Staring Down Skepticism: How Two Students Cultivated Confidence in the Face of Skeptical Challenges

Shane was thrilled. His girlfriend Francesca and he had just finished hours of conversation with their skeptical friends at a local restaurant. Shane relayed the details through social media, sending me a message on Instagram. 

Shane and Francesca kicked off the conversation by presenting the evidence for God, eventually convincing their skeptical friends to acknowledge that God must exist. Next, they moved into conversation about Christianity, as their friends raised objections to Christian exclusivism with the “all-religions-are-basically-the-same” argument.  Shane and Francesca discussed the stark differences among various religious views, arguing that the differing claims about God, salvation, and the afterlife are mutually exclusive. Then they offered some of the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity. Eventually the conversation came to an end but only after covering a tremendous amount of ground about God and religion. 

Who exactly are Shane and Francesca? High school students I met this summer while speaking at the Area One summer camp at Lake Ozark in Missouri. A week after camp, Shane messaged me divulging all the details about their conversation. To be honest, I typically cringe when Christian students tell me they’ve started talking to their skeptical friends because it usually triggers major doubts about their faith in Christ. By the time most students reach out, they’re pleading with me to help them pick up the pieces of a fractured faith. 

Not this time.

After the encounter, Shane told me he felt confident during the conversation, even in the face of some serious objections from his skeptical friends. As he reflected on the experience, he revealed that his faith in Christ “feels a lot stronger” after the conversation. Francesca grew up Catholic, but did not put her faith in Christ until she started attending Shane’s church. She said the conversation made her “think even harder” about her Christianity, but she also expressed a newfound confidence in Christ. 

So what’s the difference between Shane and Francesca and the typical Christian student whose faith gets challenged? Training before the encounter. I was able to spend five days teaching worldview and apologetics to Shane, Francesca, and the 500 other students who attended Area One’s summer camp. Those students were equipped with four to five hours of training every single day. Instead of picking up pieces in the aftermath of a skeptical encounter, we built a rock-solid foundation of faith before students ever arrived at the encounter. As Francesca told me, “Before camp, my heart was won over by the amazing experiences I had at church, but Christianity never made sense in my mind. All of your messages at camp helped me to understand that Christianity is also true rationally, bringing my head and heart together. Thank you!” 

A potentially faith-shattering skeptical encounter became a confidence-building, faith-affirming experience for Shane and Francesca. 

Francesca’s “thank you” is not just for me. The confidence, clear-thinking, and courage she and Shane displayed is not the result of my efforts alone. Her “thank you” belongs to you, too. Because of your efforts, your prayers, and your support of my work, together we are able to equip the next generation of Christians with the truth of Jesus Christ. 

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Brett Kunkle