The “Yeah but…” Tactic

by Jason Wisdom

I believe that the “yeah but…” tactic keeps a lot of people, especially young people, sidelined when it comes to defending their faith. So, what is the “yeah but…” tactic and how should you respond to it? Consider the following conversation.

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Skeptic: “Why do you believe in God when there is absolutely no evidence for his existence? If you could give me even one shred of evidence, then I might listen to you. Just give me anything; anything at all.”

Christian: “Well, I am convinced that there is actually quite a lot of evidence for God’s existence. For instance, modern cosmology supports the idea that the universe–all time, space, and matter–had a definite beginning. I believe that points to the existence of a timeless, spaceless, and immaterial first cause of the universe and the best candidate for that is an incredibly powerful, conscious, spiritual being. It is also pretty common to even hear  atheists admit that the universe, and earth in particular, at least appears to have been designed for a purpose. The notorious 20th century atheist Antony Flew actually became a deist before he died because he simply could not make sense of the amazing apparent design and tremendous amount of purposeful information found in a something as foundational as DNA. But the evidence of design and purpose would be merely illusory if God did not exist. I also believe there are good reasons to think that certain things are objectively right and wrong and that we have certain moral obligations. For example, it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being simply for the fun of it. But what grounds this as an immovable, objective, and transcendent moral law? Objective moral laws require an objective moral law giver, and moral obligations are only held between persons–not mere matter or forces. I could elaborate on each of these, but I want to give you a chance to respond.”

Skeptic: “Yeah but what about all of the genocide in the Old Testament? How can you believe in a God who orders the mass execution of people just because they aren’t Jews? Sounds like you have a bloodthirsty, racist God. Is that okay with you?”

Christian: “Well, in the Old Testament God often sends foreign armies like Babylon and Assyria to attack Israel as judgment for their wickedness. It doesn’t really have anything to do with race. He doesn’t do anything to the Canaanites, Amalekites, or any other group that he doesn’t do to Israel. And it isn’t about being bloodthirsty, because God is patient and slow to anger. He gave the Canaanites hundreds of years to repent of their terrible crimes before sending Joshua and Israel to drive them from the land. He did likewise with Israel, pleading with them through the prophets time and again before driving them out of the land that he had given to them. Even so, he is perfectly just and that means he must punish evil. On top of that, there are a lot of examples of righteous foreigners who are welcomed into the family of God. Moses, Israel’s greatest prophet married a Cushite woman. Rahab and Ruth, who were both foreigners, are ancestors of Israel’s greatest king, David. So, like I said, it isn’t really about race. The book of Romans says that the true descendants of Abraham are those who, like Abraham, have faith.”

Skeptic: “Yeah but what about the fact that recent studies on brain activity indicate that when certain parts of the brain are damaged, certain memories and functions are lost. Doesn’t this prove that humans don’t have souls but are merely physical?”

Christian: “Well…uh…I really don’t know…uh…”

Skeptic: “Like I said, there is absolutely no reason to believe in God. Face it, you might as well worship the tooth fairy.”

Christian: “But…but…” ::Hangs head and walks away feeling defeated::

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This is an example of the “yeah but…” tactic in all of it’s glory. The power of the tactic is in the fact that, once you get caught in the trap, it doesn’t really matter how many question you can answer, or how well you answer them, as long as the other person has more questions up his/her sleeve. It becomes a game of who can outlast who. And the reality is that no matter how many answers you have, they are probably always going to have one more “yeah but…” than you can respond to. The game is rigged in favor of the questioner. So, what can you do if you find yourself on the receiving end of the “yeh but…” tactic?

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