Elevator Apologetics, Part 1

elevator photo

Are you new to graduate school and looking for ways to respond when people around you ask questions about faith? Or searching for some helpful shorthand to distill your years-long study of apologetics into a brief conversation? Sometimes we only have a moment to share a question or idea that can be a springboard to later conversations. In this new series, Rick Mattson shares some ideas for these moments from his extensive work in apologetics.

Sometimes in apologetic dialogue (making a case for Christian faith) we don’t have the luxury of extended conversation where we can explain our points thoroughly.

Instead, there’s time only for an “elevator speech”—a short, persuasive message designed to spark interest in Christianity and/or further dialogue.

Here are suggested elevator speeches for two topics:

1. Religious Pluralism

 The Skeptic’s Objection: All religions are pretty much the same.

 Theological background to our reply (not actually verbalized): Religions are similar to each other only in the most general terms, such as the call for adherents to love other people and to serve God or the gods. But in fact religions are actually deeply dissimilar to each other and often contradict. For example, Christians believe in the Trinity, while Jews and Muslims do not.

Elevator reply (what we actually verbalize): Religions are like books with similar covers. When you open the books and read the contents inside, you find that they tell radically different stories about reality. Far from being “pretty much the same,” they’re very distinct from each other. For example, Christianity says that Jesus was God in the flesh. Muslims and practitioners of most other religions find this offensive or just plain false.

Parting Question to the skeptic: How do you handle the contradictions between religions?


2. Science and Faith

The Skeptic’s Objection: Science is based on fact, religion is based on faith. I’ll take fact over faith any day.

Theological background to our reply: Science is actually a gift given by God enabling us to explore and love his creation. Additionally, for Christians there’s no ultimate conflict between science and faith. If they seem to be in conflict, most likely we’re misinterpreting one or the other.

Elevator reply: As a Christian, I believe science and faith are friends, not enemies. Friends show respect to each other, even if they come from different backgrounds. Ultimately, there is no contradiction between the two. God gave science as a gift to help us understand the creation and make the world a better place.

Parting Question to the skeptic: I’d rather have science and faith working together in society, rather than just science, wouldn’t you?

Notice in these two examples that the theological background is what we’re trying to communicate, but we choose a method of delivery—the Elevator Reply—that is short and memorable, which is what Jesus often did.

And notice that we end these short conversations with a question that is meant to linger in the mind of the other person.

For more illustrations and analogies for communicating apologetic issues, see Faith is Like Skydiving: And Other Memorable Images for Dialogue with Seekers and Skeptics.

Image courtesy of Hans at Pixabay.com

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Rick Mattson

Rick Mattson is a national evangelist and apologist for InterVarsity, speaking at over fifty campuses the past few years. He lives in St. Paul, MN with his family. As part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Rick Mattson's call is to strengthen and encourage Christian students and faculty in their faith, and invite seekers and skeptics to consider Christ for their lives. He studied at Bethel Seminary of St. Paul, MN, where he received his masters in the philosophy of religion. Rick's committed to compassion, reason, and respect in his interactions with both "friend and foe" on campus. He's also highly committed to InterVarsity's value of multiethnicity. Rick loves talking with students and faculty about the great questions of life! What could be more fun??? At home, Rick's a committed family man, serious golfer, and plays e-guitar in the band at his church. . . . And of course he spends a lot of time reading theology and philosophy 🙂

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