Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 12: How to Debate a Skeptic

“The majority of the people we [Christians] talk to will reject Christ, not because of any lack of evidence, but because they simply want to do so.”

—Habermas and Licona, p. 197

Take notes, Skeptics.  This chapter tells us how Christians are being advised to debate you!  Straight from Habermas and Licona, chapter 12 of their book:

—“Be loving, be humble, be a good listener” (be nice!)

Many Christians try to be nice in their debates with us skeptics, but in the heat of debate “the love of Jesus” often wears thin.  Tempers flare.  We skeptics are often equally guilty of bad behavior in online debates. But that should come as no surprise.  Christians and skeptics are imperfect human beings.  Christians’ belief in Jesus does not magically turned them into the “Cleavers”.  We should not expect any better behavior from them than how we behave.  I suggest we skeptics follow the same advice:  Be nice!

—Stay on subject

“It is easy to be drawn off the subject of Jesus’ resurrection.  Frequently this can occur when your skeptical friend does not have an answer to what you presented.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 194

Gary:  They sound pretty confident, don’t they?

—Anchor a conclusion before moving on

“Conclude one topic with your skeptical friend before moving on to another topic.  Once you have engaged in several dialogues with skeptics, you will discover that because of human nature he will rarely acknowledge that you have effectively answered his objection.  He will often simply move on to still another objection.  It is easy for this to go on over a period of time.  It can be helpful to bring closure to a matter before moving on to the next.  This assists in preventing your skeptical friend from coming back later and saying, ‘Yes, but remember it still could have been…,’ even though you answered that objection fifteen minutes prior.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 197

Gary:  Good advice!  Skeptics.  Take note:  Nail down those cagey Christian apologists by “anchoring a conclusion” regarding each and every inconsistency, assumption, and conjecture in the Christian Resurrection Story so as not to let them off the hook.  (How is that for “mixing my metaphors”?)

—Don’t wing it!

“No matter how much you have read on a subject or how often you have discussed it, occasionally someone will bring up something you have never heard before.  If you do not know how to answer it, what should you do?  Our natural reflex is to “wing it” and say something that may not be altogether true, or it may be hard to defend.  By doing this, you dig yourself into a hole that will be more difficult to get out of if the skeptic decides to probe further.  Our recommendation is to be honest.

Gary:  Ditto for skeptics!!!  When a skeptic “wings it” in a debate with a knowledgeable Christian in front of an audience of naïve Christians and then “crashes and burns” he has just reinforced the idea that naturalism is a false belief system to these naïve Christians.  They will cling even tighter to their supernatural “security blanket”.  We have all done it, but let’s all think before we open our mouths.  If you don’t know what you are talking about, don’t pretend that you do.  You can do lasting damage to…the Cause (the discovery of truth).

—Always be Calm

“It is easy to become defensive when someone attacks your beliefs.  Our natural impulse is to respond with anger.  The result is a heated argument.  You must resist the temptation to do this at all costs.  …I (Licona) find it effective to respond to an objection as though the person wants to believe and simply has a few questions that stand in the way:  ‘That’s a great question [or point’.  In fact, there are some scholars who once raised that same issue.  Here are some things for your consideration…’  Remember the words of Solomon in Proverbs 15:1:  “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 204

Gary:  I believe that skeptics should adopt the same strategy.  In fact, I believe that this is how “mature” adults should handle all contentious discussions.  We should speak to those who are in disagreement with us as if we believe that they want to agree with us…there are just a few questions standing in the way of their doing so.  I admit; I am just as guilt as anyone else of getting into knock down, drag out fights on the internet.  But these slugfests usually accomplish nothing.  I believe that the strategy of personal interaction mentioned by Mike Licona above is how mature, educated adults in a civilized society should interact with one another.  I for one hope to emulate that behavior more in my future online discussions.

…Practice, practice, practice!

“There is nothing like a real conversation with a skeptic to show where you need improvement.  …get in the game!   —Habermas and Licona, p. 204

…Prepare for the Battle with Skeptics with Prayer

“Anyone who has argued the Christian view in a public setting realizes that it is more of a spiritual battle than an exercise in logic.  …our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).  Our main struggle is not against humans…

—Habermas, p. 202

Gary:  S-C-A-R-Y!  This is the kind of delusional, fear-based nonsense that we, the ex-members of this cult, are fighting to dispel.  Let us continue to shine the light of Reason and Science upon this ancient superstition so that others may be freed from its fear, bigotry, sectarianism, and discrimination.




3 thoughts on “Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 12: How to Debate a Skeptic

  1. Advice on the skeptic side … do NOT attack the character of the believer. Too often non-believers become exasperated with the repetitious “reasons” why Christians believe a certain way and begin to demonstrate their impatience with snide remarks about the individual. This is a sure way to lose the “battle.” As you said above, personal interaction should be as mature, educated adults.


    1. Amen.

      Rolling around in the mud in a verbal slugfest might feel good for the moment but look what it is doing to our society: it is becoming the norm to be uncivil to people who don’t hold one’s views. It shouldn’t be that way. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nan and Gary, I totally agree with both of you. We all can fall short. For me, it should be as much about genuinely caring and being open to each other, rather than in just winning the argument, and to “be right.”

    Lately, I’ve been reflecting and meditating concerning 1Cor. 13:1-8., how this Scripture relates to our speech and manner of life in general.

    13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails….

    Think I have a way to go..


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