The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (Weeks 1 & 2)

A church we attend recently started a sermon series with an accompanying Wednesday night discussion group. The aim is to invite people to ask tough questions and share a discussion amongst the group. They desire to reason together to work through some The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (which is the title of the book that the sermons and discussions are based on). That’s the paperback and Kindle link. Here’s the iBooks link in case you want to check it out on an Apple device. This book addresses 10 main questions/themes that (based on a large survey) Christians are most afraid that they will be asked. The goal is to find answers in the book and then discuss them together so they can learn how to share their reasons for belief with confidence. But they also want the meetings to be a place where doubts can be discussed and challenges raised. I didn’t know about the Wednesday night meeting in time to attend the first week’s discussion, but I did attend week 2’s meeting tonight.

I applaud the church for doing this. It was a small, rather intimate environment with a little over 20 people in attendance. There was a table set up in the middle of the room, not unlike Pascal’s table where a number of us gather at our monthly détente. The church meeting seemed to be entirely Christian voices, and not being public with my disbelief, I kept silent.

What I’d like to do is share the questions they’re discussing from the book each week and see if any of you would like to provide your thoughts in response. I know the pastor has seen this blog and I’ll ask him to look again as the comments roll in. That might help round out the discussions a bit without putting me in the spotlight.

Here is the theme and discussion questions from week 1, which I missed:

What makes you so sure that God exists at all – especially when you can’t see, hear, or touch him?

  1. Why might someone think you should believe only in things you can see, hear, or touch? What are some other things you believe in, in addition to love, that you can’t see or experience directly through your senses?
  2. What are some things you can talk about from your own experience that show you—and might convince your friends—that God really exists?
  3. How does the fact that our universe had a beginning or the fact that it’s fine-tuned with such exacting precision provide evidence for God?
  4. Do you think there could be objective morality apart from God? From where would it draw its authority?
  5. How has the evidence for God presented in this chapter affected your faith? Can evidence strengthen one’s faith?

And week 2, which I attended:

Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge?

  1. Why do people tend to separate God and science as if the two cannot coexist?
  2. The theory of evolution is just that—a theory that has never been proven in all its claims. Why, then, do so many people treat it as fact?
  3. Some have said that it takes more faith to believe that there isn’t an intelligent designer than to believe that there is one. What information from the chapter would support this statement?
  4. This chapter describes three “missing elements” that have to be in place for Darwin’s theory to even be a theoretical possibility: the origin of the universe (and all matter), the origin of the first living organism, and the encoding of information in DNA. Which of these could you best use to point your friends to God?
  5. React to the statement, “Our goal . . . is to lead friends to faith—not to initially change their minds about every conceivable question or topic we might discuss with them.” What other social or scientific topics might this relate to? In what ways can Christians focus on Jesus and salvation first
  6. Briefly describe the differences between Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. How can we move past these differences when we talk to our friends who don’t know Christ?
  7. How would you describe the problems in the fossil record related to evolution?

In this week’s group we only made it to question 1. The answers provided by the group were all from the Christian perspective and I did not interject another point of view. J (CC) might attend in my place next week (one of us will be taking our 4-year-old to gymnastics class during that time every week) and she might not be silent as I was if someone says (as they did this week) that scientists (which seem to mostly be viewed as synonymous with atheists) perceive a conflict with Christianity because they want to stay in control (rather than cede control to a God), avoid accountability for their actions, be their own Gods, rely only upon “assumptions and proofs rather than faith”, etc., or that Stephen Hawking confessed on his deathbed that God exists – which proves God and science do coexist (Stephen may be surprised to hear this).

I don’t mean to paint their answers in a poor light and there were some decent ones. However, I don’t want to spend anymore time on them because most of their answers don’t do justice to the views of the more scientifically literate intellectual Christians I know or know of, such as Pascal, Francis Collins and Hans Halvorson. The people I listened to today may have answers that sound off-putting to doubters, but they are making an attempt to learn. They are our fellow humans who are just trying to figure this out, going with what they know, and just aren’t very informed in some of the topics or have come to different conclusions (possibly for rational reasons). They want to reason together so they can feel confident enough to begin reasoning with their doubting friends. They’re trying. I deeply respect these people despite our differences and I honestly feel they do want to understand more about your doubts, if you have any, so they can understand and help. I’m so glad they’re doing this.

If any question jumps out at you (whatever you’re theistic position), please respond with any thoughts you have. I hope that some of your responses will get back to the church group so we can add more perspectives and increase the mutual understanding (which is one goal of this blog).

Gentleness and respect,


  1. In terms of objective morality outside of God, I think one could make the argument that a morality could arise out of pure utility. It’s bad to kill each other since it decreases our likelihood of surviving as a whole. It’s bad to hurt each other because, well, it hurts. It’s bad to lie because it leads to mistrust which decreases likelihood of working together which decreases likelihood of survival.

    Nice post with several thought provoking questions. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Christian, and welcome!

      Great points. Howie made a post called Morality Without Gods recently in which he linked to a clip from a debate I’d seen before and agreed with. Here’s the full clip where Shelly Kagan outlines what I think is a defensible view of objective morality without God (using the veil of ignorance which I’ve studied).

      I also tend to think claiming God as a ground for morality suffers from the same “might makes right” issue that non-theists are accused of having to resort to if they don’t have a divine, transcendent absolute standard.

      Gentleness and respect,


      1. I like that, and I believe that that’s something God granted us the natural ability, freedom, and responsibility to employ. According to biblical accounts, divine law wasn’t handed down until long after creation. Mankind got to the point of such widespread disregard of what should have came naturally to us (your moral naturalism) that God saw fit to lay it out for us/remind us of what life is really all about: love. Even if you don’t believe in God, it is likely that your decisions and morals are based on a foundation of love, whether it be love for self (in terms of choosing based on value of self-preservation) and/or love for others (value placed on community/family). The only addition to that in Christian morality is love of God, which is to do His command, which is to: love others as you love yourself.

        Of course, the paramount requirement of being a Christian is faith in God as written in the Bible. But in terms of morality, I don’t see much of a difference in terms of pure application/manifestation of morals.


  2. Russell,

    I admire your ability to extend grace in trying circumstances. Like CC (potentially), I think I might have a harder time stifling. I think I’ve proven that poker faces aren’t my strong suit.

    One thing: I wonder whether these folks are really trying to learn, or simply mutually reinforcing what they already think they know. The absence of opposing viewpoints speaks to this, I think. Why learn, after all, if you already have all the answers (assuming you can remember chapter and verse)?

    It’s impossible to choose between two ideas if you only explore one of the options. You can’t know the Bible is the best “holy text” if you’ve never read any of the others, any more than you can know creationism is the best explanation for human existence if you’ve never been taught evolution (or that vanilla is better than chocolate if you’ve never tried chocolate). “Learning,” I think, is not the goal here…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Vance!

      I think you have a great poker face, and I think you should have taken your Doritos home with you – they’re half gone already!

      I do understand where you’re coming and I think those are good points. I don’t judge these people for participating in a discussion that is one-sided because I’m just happy they’re going to it. They can’t know before they go what they might hear, who might be there, what challenging things may be said to cause them to question things or change how they think. If there’s an absence of opposing viewpoints, the fault is mine, not theirs.

      Still, your argument is very well put and I think it is valuable for the group leaders to hear if they truly hope to get the flock comfortable with sitting down across a table and reasoning with their doubting friends.

      Can’t wait to see you guys!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s interesting that you say this, Vance. Russell summarized last night’s meeting for me, and told me one of my believing friends in attendance (who knows exactly where I stand) brought me up as an anonymous example, saying something along the lines of “I can’t exactly use scripture to speak truth to my friend who has no reason to give scripture any authority.” The audience response was something like this: “The fact that your friend is talking to you at all about this is evidence that God is already working on her heart. Use scripture.”

      The funny thing is, I’m closer to belief than I have been in a long time, and it’s because I’ve rejected scripture as an inerrant, infallible revelation from God. It didn’t fit for me into a coherent view of God.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. CC (and Russell),

        Perhaps I misspoke. Not “learning isn’t the goal here,” but “learning will likely not be the result here.” (Here, meaning the class, not this blog, just to be clear.) One of the questions I’ve asked myself since leaving the ministry (even before leaving the church altogether) is a hard one for me, since teaching (and learning) is such a strong drive in my life: How much, in the decade I spent “preaching,” did I actually “teach”? There were many excursions down the Roman Road, and prosecutions according to the Four Spiritual Laws, but on reflection I don’t think there was ever either much teaching or much learning, because that wasn’t the goal. To me, teaching involves providing others with the tools to think critically, rather than just providing fact sheets; to enable them to make the crucial decisions for themselves, rather than having them made by proxy by some guy (or woman) behind a pulpit. But that wasn’t the point even of what I was taught in ministry school. On the contrary, it was almost a matter of encouraging people to forgo critical thinking in favor of rote acquiescence: suspend logic and “have faith.” (Or “trust,” whichever works.)

        Regarding the anonymous mention, that is kind of the point I was trying to make earlier (perhaps poorly): there is a siege mentality, of sorts, when it comes to education in the church. Every conversation with a “non-believer” is conceived not as interaction with another person, but as a foray into spiritual warfare. It’s like a Frank Peretti book, writ large. The only goal is to “drag back the back-slidden,” and any conversation that doesn’t include that is seen as a conversation wasted. Also, any conversation is so packed with ulterior motives that it’s hard to trust the authenticity of the interlocutor. One of the things I tried to instill in my youth group back in the day was the idea that sometimes conversation with “The Great Unchurched” just for the sake of conversation was okay. Not everything has to be about “meeting my Jesus.” Jesus himself, if we can take the Gospel accounts, didn’t make it all about that; sometimes, he just hung out with people…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I found that Dr John Lennox was the type of Christian scientist that I found persuasive. In his Book ‘The Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science’ he starts with the story of Galileo and his persecution by the Church as a cautionary tale. In essence he argues that it is our interpretation of the Bible that needs to change.

    I also read Francis Collins’ Book, ‘The Language of God’. He sees the evidence for Evolution to be undeniable and thus argues for Theistic Evolution, a compromise position that is a true compromise, judging by the attacks on him from both sides of the debate.

    It was Calvin who argued that the early stories in the Bible should not be treated as ‘God’s Baby Talk’. A way that God could explain profound truths such that primitive people could understand them. Calvin suggested it was a mistake to see them as an exact representation of what actually happened.

    I suggest the majority of scholars would see the first 11 chapters of the Bible as mythic, not history. It is these chapters that are the major source of the antagonism between science and religion.

    We hear so much of the debate between Young Earth Creationists and scientists. It would be more edifying to see more of the debates with people such as Dr John Lennox representing the Christian perspective. Part of the problem is that there is not a unified Christian position to argue, so to some extent this makes it is easier for Christians to argue negatively looking for issues with evolution than positively based on their own position.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Augustine in his book ‘The Literal Meaning of Genesis’, if I remember the book title correctly, also conveya that the bible is best understood as not conveying 7 literal 24 hours. He presents the logical argument that there is no consistent light source within the bible own record for which there to be a’ morning and evening’ as we know it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Seth!

        Yes – I’ve heard this, but I haven’t read the book, so thanks for the reference my friend! 🙂

        My feeling is that this has been debated for millennia. I’ve often heard people (not you) say that a 24-hour-day interpretation is a very recent invention, and I find that very doubtful (I think it’s disingenuous to claim certainty about what most of society people thought over what periods). I did some research myself a year of two ago and concluded that the natural reading (according to the Hebrew word usage there, the explicit phrases surround the passages, the other place that phrasing was used, and traditional Jewish interpretation) is a 24-hour period – and if we hadn’t discovered that the earth must be older than that to account for what we see, there would be little need to doubt that interpretation. Augustine and others had alternate hypotheses, but God could have been that light source before the sun was placed. None of us knows what was truly meant (just as we each add interpretations of symbolism and meaning beyond what the author meant to modern poetry, journalism, etc.) but I don’t get hung up on 24-hour-days (it’s not really a key reason for my distrust of scripture – the alternate and very similar creation myths that predate the Bible are also interesting to consider).

        Gentleness and respect,


      2. Augustine’s procedure, then is thus: The Bible is the Word of God, and God is always true. If we find something in the Bible that is false, we don’t discard our belief in God, we discard the language, and we say that a “day” really means an “age” or some other such linguistic gyration. Lather, rinse, repeat. The solid dome that divides the waters, called “heaven” becomes a spiritual barrier. The global flood becomes a local one. Satan took Christ to a high mountaintop to see the nations of the world, but since the world is round the event becomes a “vision”. And so on. No conceivable objection can render the Bible unfit to use in science class because we can twist the ancient meanings of words to make it work.


        1. St. Augustine died as Rome fell in the early 5th century. Coppernicus died in the mid 16th century. Although more ancient scholars intimated that the earth was round and perhaps not the center, I’m not sure that it was yet widely accepted, even in the learned Alexandria. I consider Augustine’s interpretation to be more valid than that of modern evangelicals, and it was an interpretation made in the pre-Baconian world. In Augustine I find a pre-scientific interpretation of the scripture based on the observations of a scholar. Truth is truth. So Augustine, a philosopher/theologian writes to a Christian audience in the pre-scientific world and says that scriptural interpretation must not be literal to be true. We should still listen today.


    2. Hi Peter,

      Thank you for this insightful comment. Very well stated! I agree with you, and the only point of difference I saw is that I’m not a big fan of John Lennox’s argumentation. As an example, in this 6-minute clip he misrepresents what Dawkins is saying about evolution (conflating “evolution” and “biological evolution” to make it seem as if Dawkins doesn’t know that abiogenesis is different), uses god-of-the-gaps arguments to assert that inorganic material cannot become organic (as if this is knowable and as if a God could set up the universe and intervene to create life or cause evolution by natural selection but could not set up mechanisms to let organic molecules form naturally from inorganic ones if He chose), etc. My main point of unease is that John Lennox is looked to as an authority in science by many religious circles, but his statements go far beyond the science and are motivated by certainty in his faith, which is adding to the many problems that lead believers to also misunderstand, misrepresent, and mistrust science (e.g. his last comment in the video).

      Thanks again for your excellent points!


  4. Honestly, I really want to go on a rant about these questions because they are worded to direct an agenda not to engage in discussion. These types of positions always sadden me as a Christian. I may also have such a strong response because I know many Christians who are smart and intelligent but when it comes to these questions seem to prefer this type of question and response. May I genuinely respond in gentleness and respect as Russell exemplifies so well.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Seth. That is exactly my feeling on this. The “learning” experiences I both sat through and led in my “ministry days” usually weren’t so much about learning about the other, as they were about learning to out-argue the other. You don’t read the Book of Mormon, for example; you read books about why the Book of Mormon is wrong. You don’t learn about evolution; you learn how to argue against it. And so on…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Vance,

        That sounds very much like my previous experiences in the faith. We started with the answers that mattered so we just needed to learn how to convince others that we were right. In this case the pastor has said multiple times that the goal is not to try to convince others that we’re right on every point, but to lead them to Jesus. With that larger goal in mind, they’re strategy seems to be to try to understand the arguments, expose themselves to the logic and evidence for and against their point of view, and engage. Does this mean, in practice, exposing them almost exclusively to the arguments on the side of the faith? If he (the pastor) reads this blog or someone steps in to offer an opposing perspective, perhaps not. Even if they don’t hear an opposing voice, the project itself is still good in my point of view because they may just get the confidence they need to engage – and in-so-doing, they may hear those pro-science views anyway. 🙂

        You’re one of my favorite people!


      2. Seems like we are in complete agreement Vance. I believe that Christians to often come to God’s defense rather than state what and why they believe. If God truly is as big as scripture claims then he should not need our defense. Instead, I encourage all Christians I know to study and learn the opposing view. If our faith is so fragile that deeper understanding of science (even something as simple as the scientific definition of theory) will crush our faith and thus we must learn not how to state our belief but reinforce it against ‘attack’ then our faith is not weak but what we believe in.

        While I hated it while I attended, this is one reason I now rejoice about the Christian college I attended where they specifically pushed and challenged the idea of science verses religion and thought for instance that both a law and theory are scientifically supported, since proven is kind of inappropriate. Simply a law predicts and a theory explains.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Hi Seth!

      I was where they are, and many of them may be brighter an more earnest that I am. If I were born in their place, with their DNA and raised in their environment, I can’t say that I’d be any different than them. They’re my brothers and sisters and we’re all trying to figure this out together. I’m not offended by their faith at all or their format for these dialogues, though I do feel a sense of unease that mirrors what your suggesting. I don’t want any of them to lose their faith, but I do want those of the faith to increase their knowledge and acceptance of science. If I can be a part of that, I want to – though I’m not sure how I can while staying in the weak agnostic, weak atheist, possibilian closet!

      You are so very welcome here, my friend!


      1. Hey Russell,

        Your gentleness and respect is praiseworthy. I pray that I exemplify it in my own life. I feel that I should clarify a few things. I feel I agree with you. I am so glad that these Christians are at least willing to come and engage in a conversation of this nature. My frustration is with the questions presented (specifically their wording more than the topic) and the mentality I have often faced in my own Church and community. I do not want these people to lose faith either. I believe though that a more deep and earnest search that actually longs to understand the other side of thought will strengthen their faith if their faith is truly in something …. firm, logical, steadfast,….I’m at a little loss for words….I’ll put it another way.

        I deeply long to have a deeper understanding of science and philosophy because I long to better understand others worldviews and also because I believe that God has revealed himself through two books not just one; the book of general revelation and the book of specific revelation. Specific revelation is scripture and then, subset to that, individual experiences with God such as visions, (spiritual) emotions, or other supernatural experiences. The other book though is the book that generally we as Christians ignore and that is the book of general revelation which is how God has revealed himself through creation. Thus, like Newton or Galileo (if I remember correctly) I believe that the actual studies of science, in all forms even philosophy (a kind of science of logic) reveals to us more about who God is and teaches us about God. And if God is truly consistent then he will convey himself similarly in both.

        These two books create more complexity and difficulty in creating a fully consistent theological belief. So far I have been able to maintain my faith. I long to continue challenge it. And I have no fear in challenging it for in the end truth will be revealed and my hope (but not certainty) is that God will be Truth. I am also encouraged my the many mentors and professors that I greatly respect who have themselves studied both books and have maintained their faith.


        P.S. Not sure but I may fall on the Russell side of thought but on the theistic side. I feel my comment was a bit Russell-esc, at least in length and my wife wasn’t able to correct my grammar in this comment as she often does for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It strikes me as a disservice to Christians to teach them to parrot things which are blatant misrepresentations. In common parlance a theory is a guess, but for scientists has a specific meaning relating to some of the highest levels of certainty. A scientific theory is something which has been proven repeatedly and for which there is little or no evidence to disprove it, like the theory of gravity.

    Any time someone says “evolution is just a theory”, it’s the same as saying “hi, I’m scientifically illiterate.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Stan—I agree completely. I told Russell I couldn’t go to the meeting because I probably wouldn’t have survived question #2 without giving them more than they signed up for (with gentleness and respect).


    2. Hi Stan!

      Thank you for the excellent points, and yes, I wanted to explain the difference to the group (glad we didn’t make it to question 2). I would have preferred they go through a different study with a little more in the way of actual accepted science in it (something that didn’t drag science through the mud so much), but there is a tradeoff. They’re trying to learn how to reason and open a dialogue with their friends. Getting comfortable asking and responding to tough questions and debating doubters in a intimate setting is a lofty goal in itself, and if they start off with a much more science-friendly/literate/etc. book it may scare too many conservative believers away. We may see this as a baby step, but it’s momentum – it is a step in the right direction. Once they start having those conversations, they may come to learn how the methodology of science works and that it isn’t the enemy.

      Gentleness and respect,


    3. Greetings Stan. I agree with qualification. Everyone is illiterate in several domains. But most ignorance is vincible. Are the participants willing to learn? Are we patient enough to teach? I hope so. In support of your assertion, I offer these these 10 scientific theories.

      Why do so few theists argue with plate tectonics? Because few use the theory as basis for an argument that God does not exist. Is evolution a reasonable argument that God does not exist. I’ve honestly never thought so. Evolution says how, not who or even if there is a who. That still lives in the realm of metaphysics and being supernatural always will.


      1. I agree. Including the bit that evolution says nothing about God. It does perhaps conflict with a literal interpretation of Genesis, but many Christians are able to incorporate evolution into their beliefs without a struggle.

        So many could benefit from a primer on how science operates as these principles can be applied to almost anything. Even for a Christian, if someone comes along with a different interpretation of the Bible, the scientific method could still be useful to validate that. Just a touch of skepticism could avoid truly ridiculous things like prosperity theology.


  6. I agree that this is a great project, though I’m not sure every attendee would come away prepared to have a respectful dialog with non-believers. Some of these questions primarily empower Christians to express their own point of view in difficult conversations, which is great. Others carry very negative assumptions about nonbelievers. For example, question four from week one. Probably the biggest stigma atheists have to deal with is the belief that without God, they cannot be good people. If you encourage people to hang onto the idea that morality is justification for faith, it makes them less willing to believe that atheists can be moral people. “Morality must come from God” and “you can be good without God” are incompatible ideas.

    I have a theory that there are two types of conversations you can have with someone who disagrees with you. First, you can take an evangelistic approach, where the goal is to convert their worldview to yours. This isn’t exclusively religious; you can be evangelistic about anything, from religion to veganism to the one true way to wear a tie. Second, you can take an educational approach, where you simply present the other person with information, and so long as they listen and understand you, what they do with the information is up to them.

    It’s easier to be respectful when you educate than when you evangelize. Evangelism comes with an assumption that the other person’s point of view is inferior, and that doesn’t go well listening to them the way you want them to listen to you. Education is much more compatible with seeing the other person as an equal and inviting give and take. So I think my conflicted reaction to what’s listed above comes from the fact that some questions are more evangelistic, and others are more educational.

    I say all of this as someone who used to be a very evangelistic Christian. There was a time when I would have gone to these with a notebook to write down all the ways I can show those silly atheists how stupid evolution is. Now I’m an atheist, and I had some conflicts when I first lost my faith and I made friends with some very evangelistic atheists. I realized I was over being evangelistic. It’s exhausting, and usually futile unless the other person already half-agrees with you, and also lots of Christians are quite intelligent and lovely people. I’d rather just explain why I don’t believe and why my lack of belief doesn’t make me evil.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Lane and welcome!

      May I offer a third approach to conversation with someone who disagrees with you? Listen with a willingness to be educated. My atheist friend has taught me much and changed my mind concerning some rather shaky preconceptions.


  7. Hi Russell,

    This church discussion group sounds like a fantastic initiative. I know I am a little late to the party, but I hope my comment is still useful.

    “What are some other things you believe in, in addition to love, that you can’t see or experience directly through your senses?”

    I think mathematics is something that we all believe in, yet lies outside of experience and senses. Most people would affirm that it is real, yet we do not gain our knowledge of numbers through experience. I guess this issue is fresh in my head as I just wrote an essay the other day Betrand Russell’s philosophy of mathematics (you can check it out on my blog, but it is a little philosophy heavy –

    If you are interested in the these ideas further, try looking at the rationalist vs empiricist divide in the philosophy of knowledge. I guess if rationalism is true (the idea that we can know things independent of experience) then we are not committed to a world of mere experiences and senses. This could be a consoling fact for a theist.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you pascal. I’m lucky to have had a little bit of down time lately to get back to the blogosphere. I try to stop in on your blog every now and then – I consider it a reciprocation. You often read my stuff; I feel so guilty that I do not have the time to read yours! God bless.


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