Getting the most out of your time
Some arguments or apologetics topics tend to be more productive than others. By productive here, we mean more inclined to lead the non-believer to seriously consider the truth of Christianity, and therefore the gospel. Unfortunately, some very popular apologetics topics/arguments are horridly unproductive. One should postpone discussions which are either about, or depend on, the three “B” topics:
Only one serious argument can be brought forth in defense of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility, and it only works on Christians:
1. If God (or a spokesman of God) taught x, then x is true.
2. God (or a spokesman of God) taught that the Bible is infallible.
3. Therefore, the Bible is infallible.
While perhaps a favorite topic for non-believers, the most efficient and effective soul-winners only wrestle over non-salvational topics with their interlocutor after they accepted Christ. This is relevant because inerrancy is a non-salvational topic; no essential Christian doctrine depends on it. For example, consider these three sub-topics:
► Alleged historical and scientific inaccuracies in the Bible.
► Alleged contradictions in the Bible.
► Alleged atrocities attributed to God in the Bible (e.g. God's reported dealings with Canaanites, or sending people to hell instead of just annihilating them).
These can each be resolved by simply setting aside Biblical inerrancy.1 A saved liberal Christian is better than nothing, so reserve the above sub-topics for later—they are important, yes, but irrelevant to our best arguments for God's existence, Jesus's resurrection, and the gospel.
We all know that evolution is widely accepted in universities today. This generally makes attempts to persuade a non-believer that evolution is false hopeless, even if you happen stump him. (Would you believe a 9/11 conspiracy theorist who stumped you?) Moreover, it will actually discredit you in their eyes, since they will think you are forwarding an intellectual equivalent of the flat-earth theory. Insofar as you will probably not have the skill, much less time, to convince them otherwise,2 reserve these particular "intelligent design" arguments for later. (Let me add that you have a virtual responsibility to ensure that your interlocutor knows that one can be a Christian while accepting evolution.)
The issue of whether the elimination or promotion of some worldview in a society would result in that society's flourishing—or decline—is irrelevant to the question of whether the worldview in question is true. Similarly, the would-be individual life-benefits of accepting or rejecting a worldview are also irrelevant. Unless you have reason to believe your interlocutor is too apathetic about the big questions in life to seek the truth, it is generally prudent to refrain from discussing the would-be affects of a worldview on society or the individual's life.3
For most conversations with non-believers, you should express a rigid nonchalance about the above topics.4 Focus instead on sequentially securing agreement on the following:
Step 1: Truth exists.
Step 2: God exists.
Step 3: God resurrected Jesus.
Naturally, you will want to follow strategies in going through these steps (see Starter kits for Atheism[Forthcoming] and for Jesus's resurrection[Forthcoming]). The goal is to conclude with this last step:
“Jesus's resurrecting and making appearances to his disciples, by the power of God, surely implies that God has vindicated Jesus and His teachings. Right? Ok. So, when this divinely vindicated Jesus and his apostles speak of God, sin, and the gospel, unless there is good reason to think otherwise, one really ought to take the message as having God's divine stamp of approval. Isn't that a fair conclusion?”
Now they are seriously considering the truth of Christianity. Don't be surprised if the productivity of your discussions skyrocket.