In one of my summer jobs as a student, I had a co-worker who was also a Christian. I remember overhearing some other co-workers talking to each other about how they shouldn’t talk about certain subjects around my Christian co-worker.
I cannot speak for my brother in Christ. Perhaps he wouldn’t like to be challenged. Perhaps he wouldn’t have enjoyed the opportunity to share his reasons. But I can speak for myself.
When overhearing this conversation I thought, “I’d love it if you challenged my beliefs!” If I was in the same situation I would want them to bring up these subjects. I would love them to ask me questions about my beliefs. I would love to hear the reasoning for their beliefs and their perspective. I love to learn.
My deepest held beliefs are not off limits. You think Jesus is complete hogwash? Cool, let’s chat about it. You think Christianity is just a lifejacket? Great, let’s have a coffee over it. Challenge me! For me, nothing is off limits.
Now, I think I should clarify. This “challenge me” isn’t like a “Come at me, bro!” I’m not some dude who wants to fight. I don’t like debates for the sake of debate. That doesn’t get anyone anywhere. But I love discussion and dialogue for the sake of learning. I can learn from you. Hopefully I can be somewhat helpful to you.
Discussion and dialogue, however, cannot happen if people are afraid to talk to each other. We should be able to take someone saying we’re completely wrong for reasons X, Y, and Z. Why? Because you are not challenging me. You are challenging a proposition that I happen to hold to. Similarly, if I am presenting a case for something – for example, the epistemologically self-defeating nature of naturalistic atheism (in English: if naturalistic atheism is true, that very fact defeats our justification for knowing that it is true. Therefore, naturalistic atheism can never be rationally held) – I am not challenging the naturalistic atheist, I’m challenging naturalistic atheism in-and-of-itself.
Now, I can’t say I practice what I preach very well. In all honesty, my Myers-Briggs personality type is actually very non-confronational and bad at taking things personally, but I’m working on it and getting better. Recognizing that no one is out to get anyone is a good first step. And if you’re willing to challenge me: practice makes perfect.
If the discussion degenerates to ad hominem assaults, perhaps we should hit the brakes. If you’re saying I’m completely wrong because I’m a stupid-face, then I can simply smile and move on. But there is no need to go there. We can have intelligent discussions about deeply held beliefs without there being a quarrel. Let’s refine each other through the crucible of eachother’s understanding.
So, dear friends, talk to me!