets skepticism. Have you ever struggled to communicate with a skeptic about topics like faith and ethics? Are you equipped to effectively handle the skeptic’s questions and debates?
Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations is a 142-page softcover book by Christian apologist Bill Foster. He offers a simple, practical, and effective strategy for equipping believers to engage the non-believing culture. This book is suitable for teens, college students, and adults. It’s helpful to Christians who are just getting into apologetics, as well as more seasoned veterans. It can also be used as a group study with the leader’s guide and workbook. Foster structures his “field guide” in an easy-to-read yet thought-provoking format. Using pop culture references, he explains how to speak the skeptic’s language, clarify biblical concepts, and beware of red flag words.
As owner of HigherWerks, a brand image and design firm, the author has a unique perspective of how the popular culture perceives and is influenced by the ideas that shape our world. In Meet the Skeptic he has created a new approach for respectfully engaging skeptics that breaks down objections into four basic categories: Spiritual, Moral, Scientific, and Biblical. For each of these four categories the book offers an overview, the root ideas, real-life illustrations, and red flag words. In some cases the skeptic won’t fall neatly into one category, but you can combine categories to deal with a moral-spiritual or scientific-biblical skeptic.
Foster believes that understanding the worldviews behind these categories is the key to reaching the heart of a skeptic’s thinking. The importance of this is explained on page 33: “What we’re calling the Root Idea is the false premise. A false premise feeds objections like a root feeds a weed. Pulling a dandelion will only dislodge its feathery seeds and leave the root eventually creating more dandelions. Similarly, if we respond to each objection a skeptic raises, he just raises another one to take its place. Our goal is to dig up Root Ideas not debate the many objections (pull up the weeds) growing out of them.”
Despite the Great Commission which says “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), most Christians struggle with evangelism and few Christians actually share their faith. We all have our reasons such lack of confidence, fear of rejection, and lack of training. Many Christians think they’re not qualified, since they’re not “in the ministry.” They may find it difficult or awkward, perhaps because they are new or insecure in their faith. In Meet the Skeptic, the author strives to boost the Christian’s confidence in his or her ability to engage in conversations about their faith.
If you’re one of the few who have ever tried to have a faith conversation, you’ve probably noticed that trying to answer every question the skeptic throws at us and playing the debate version of ping pong gets you nowhere. Foster explains that the goal is not to show off our knowledge or even to win an argument, but to communicate truth so they will at least think about what we’ve said. By recognizing and engaging the worldview held by the skeptic, we can better get to the root of the problem and avoid spending too much time on peripheral issues.
The author defines skeptics as “people who discard the biblical worldview in favor of other ways to see the world.” Meet the Skeptic provides insight into the mindset of skeptics and what may be some of the main underlying reasons for their disbelief, distrust, and skepticism toward God. They may have had non-believing parents, or legalistic parents. They may have been deceived by false teachers and false religions. They may have been turned off by hypocrites or influenced by skeptical academics. Some have simply put their trust in material success and their own abilities. A better understanding of why people are skeptical can help us to communicate with them.
Interestingly, both Christians and skeptics alike are often guilty of not thinking through their beliefs. Many Christians are brought up in the faith without understanding what it really means to be a Christian. We need to know why we believe what we do, because the skeptic won’t accept something “because the Bible tells us so.” If you don’t understand your own beliefs, the skeptic can actually challenge your Christian faith. While helping readers to develop an understanding of the mindset of skeptics, this book also encourages Christians to question their own faith, find out why they believe what they believe, and have a reason for their answers.
I especially like how this book focuses on the importance of words. In many ways, Christians and skeptics speak two different languages. To witness effectively we need to avoid being lost in translation. As Foster states, “We are long past the time of dropping a biblical reference into a conversation and expecting its significance to be recognized. Our post-Christian culture requires us to do more remedial work with potential believers in order to make an impact.” Words that we know the meaning of may be foreign to the skeptic. So the author reminds us to “speak their language” and not use theological jargon that they won’t understand.
The author says, “Clarifying the meaning of words alone can defuse many objections.” He explains how some words mean one thing to Christians and something entirely different to non-Christians. For example, under the topic of Spiritual Skepticism, Foster identifies some of the red flag words as “Heaven, Holy, Meditation” and others. Another classic example of a word that is often misused is the word tolerance (see pg. 75). We need to know how to identify the difference in meaning when the skeptic uses those words versus when we use them. Because if a word that we use is interpreted differently by the skeptic, it will be difficult to have a meaningful dialogue.
Meet the Skeptic is useful for conversational training as well as part of a worldview curriculum. It would make for a great class because some of the sections you will have to digest and think about for a while and discuss with others. There’s a nicely illustrated workbookthat you can purchase for individual or group study, as well as a Leader Guide. With the leader guide and workbook you can easily use this in a small group, Sunday school, homeschool or family setting. The workbook has further opportunities to better understand and utilize the concepts learned in Meet the Skeptic. The book and study guide would make an excellent apologetics/ personal evangelism course for high school students, especially homeschoolers.
Meet the Skeptic will help Christians to better fulfill the Great Commission by showing the reader how to develop an understanding of the mindset of skeptics, to recognize key words that non-Christians use, to scrutinize bumper-sticker comments, to ask probing questions, and to recognize opportunities for having faith conversations. Meet the Skeptic includes a handy index of pop culture references, a bonus section of information, a list of recommended readings, and extensive end notes. The author also provides a quick reference chart showing each type of skeptic with root ideas and sample questions to get them thinking. Visit www.meettheskeptic.com for additional resources. –Teri Olsen
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher through the New Leaf Publishing Group. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.