Tag Archives: Conversation

Practical apologetics: conversations and interviews

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace has a new post up at Cold Case Christianity.


Most of us are familiar with these kinds of interactions. Conversations are two directional; they involve a dialogue between both parties. Most of my professional interactions with anyone begin this way. In the early part of my interaction, I want to build relational bridges with the people I engage.

[…]I began to eat meals with the people I arrested. After taking them into custody, I would often ask them if they were hungry, and if they were, I would order something and make sure I ate with them in the interview room. I recognized that many of God’s most important conversations with humans have been over a meal (the Lord’s Supper is the most powerful example of this). We don’t eat with people we don’t know well, and a simple meal can unite two people in a way that few other settings can achieve. Once my heart was broken for people, I was actually willing to eat with the people I arrested. The conversations we had were powerful, even though they weren’t directed intentionally at the issues we would later cover together. Conversations are benign interactions between two people who share something of themselves with the person they are engaging. Be prepared to open up a bit and share something personal if you expect the other person to do this with you.

At some point, conversations turn toward interviews. In an interview, one person begins to probe more deeply into an area by asking specific questions related to that area of interest. Something is usually mentioned in the initial conversation that triggers a line of questioning. When we begin to probe this aspect of the conversation, we are slipping into interview mode. Interviews are not antagonistic, they are simply inquisitive. My questions are not pointed at this stage of the interaction, they are simply curious and directed. My goal is to establish a baseline from the person with whom I am talking. What do they believe? What did they see? What did they do? What happened next? If I am talking to a witness, I am simply trying to collect data. If I am talking to a suspect, I am trying to establish a preliminary story and baseline that I can then compare to later statements and evidence I have at the scene.

I favor the interview approach. Go in there with a list of questions. Buy them lunch or dinner. Ask the questions. Don’t respond to them or argue with them. Think of how you would respond.Write a blog post. Send them the blog post before you publish it to check it for accuracy. Then publish it so everyone else can see.

By the way, Wallace’s new book on apologetics is now available for pre-order.

Here is the description:

Written by an L. A. County homicide detective and former atheist, Cold Case Christianity examines the claims of the New Testament using the skills and strategies of a hard-to-convince criminal investigator.
Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity.
A unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, Cold Case Christianity inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.

His book is not a general apologetics book with lots of science and philosophy. It is a homicide detective’s look at the historical accounts about the life of Jesus. This might be a good book to pick up if you want to present Christianity from a practical point of view. Everybody likes mysteries and detectives, after all.

American Atheists’ Reason Rally : eradicating Christianity, fleeing dialogue and debate

The atheists are having a rally, so Christian apologist Tom Gilson sent them a message asking if they would be interested in hosting a debate at their “Reason Rally” and he got a reply.

He wrote this:

Dear Mr. Silverman,

Greetings to you… [mention of mutual friend],

I’m writing to ask if you would be interested in sharing sponsorship with me in giving Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig one more opportunity to share a stage together in debate, while Dr. Dawkins is here in the U.S. later this month. I’m leading the True Reason project, which, as you may or may not be aware, is bringing Christians to the Reason Rally for respectful dialogue with attendees there. Additionally, this morning we released an ebook that has already climbed to best-seller status in the atheism category at Amazon.com, and has attracted enough notice that I’ve been asked to write an op-ed on it for the Washington Post.

I mention these things simply to give you some confidence that I’m representing a legitimate potential debate sponsorship partner to work on this with you and American Atheists. Dr. Craig is again wiling to meet Dr. Dawkins in debate. I have a contact at Georgetown University that would work with us to provide a venue for debate. Would you be open to joining me in inviting Richard Dawkins?

I’ll look forward to hearing you.


Tom Gilson

And the American Atheists guy replied with this:

Mr. Gilson,

The Reason Rally is an event by and for the nonreligious population and their supporters. It is not an opportunity for Christians to push themselves into other people’s lives (yet again). I would never support infiltrating a Christian event with atheists on some kind of recruitment mission – that would be horribly rude.

Make no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can… shout yourselves hoarse.

Spreading out among the crowd is not a substitute for a permit. Indeed, I will be meeting with the Parks Commission on Thursday to discuss how to handle your infiltrative permitless counter-protest.

Dr. Dawkins has made it clear that he doesn’t want to debate Mr. Craig. I am not sure how much clearer he (or I) could be.

David Silverman
American Atheists, Inc.

Why aren’t American Atheists in favor of conversations and debates?

American Atheists on eradicating Christianity

Consider this post on the American Atheists web site. (The PDF is saved here because I knew they would withdraw the post, but you can still see it with Google Cache)


It should come as no surprise that the individuals who abide by fundamentalist Christian… doctrines would be the first to cry out that they are being persecuted when their dangerous, damaging and disingenuous beliefs come under attack. Most of these people lack the maturity and intelligence to act in a socially acceptable manner.  Many of them are sociopaths and quite a good number of them are psychopaths.  All of them are clearly delusional.

The fact is that fundamentalist Christians… are not interested in coexisting or getting along.  They have no desire for peace. They do not want to sit down with us in diplomatic efforts to iron out our differences and come to an agreement on developing an integrated society.

They want us to die.

Their interpretation of the Bible… are such that there is no other course of action but to kill the infidel, and if anyone believes otherwise they are only fooling themselves.  It is not just in the best interests of atheists to be intolerant of fundamental Christianity and radical Islam, but it is also in the best interest of mainstream believers within these faiths, as well.  Moderates and even Progressives who stand in support of extremists just because there is a claim to the same deity are not doing themselves any favors.  Fundamental Christians make all Christians look bad…

…the underbelly of fundamentalist Christianity… does not operate in the legal system. They don’t respond to lawsuits, letters, amicus briefs or other grass-roots campaigns and they must, must, must be eradicated.

That doesn’t sound very tolerant or open-minded.  It was written by “Al Stefanelli – Georgia State Director, American Atheists, Inc.”. This isn’t the view of regular atheists, but it is the view of militant atheists like those in the American Atheists group.

What do they mean by eradicating Christianity?

From the correspondence with Tom Gilson, we now know that they don’t want a conversation and they refuse to hear both sides in a debate. So they aren’t trying to eradicate Christian ideas by winning conversations or winning debates. What does that leave as a meaning of the phrase “eradicating Christianity”? Can we infer what they mean by “eradicating Christianity” from the e-mail sent by David Silverman? Could it be that eradicating Christianity means using coercion to suppress disagreement and free speech in public places? That seems to be consistent with what Al Stefanelli and David Silverman said. They don’t want to reason with anyone – they want to use force to make sure they never have to see another Christian again, or hear from one. How far would they go with that impulse?

One thing is for sure – there isn’t going to be any reasoning at the “Reason Rally”. As near as I can tell, being an atheist consists in 1) living without any foundation for objective morality and 2) trying to coerce religious people into acting if they are atheists by force. Not much reasoning going on, really, and that’s what you’d expect of people who believe in eternal universes, untestable multiverses and unobservable aliens who seeded the Earth with life.

Note: It is possible that there is a more sinister meaning to their desire to eradicate Christianity, and I wrote about it here.

UPDATE: Amy Hall of STR has linked to us from Stand to Reason for this post. Everybody go read it! Amy wrote it, and I like her work.

Parental authority and the need for independent children

Mary sent me this interview of Randy Alcorn from Eternal Perspectives Ministries.

Here’s the problem:

What is the greatest challenge parents of young people face?

I would say balance. Parents have to balance their responsibility to govern their children’s lives with their teenagers’ need to develop independence and freedom. Parents have to maintain that tension.

And here’s a snapshot of the solution:

So, what does that mean in terms of parenting? The ideal is prevention. Parents need to develop their relationship with their child and build the level of intimacy that gives them the right to come down hard in certain areas. 

Too often the relationship is typified by Mt. Olympus. Parents come down like lightning bolts to their kids, then return to the top of their mountain. The relationship is confrontational, when what they need is a consistent, loving relationship in which 90 percent of what is done is affirming. Criticism should be the exception instead of the rule. 

Jesus came down to us in the incarnation and we need to come down from our adult world and enter our children’s lives. Only then can we help pull them up into maturity.

You raised two daughters. What patterns did you establish with them?

We talked a lot. When the girls were young, we sat down and read Bible stories and talked about principles, trying to plug those into their current situation—whether it be kindergarten or sixth grade or high school, the principle is the same. We tried to spend the time with them that allowed us to see their lives as they happened. That was a big thing to us.

You sound like you’ve thought this through.

If we don’t think strategically about parenting, then we’ve made a statement: our children aren’t important, or parenting comes so naturally that it happens without our attention. 

If we’re going to influence our children, we need to strategize—regrouping and reevaluating along the way.

Anyone else in agreement with Randy? The idea that what really matters is QUANTITY of time spent talking about the lives of the children and injecting the Christian worldview into the lives of the children every day – instead of waiting until things blow up – sounds plausible. But that requires parents with lots of time for parenting.

So, if you’re a man looking for a woman who can take this kind of challenge on, you’d better find someone with a lot of time for parenting and a track record of effective nurturing. The ideal woman would be someone who dumps everything else whenever she sees an opportunity to influence a person’s worldview, especially in spiritual areas, and take action. If she is able to build up her friends to be world-changers, and has achieved a lot herself, (an investment portfolio, a career prior to becoming a mother, graduate school degree, apologetics and theology capabilities, running a business, reading research papers, etc.), then that would be the best-case scenario – because then she’ll be teaching them from experience of been a Christian herself and succeeded.