Tactics and Tools

Reasoning with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Reason

Author Melinda Penner Published on 08/23/2017

Someone asked us recently, How do you reason with someone who doesn’t want to reason?

Of course, the short answer is that you can’t. But maybe you can still reach that person. Effective Ambassadors for Christ need to have a variety of tools in their toolbox. Witnessing and talking about the Bible and the Christian worldview isn’t always about reasoning because people don’t always have rational reasons for the things they believe. Here are some ideas.

  1. Some people are simply unpersuadable—at least at the moment. Maybe the only thing you can do right now is put a stone in their shoe. Give them something to think about, and hopefully God will use it down the road to open them a bit. Sometimes we’re the sowers and the harvest is way down the road with someone else.
  2. Use the Columbo tactic to probe why they believe what they do and won’t engage the reasons you’ve given them. You may be able to find a way in that way.
  3. Especially in online engagements or conversations in a group, you may not be getting through to the person you’re engaging, but others are watching and listening. It could be that God will use what you say for someone else. Be faithful and trust Him for the purposes He has.
  4. Some people are skeptical of Christians because they’ve seen a lot of bad examples or they’ve been hurt by the church. Sometimes your example of living a faithful, authentic Christian life is what’s needed to build trust.
  5. People sometimes don’t have rational reasons for what they believe; they have heart reasons. A person on the STR staff mentioned a mother in his congregation who he knew to be a faithful Christian. When her son told her he was gay, her views on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality turned on a dime, and she suddenly believed that it affirmed homosexuality and same-sex relationships. Our staff member realized she was concerned about her son feeling love and not being rejected by her or the church. She thought she needed to reinterpret the Bible to do that. What she needed was to experience love and grace and to realize that these things don’t require compromise on the Bible’s teaching. All of that required love, relationship, and time. Take the time to understand why someone might believe what they believe.
  6. Sometimes the straightforward Gospel is what’s needed. Yes, we need to be ready with an answer, and more often than not we have to address the barriers to belief that people have. But don’t forget the healing power of the Gospel, the good news that our sins are forgiven. The Back of the Book tactic recognizes that all people are God’s creatures so we know certain things are true about everyone. Deep down, everyone knows they’re guilty, and they’re looking for unconditional love. The only true source of that is Jesus, who loved us while we were still enemies and offers us grace and mercy. That speaks straight to the heart and can appeal to someone when appealing to their mind doesn’t work.

Finally, be sure you’re engaging people in love. It’s really easy to slip into loving the truth to the extent that we forget our first job is to love our neighbor. People need to know we are interested in them more than we are in making a point. In the Gospels, Jesus had compassion on sinners. He called them to Himself and to leave their sin, but He typically dealt with them gently and kindly. His anger was reserved for the religious leaders who should have known better because they had been entrusted with the prophetic message about Him. Keep His example of love and compassion in mind at all times.