Tactics and Tools

No More Free Rides

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 03/06/2013

Everyone likes a free ride. It might even feel right to give one. There’s one free ride, however, we need to stop giving.

Here’s the scenario. You’re having a conversation with a friend, and he offers a critique or objection to your faith. But instead of him backing up his critique with evidence or reasons, you begin a defensive discourse explaining why his objection is not accurate. And now you’ve done it—you’ve just given someone a free ride.

The problem of free rides can be resolved with a simple, yet powerful concept known as the burden of proof rule. The burden of proof is the responsibility a person has to defend his or her belief, opinion, or view. The rule goes like this: The person that makes the claim bears the burden. In other words, if someone offers a critique, it’s his job to defend his view, not your job to defend against it.

Too often I see Christians bear the burden of proof when they’re not supposed to. This keeps the Christian in the hot seat as she hopelessly tries to respond to every crazy objection and story someone can spin. She neglects holding the other person responsible to defend his view. It’s time to stop giving free rides and begin enforcing the burden of proof rule.

For example, a friend might tell you he thinks all religions are the same. He’s made the claim, so it’s his job to back it up. Ask, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or something akin to that. Then sit back and listen to him defend his view. It’s his job. This is not only a good tactic, it’s also the next proper step in the conversation.

Notice the many benefits of enforcing the burden of proof. First, it puts the burden of proof back where it belongs—on the person making the claim. Second, it makes your job much easier; it keeps you out of the hot seat so you can relax. Third, it shows interest in the other person’s view, which is what a good ambassador should do. Fourth, it gives you valuable insight into his rationale so you know how to respond to his reasons. Fifth, it keeps you in control of the conversation, not in a manipulative way, but in a way that helps productively advance the conversation towards discovering the truth.