10 Tips from St. Paul for Christian Debates with Nonbelievers
by SJ Thomason
Prior to his decades-long ministry, Luke reports in the book of Acts that St. Paul (who was then called Saul) hunted and persecuted people of “the Way,” which he considered to be a false and blasphemous movement against the God of the Jewish people, whom he dutifully worshipped. He stood at the feet of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, as his fellow persecutors stoned him. He was granted permission to arrest and imprison people of the Way as he began his journey to Damascus, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9). But Jesus had other plans for Saul, so Saul’s mission skidded to a halt when Jesus suddenly appeared to him, causing him to fall to the ground.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Saul was blinded and went into fasting. After a few days, a messenger of the Lord came to Saul and his sight was returned. At that point, he began his brave ministry as a newly inducted member of the Way and the one who would be called Paul. Christians who were aware of his old ways were at first skeptical, but after hearing about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was able to earn their trust.
Over the coming decades, he endured multiple beatings, imprisonments, stoning, snake bites, and a hurricane and shipwreck before being beheaded by Nero between 62 and 64 A.D. He persevered, despite persecution, traveling all around the Roman Empire visiting churches, spreading the Good News, encouraging his fellow Christians, and working with God to multiply the Christian community.
His letters to the church detail his instructions to Christians who want to spread the Good News of Jesus today. The intention of the rest of this writing is to offer some of his tips for encounters or debates with non-believers…