I wanted to share a post with you entitled “Dusting off the Feet” by Melissa Cain Travis. Some believers are involved in apologetic defense of the Christian faith. We interact with skeptical or doubting or outright unbelieving friends and family who have questions and objections to Christianity. There are times this is beneficial for both parties. There is genuine dialogue taking place. But there are other times when the discussion is not beneficial or has reached a point of futility, and we need the wisdom to know when to move on. Melissa states in her post:

I hereby give you permission to extricate yourself from these non-productive engagements. Dusting off the proverbial feet and moving on is often the wiser decision (understatement). There are only so many hours in a day, and we must be good stewards of the time and abilities we’ve been given. How do we know when a conversation has reached the point of utter futility? I believe we can use certain criteria to determine when it’s time to declare our mission accomplished and await instructions for the next.

I was involved in intense dialogue with a skeptic for several years. We weren’t always debating during that time, but our conversations occurred fairly regularly. Many of these conversations were very beneficial for me. I had to carefully consider the tough questions and concerns my friend had about faith. I learned a lot, and was able to clarify my own position on a number of issues. The conversations were helpful for my friend too. Sadly, I seemed to be the only semi-intelligent Christian she had ever come in contact with. I’m not saying that to puff myself up (really!) and I’m not insinuating that most Christians are dumb – they are not. But she told me that I was literally the only Christian able to discuss her concerns on her level (a deeper and academic level), and not just throw cliches or superficial statements at her. She valued my answers, and was not flippant or dismissive. At times, I stumped her – meaning I had so thoroughly answered her objection that she could offer no more arguments.

Yet, after awhile, the situation changed and I realized things had become non-productive for both of us. As said, my friend was not flippant and our dialogue was respectful. Yet, she always seemed to be one question away from believing. She’d accept an answer I’d given and admit it was a solid response, but then she would immediately have another question about a new issue. It was like she was stuck in a cycle of perpetual questioning. Even when she got an answer, it was not enough, and she’d jump back in with more questions. After awhile, she started going back to issues we had already thoroughly discussed in the past. It was like she ran out of objections, so she had to go back to the original ones and recycle them. This is when I realized things had become futile and it was time to extricate myself from a non-productive situation. 

I was reminded that evidence does not produce faith. If someone does not have a heart to believe, no amount of “evidence” will bring them to faith in Christ. Please see my linked post where I expound on the role of evidence in relation to faith.

While the situation became non-productive and futile, it wasn’t always that way and I am thankful for the opportunity I had with this individual. Initially, my friend did seem to have a heart to believe and was really seeking answers. But at some point her heart hardened, and rather than seeking answers it was more like she was looking for any excuse not to believe. While we no longer have dialogue on issues related to faith, we do keep in touch. I certainly have not given up on her. God can soften hard hearts in his sovereign time.

It can be hard to step back from dialogue. I have “control” issues, as I’m sure some other believers do as well. We are determined to keep debating until the person believes! Yet that is the Holy Spirit’s role, and our best arguments may fall on deaf ears. As Melissa emphasized, there are times to move on from a fruitless situation. There are only so many hours in a day, and we must be good stewards of the time and abilities we’ve been given.