Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a huge fan of methodologies.
I love to take processes, workflows, and ideas that others have found useful and adapt them to my own needs.
Examples of such strategies I have successfully implemented into my own daily life are:
- Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps
- Hal Enrod’s Miracle Morning
- Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner
- The Atkins Diet
In technology terms, I am “bleeding edge”; that is, I am usually an early adopter of new technologies and systems–even if it means that I bleed a little (metaphorically, of course) in the process.
I have always been intrigued by this saying: Never be taken by surprise more than once.
I don’t know who said it initially, and I have seen it applied to many, many different use cases. And as an apologist, I know that it can be tough to learn how to respond to objections to Christianity.
I also know that its hard to keep facts straight even if you are learning for nothing more than your own study and remembrance.
So when someone raises an objection or a question about your convictions, you should only be unable to answer one time. You need a way to collect and organize information such that the next time this comes up you are better equipped to respond.
To that end, I have developed a system of my own that I use when researching information about a particular objection. It’s nothing I am going to write a book about or even make a huge deal out of–it’s simply a template that I have found useful and would like to share with you as well.
I call it the SACRRED Method.
Here are the seven steps:
Step #1. Source(s)
In this step, you”ll simply identify the source or sources of the argument or objection.
This will often be a broad category–but from time to time, there may be a distinct voice advancing this particular objection which you can attribute to it.
Why is this important?
There are any number of reasons, but most importantly, you may want to keep up with any updated information from this source pertaining to the argument. For example, famed NT scholar and religious skeptic Bart Ehrman once held to the biblical tradition that women discovered the empty tomb three days after Jesus’ crucifixion.
Later, he rescinded this by stating, “I changed my mind. Most of my change came from my investigation of Roman practices of crucifixion. As it turns out, standard policy appears to have been to have left the bodies of corpses on the crosses to decompose, as part of their punishment. Decent burials were not allowed.”
Ehrman is not the only skeptic to hold this position, of course. But he is one of the most vocal supporters of his view. By attributing your “sources” section to the proper individual, you can easier search for updated information.
Step 2. Argument(s)
In step two you will identify what the particular argument or objection is.
For example, in my own SACRRED template for the common objection that the deity of Christ was invented at the Council of Nicea, I list my argument like this:
“Many Christian doctrines (including the deity of Christ and the Trinity) were created/agreed upon at the Council of Nicea in AD 325 by order of the Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine.”
I don’t make any attempt to sugarcoat here; I simply do my best to phrase the argument in its most compelling form so as to accurately represent the opposing view.
This helps to (1) negate the possibly of intentionally or unintentionally standing up a strawman and (2) clarify the actual claims made those who hold the view. This will in turn help us to formulate the best defense possible.
This would be a good point to insert the fact that I am not necessarily stating that we should respond to each and every claim brought against our faith.
I hold to the presuppositional apologetics view which, while it does involve the use of evidence, primarily challenges the presuppositions of one’s interlocutor. Read here, here, and here for more on my view.
Step 3. Considerations
Next, you’ll identify any important considerations which could affect how you formulate your response.
Essentially, these are details which you will uncover in your research that may either support or not support the argument identified in Step Two.
To continue with my Council example, here are just two of the many considerations I wrote down:
- A priest named Arius presented his argument that Jesus Christ was not an eternal being, that He was created at a certain point in time by the Father.
- Bishops such as Alexander and the deacon Athanasius argued the opposite position: that Jesus Christ is eternal, just like the Father is. It was an argument pitting trinitarianism against monarchianism.
I make no attempt here to debunk the argument.
This is simply a way to condense the details and context surrounding the issue in a way that will help me to make the case for a counterargument.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to (nor should you, necessarily) do this just to be able to respond to objections.
This has helped me in my own personal faith to simply condense down my study material. Also, when folks do raise objections, this is a quick way to refer back to your own research and gain reassurance and confirmation of your faith.
Step 4. Response(s)
In this step you will finally begin formulating standard responses you can use when this particular objection comes into play. I recommend two or three.
In my Council example, I wrote the following:
- The Council did not CREATE new Christian doctrine. Rather, they affirmed and made concrete what the church already taught and held about Jesus of Nazareth.
- When establishing canon, they checked for four things:
- Apostolicity: Did it have apostolic authority?
- Orthodoxy: Did it contain the right message?
- Usability: Was it used and recognized by multiple churches?
- Antiquity: Was it old enough to have been written by eyewitnesses?
There is no reason to write paragraph after paragraph here. You simply need a quick, factual objection which will help you set the conversation back on track.
If the person fires back in more detail, it’s likely that you’ll have written down relevant information in the “Considerations” step which will help to answer.
You could also respond tactically here by asking what research they have done which leads them to the conclusion that the Council simply invented the deity of Jesus.
More often than not the person has not actually studied this and is merely parroting an objection they’ve heard someone else make.
Step 5. Resources
In Step Five you will simply make a detailed list of the resources you have used to formulate your own conclusions.
This ensures that when someone asks you what research you’ve done to support your conclusions, you can answer them!
Now–they make not like the nature of the resources you’ve used. After all, critics claim you cannot even use the Bible to support arguments made by the Bible.
But by exposing the double standard–such as by politely letting the objector know you wouldn’t ask them to prove, say, atheism by only using the Bible–you can build confidence that the resources you’ve used provide accurate information.
Of course, objections to a particular view of Christianity do not have to come from atheists. For example, let’s say you are a Molinist attempting to overcome objections from Calvinists and Armenians to your position.
Your resources list, while no doubt including quotes from biblical scholars and authority figures, would largely be comprised of Scripture in support of your view.
Step 6. Evidence
In this step you will finally create a detailed list of the particular details which strongly support your view.
Again, you don’t have to necessarily spout all of this off in your response to a critic. It is simply the list of information you will use to help formulate a strong case in your response and even respond to further objections as the conversation continues.
For example, just one bit of evidence I wrote down in the example I’ve used thus far is this:
- Certain details make NO SENSE if the canon was chosen to invent legendary rhetoric:
- Luke’s Gospel (Luke was a Gentile)
- Embarassing Details
- Peter’s Denial
- Women first eyewitnesses to the resurrection
- Lack of embellishment (such as is found in the Gospel of Peter (talking crosses, etc.))
- Early testimony (not enough time for legend to develop)
Now, of course, each one of these things could open up their own can-of-worms conversation with a knowledgeable skeptic–but that’s not the point.
The point is that these facts, if true, stand in strong support of the case against the argument in question.
Step 7. Doctrine
Last but not least, in Step Seven, you will create a list of Scriptural support for your position.
You may already have some of this in the case of an in-house argument as mentioned above, but here, you will be as detailed as possible, formulating a strong Scriptural case for your position.
This is necessary for one very important reason:
If the Bible doesn’t support it, you shouldn’t be defending it!
Now please don’t mistake the Bible’s being placed as the final step as meaning it should be the last consideration or the last step in a response.
You don’t necessarily have to fill out this template in order, and as you research, you will likely be encountering Scripture the entire time which should be reflected in this step.
More than anything, you will want to spend your final bit of time in this step, simply making sure you have sured up the case for your own benefit.
Again, this template is not meant to replace good habits of regular learning and Bible study, and I very much doubt that it will revolutionize your current process.
But perhaps it will help you to think about things from a more thorough perspective, and dot the I’s and cross the T’s as you attempt to give a more reasoned defense for your faith.
It’s my prayer that this will help you become an even bolder defender of God’s truth and God’s kingdom.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!