Why Reasons to Believe Scholars “Debate” Differently

The Reasons to Believe (RTB) scholars often receive invitations from around the world to debate people who hold opposing worldviews. We typically respond to these requests—coming from other authors, scientists, podcasters, and prominent skeptics— by requesting a different approach.

Since the launch of Reasons to Believe (RTB) in 1986, our ministry has held to the core values expressed in 1 Peter 3:15–16:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

With the ethos of gentleness and respect at the forefront of all we do, our scholars approach debate invitations as opportunities for open dialogue. Rather than arguing against opposing teams where there is a clear winner and loser at the end, we invite and welcome those with differing views to the table in the spirit of seeking and uncovering truth.

As an example of this practice, senior research scholar Jeff Zweerink will engage in a public discussion with Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine. Jeff is no stranger to engaging with those holding different worldviews. Among those he’s interacted with are evolutionary biologist Steve Jones, skeptic influencer Phil Halper (known as “skydivephil” online), nuclear engineer and former Christian Jordan Karim from the Reason to Doubt podcast, and flat-earth advocate Mark Sargent.

“The most difficult thing,” Jeff said, “is finding a way to understand their position sufficiently so that I can find common ground while also articulating Christianity in a compelling way.” He continues:

I’ve been able to find common ground with nearly every speaker I’ve interacted with. Sometimes the common ground is a love for science and a fascination for what science finds. With Mark Sargent, I genuinely enjoyed interacting with him—even though we had significantly different approaches to life, knowledge, and truth.

With Steve Jones, I found that his description of how humanity emerged, migrated across the globe, and flourished lined up remarkably well with the biblical description. Phil Halper ended up endorsing my book Escaping the Beginning? even though he disagrees with my arguments.

How has RTB’s ethos of “gentleness and respect” impacted how Jeff engages in these conversations? Jeff states that “the emphasis is not on trying to convince people of what I know, but on giving a defense for the hope that is within. When I can learn about someone’s position and understand it well enough to articulate it, that often gives me an opening to describe why I think Christianity is true and worth staking my life on.”

Jeff also recalls his mom’s helpful guidance that even Einstein, with his incredible intellect, had no qualms with admitting when he didn’t know something and asking questions to help him understand better.

The public discussion between Jeff and Michael Shermer will take place on February 22 at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia. During this two-hour event, the speakers will address the question, “Does God exist?” The event is open to the public and free to attend, but registration is required. It will be hosted by Ratio Christi’s KSU chapter and moderated by Jefrey Breshears of The Areopagus, a Christian study center and education ministry. For more information and to register, please visit our events page.

For those unable to attend this highly anticipated event, RTB will post an audio recording on our YouTube channel once it becomes available.