Welcome back, Mama Bears!  We are enjoying sharing this series with you.  Currently we are moving through Greg Koukl’s three questions for guiding apologetics conversations.  They are:

1:  “What do you mean by that?”

2:  “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”

3:   Using Columbo to Lead the Way

In our last installment we discussed Tactics Question 1: “What do you mean by that?”  Now let’s turn to the second question: “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”

Koukl uses this tactical question to place the burden of proof on the person making the claim. When we say “burden of proof,” we mean that the person who makes a claim has the responsibility for explaining the reasons behind why they believe their claim is true. Often, we jump too quickly into defending our own view that we miss the fact that someone else has just made a claim statement which must be defended. We as Christians bear the responsibility of having “reasons for the hope that is within us.” (1 Peter 3:15) We shoulder the burden of proof for why we have arrived at the conclusion that the Christian worldview is true. It is reasonable to expect others to shoulder the same burden of proof if they hold to an alternate worldview.The burden of proof rests on the person making the claim. Don't be afraid to ask! #tactics Click To Tweet

The question “How did you arrive at that conclusion,” encourages discussion because it keeps the ball in the claimer’s court, requiring him or her to provide the reasons which support their view.  I find a slightly similar wording works just as well, and I used it in a recent park bench conversation. A couple of ladies and I discussed abortion regarding babies with a fatal prognosis.

Mom:   “Well, I mean I think if you knew your pregnancy would end up in a stillbirth, I think God would understand terminating.  He would get that.  He wouldn’t want you to go through all that.”

Me:  “Hmmm.  Well He is so forgiving.  Is that what led you to believe that He would endorse the decision to terminate?”

The question, “What led you to believe that?” is my own worded version of “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”  It did a lot for me in this conversation.  It allowed me to gently draw a distinction between forgiveness of a past choice, and endorsement of a future one.  And it performed its intended task of requiring the person making the claim to do the explaining – not me.

Had I not employed a question, I would have been tempted to argue for God’s care of the baby’s experience, and why mine doesn’t get to be prioritized just because I’m bigger and older.  But that would have been heated, and we women just aren’t our best selves in a heat wave.

Instead, I asked my playground friend to make the connection between her reasoning and her conclusion. This kept me cool-headed and intentional, and it prompted her to analyze her thought process regarding this topic.  She responded with a restatement of her initial claim, but I didn’t push further.  Her words were redundant, but I could tell the wheels were turning.

Koukl has a saying that sometimes ideas are like putting a stone in someone’s shoe.  They’ll feel it as they walk away and continue to think on it, and be bothered by it. We may not always persuade someone in a single conversation, but we can put a “pebble in their shoe” if their thought process is not logical. An idea always sticks better when a person feels they have arrived at the conclusion on their own. Sometimes they just need a gentle nudge to discover that their previous conclusions really weren’t supported by their premises. We may not always persuade, but we can always encourage deeper thought. Click To Tweet

I liken it to a grain of sand in an oyster.  It’s an irritation at first, but if worked on, it becomes a pearl.  Let’s don our pearls of wisdom wherever we go, Mama Bears.  They were made to be worn, and we were made to multiply them.


Hillary Short
Hillary Short (aka, the “other” Hillary!) lives with her husband, son, dog, and lots of carpet in the Texas Hill Country. She teaches Senior Thesis at a Classical and Christian school and dreams of wood floors, finishing thoughts, and finding things on the first try.
The tough questions can feel scary when you're alone...
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