For the sake of argument
For the last ten years, Justin Brierley has presented the Unbelievable? radio show, where atheists debate with Christians. Here he shares what he’s learned, and why, after a decade in the crossfire, he is still a Christian
I once heard a preacher tell the story of a woman who found Christian faith compelling, but remained uncertain about committing herself as there were questions she had yet to resolve. So a friend took her to an old church and showed her the building. From the outside it looked austere and foreboding. But when they approached the front door and stepped inside, the light streamed through the stained glass into the church, bathing the interior with glorious colour. The church was a very different experience from the inside. Stepping into the Christian faith for the first time can be a similar affair. It needs to be experienced to be fully understood. Many people step in and embrace Christianity without needing to be convinced by arguments. For others, intellectually poking at it from the outside may well be an important part of their journey.
I’ve been hosting the Unbelievable? radio show and podcast on Premier Christian Radio for over ten years, bringing Christians and non-Christians together for dialogues every week. Unbelievable? the book tells the story of how the show has allowed listeners to intellectually prod Christianity from the outside, as they make a decision about whether to move up the path towards the entrance to the church itself.
When I began my broadcasting career, the station was already very good at a specific sort of conversation – Christians on the radio talking to Christians at home about Christian things. Which is important. But with less than five per cent of the UK attending church on Sunday, what about reaching the vast untapped non-Christian audience? What if we tried talking to people outside our own bubble?
I was given the go ahead for a weekly spot of my own in the schedule. The format was simple: I would sit down with two guests, one a Christian and the other not, to talk to them about why one believed and the other didn’t. And we would title the show Unbelievable? The question mark was essential. Each show would debate a question, with the intention of testing the central claims of Christianity – could they stand up to scrutiny? What were the alternative views? And, along the way, what could we learn from inviting people outside the Christian faith into our big conversations? …
This is an extract from an article that was published in the September 2017 edition of Reform