Years ago I heard a Christian speaker telling a university audience of evidence he had seen in our created world for some kind of intelligent designer. He suggested the intelligent designer was the god who revealed himself in the Bible. This all seemed fairly plausible to me but not too earth-shattering.
During the Q & A session, a professor from the university’s physics department raised his hand and said something along the lines of, “Well, your evidence doesn’t require a belief in a god. The design you’re talking about could also be the result of aliens landing here and setting up an orderly world.”
As I listened, I thought three things: First, it’s always amusing how people don’t ask questions during a Q & A session. They pontificate. Second, I marveled that a professor in the physics department preferred a belief in aliens to a belief in God. Third, I wondered how forcefully the speaker would dismantle this proposal. As a Christian, I hoped he wouldn’t laugh or use words like, “stupid,” or “ridiculous.” But surely, I thought, he was going to pounce on the absurdity of a belief in creative aliens.
The speaker simply said, “Maybe,” and paused a few seconds.
He went on to say, “You’re right. It could be aliens. But I think it’s more plausible to believe in some kind of supernatural force or a god. And I think the god who is portrayed in the Bible seems a lot more likely than aliens producing a world of order and beauty.”
Then he took the next question. After considering his tactic, I think it’s brilliant. Rather than expending a lot of energy marshaling arguments against a belief in aliens, he pointed the attention to where it should be. In the process, he indirectly weakened his opponent’s argument by showing a much better possibility.
I also think his approach had the advantage of melting his adversary’s hardened attitude. A frontal assault often strengthens the opposition. “Maybe” can do the opposite.
I wonder how much energy we expend (waste?) on trying to counter arguments against the gospel. To be sure, that is necessary in many cases. But I’m not convinced we always need to do so. And we certainly do not need to be sarcastic or insulting of alternative theories no matter how bizarre. No one likes to be called stupid or hear his or her beliefs ridiculed. Saying “maybe” actually shows a level of respect for some arguments that goes beyond what they might actually deserve. But I think it’s better to err on the side of “gentleness and respect” (see 1 Peter 3:15) than to resort to other, sometimes popular, approaches.
Randy Newman has been with the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1980 and currently serves with Faculty Commons, their ministry to university professors. Randy is a Jewish Believer in Jesus and is the former editor of The Messiah-On-Campus Bulletin. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did and Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well.