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#245 Facing Fear of Ridicule and Rejection

December 26, 2011

Dear Dr Craig

My question is more of a personal one, I hope you can answer it as I think it may be useful to a lot of christians, particularly in heavily secular/non-christian environments.

Along with the strength of your arguments, I think most people are struck and impressed by your confidence whilst debating opponents, and your calmness under pressure - often whilst being vehemently attacked. You don't seem to be affected by people's attempts to goad you or knock you out of your stride. Not only that, you are able to think clearly, stick to your guns and continue to press the atheist on his argument and worldview. This was really evident in your debate against sam harris, that during the Q&A, even when Dr Harris continued to throw rocks at you and a straw man of the christian faith and morality, you continued to reminded him that on atheism he had no basis to make any moral judgements. Yet you were still gracious enough to shake hands with him with a smile, at the end.

Many of us who are familiar with your work, and lots of other good christian apologetics, now know enough to challenge and win arguments against most of our non-christian family, friends, and work colleagues. However, I, and I'm sure a lot of people, especially those in heavily secular environments (such as the UK), will still struggle even to bring these questions up with them, and would too often be afraid of a viscous attack, or ridicule, despite knowing that our worldview is more coherent!

So my question is - what advice would you give to us who struggle against this fear of attack/persecution/riducle/fear of man in the context of evangelism and apologetics, in the light of the good evidence and reasons for our Christian worldview? Maybe you could share what your mindset is whilst debating, or the way you think about non-Christians when speaking with them? How do you feel/react to attacks? What do you think about them even before they occur?

I'm sure that if many of us were able to conquer this and be bold and clear in our witness and conversations, we'd see a lot of fruit for the gospel in our lives.

Yours faithfully in Christ,


United Kingdom

Dr. craig’s response


I remember your name from a few years ago, Rohit, and it’s good to hear from you again. Thanks for your encouraging words! Let me share a few thoughts in response to your question.

1. Think of what Christ endured for you. Jesus was willing to go through unspeakable torture and what in Jewish thinking was the most humiliating of deaths for us. He hung on the cross naked, in a public display of humiliation and shame, an object of ridicule and derision, for your sake and mine. How could we possibly be embarrassed of him when he was willing to endure such depths of scorn for us? Recall Jesus’ words: “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9.26). Can you imagine that Christ would be ashamed of you as his disciple? May it never be!

2. Great blessing is promised those who are abused for Jesus’ name. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5.11-12). What a promise! I think of this in debate situations. When people heap insults upon you, be thankful and glad because they are really heaping blessings upon you. Would you forfeit those blessings?

3. Think of what others have suffered for Christ. When believers in China and various Islamic countries are being imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith in Christ, it is nothing short of scandalous that we in the West should shrink from enduring so much as even verbal abuse or embarrassment for Christ’s sake! How could we dare to look our brothers and sisters in the face when our commitment is so paltry, so weak, compared to theirs? We suffer nothing by comparison with what they endure. Reflecting on what they have borne and do bear for Christ’s name can give us the resolve to embrace what small amount of suffering we are called upon to shoulder.

4. Ask God to fill you with love for your adversaries. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for these who persecute you” (Matt. 5.44). God loves them so much He sent His Son to die for them. They are lost and dying without Christ. When I hear some unbelievers railing against me, I think of the apt aphorism: “I could no more be angry with him than if a blind man had stepped on my foot.” Pray that God would remove their spiritual blindness. We are involved in a desperate battle to rescue them from everlasting ruin. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion for the lost so that, like Paul, you feel constrained to speak out (II Cor. 5.14).

5. Remember that to respond in kind is counter-productive. Our goal is to win people, not arguments. So even though we may be tempted to respond to sarcasm with sarcasm, that will usually backfire and only push the other person further away. Try to respond graciously and substantively. Now I do think there is a place for confrontation and termination of an unfruitful conversation, if you sense the other person is insincere and just wants to argue. But it should always be done calmly and in love.

These suggestions will be much easier to carry out if we are ourselves well-equipped to provide positive reasons for why we believe as we do and solid answers to unbelievers’ questions and objections. Being so equipped will give us a quiet confidence that will serve us well in dialogue. Since we know the answers, there’s just no reason to get all hot and bothered about the unbeliever’s attacks. I think that being well-trained plus keeping the above points in mind can embolden our witness for Christ, so that just as he treated the shame of the cross with scorn (Heb. 12.2), so we, too, can treat dismissively the ridicule unbelievers might hurl our way.

- William Lane Craig