My Approach to Skeptical Friends: A Guest Post

This is a guest post by fellow blogger Pascal. You can find his blog by following the link. I’m deeply appreciative of the fact that he took the time to write this as a guest post. Thank you Pascal. 

Greetings Mike,

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to write here.  Your general guest-blog invitation and our specific e-mail interactions were indeed gracious.  I’m a neophyte concerning the topic I’ve chosen.  These stirrings are only about two years old and were prompted by a person – – I’ll call him Russell.

I’m a follower of Christ.  I was raised that way but came to the same points of decision that any adult must.  Do I believe this?  Why?  Will I teach it to my children?  I don’t think the same as my parents did about the age of the earth, conservative politics, homosexual people, or the nature of scripture.  Yet I do follow Christ and consider that to be my core identity.

From the perspective of a Christ-follower, what do I think about skeptical friends?

1)  Have them.  This wasn’t always so clear to Captain Obvious here.  I was raised in a rather homogenous environment.  I know that skeptical people were all around me.  I just didn’t stop to meet them.  I’m ashamed of that now.  Did I live in a Christian ghetto?  Probably so.  That is something my wife and I actively try to do differently in the life of our children.  We love the public schools and try to be “that house” where the teens feel accepted.   My oldest son and I frequently talk about his agnostic or atheistic friends and why they are welcome in our home.

I don’t take the word friend lightly.  In fact, like most men, I don’t have many friends.  Many acquaintances, many colleagues, but few friends.  I think that a man is rich to have one or two people he could call at 0200 in the morning without fear or shame.

2)  Listen.  I am not patient by nature.  I’m not a good listener.  But, oh how powerful it is when I shut up and stop trying to formulate my answer before – – listening.  So many reasons that I thought were present for atheism were only my own constructions – – straw men waiting to burn.  And honestly, so many topics where neither (a)theism are relevant to living well.  In those topics we find the common ground of respect and affection.

3)  Invest.  What is the currency of love and friendship?  Time.  Sit and talk.  Share a meal.  Write.  I would rather have a few deep friends than many shallow ones.  These types of friends require 10’s of 100’s of hours in aggregate.  It takes years to build trust, seconds to evaporate it.  Russell and I have now met with growing frequency for almost two years.  He has an amazing intellect that works very differently from mine.  I’m reading areas that I ordinarily would have skimmed or passed completely just to understand him better.  Probably one reason that I’m fascinated? – –  He really reminds me of my mechanical engineer father.  Freud would be proud.

I’ll take my final point out of the bullets.  Don’t try to evangelize.

Technically, I’m an evangelical Christian.  I’m not married to that term at all and prefer to describe myself as a simple follower of Christ.  So how do I reconcile my advice not to evangelize with the Master’s instruction to do so?  Friendship over years is so much more powerful than any clever argument.  My friendship with Russell has value for what it is.  Neither he nor I need a debating or sparring partner.  We need a faithful friend.  Do I have a hidden agenda to bring my friend back to following Christ?  Not so hidden.  But I trust God with his soul and our topics of discussion range wide.  This friendship is a two way street.  If he never turns to faith and I never turn away – – I think we’re both okay with it – – trusting either God or the universe with the outcome.

Thanks again Mike for the opportunity to share.  Believe it or not, I tried to keep it short.  You should see Russell’s posts!  I welcome your post on our blog soon.