There are two main classes of skeptics.
First, there are those who have no desire to consider evidence in favor of the Bible, who wish only to cast contempt upon it and to quibble and argue regarding it. This class can rarely be helped to any great extent, because they do not wish to be helped. They must be dealt with kindly but firmly. They must not be permitted to take up a large part of the Bible-study hour in presenting their doubts and in holding the Bible up to ridicule. One method I have found rather effective is to inquire quietly whether they have ever read the Bible through. Usually, they will answer No. I then ask whether they consider it fair and consistent to criticize a book they have never read. They will usually see the point.
The other class of skeptics are those who, though honest and sincere in their skepticism, are yet willing to give a fair consideration to evidence in favor of the Bible. In dealing with this class we need to try to understand the underlying causes of their skepticism. A little time spent in becoming acquainted with them in order to find out something of their personal background is time well spent. Often we will find that some of the factors which have contributed to their skepticism are the following:
1. Having been reared in a non-Christian home or even in a godless one. This one fact should make us sympathetic toward them, for we can realize what a powerful influence the atmosphere of their home has been away from God and the Bible.
2. The teachings of advanced education. Evolution and its so-called "evidences" against the Bible have led many to become skeptical regarding Bible truth.
3. The confusion of teachings in the popular churches of today.
4. The inconsistencies in the lives of professed Christians.
When we understand all these contributing causes to the skeptic's attitude, we shall feel pity for him and realize his great need of help. This will lead us to manifest great kindness and patience in dealing with him. Usually we shall find that skepticism is particularly applied to certain rather definite fundamental points, some of which are doubts concerning the authenticity of the manuscripts and translations of the Bible, doubts regarding the inspiration of the Bible writers, belief in the existence of contradictions in the Bible, and unwillingness to subscribe to the requirements of the Bible.
In meeting these definite objections, we must produce all the evidence and proof we can possibly give to counteract their doubts. We must, for instance, give information regarding the manuscripts and translations, producing dates, facts, etc., which will often show that the skeptic has been misinformed regarding this important phase. Clearing up this misapprehension will go a long way toward establishing faith in the genuineness of the Bible.
In meeting doubts regarding the inspiration of Bible writers, I have found that the prophecies are one of our strongest proofs of Bible inspiration. This would include many of the prophecies relating to nations, and their fulfillment, prophecies regarding Christ and His work, and their fulfillment, and of course the important symbolic prophecies. Along with the prophecies it will often be necessary to produce both historical facts and evidence from archaeology. Of course we do not have to go deeply into history or archaeology, but we shall have to give enough from these sources to show the Bible prophecies and record to be correct. We may even have to bring in enough of astronomy to establish the chronology of the Bible. It is especially necessary to settle the date on which a prophecy was given in order to prove that the prophecy was given many years before its fulfillment, and thus show the inspiration of the Bible.
It is desirable to explain thoroughly the fundamental plan of Bible study which we follow. Letting one text explain another and getting complete information on a subject by gathering the Bible texts together is a plan very familiar to us but usually very difficult for the skeptic to understand. But if he can be led to accept this plan of Bible study, you will have gone a long way toward helping him learn the truth. This will enable you to show him the wonderful harmony of Bible teaching through the whole Book and on any one subject. It will also enable you to teach from the positive instead of the negative side of the question. (This is very essential, for most of the skeptic's information has been of the negative type.)
Establishing the Bible-study plan will give you the advantage of putting the whole discussion on the basis of what the Bible says, and off ,the basis of personal opinion. In fact, the whole aim of presenting all the evidence should be to use it as the authority. This is, of course, the only correct foundation, but with a skeptic it may take some time to establish this fact. Therefore, do not be discouraged if it seems to be slow work, and do not expect to accomplish too much at one time. Perhaps all you can do is to start a train of thought along right lines in the skeptic's mind during the first study or two. Accept that much cheerfully, and continue working. It may take time and work to lay a foundation upon which you can later build, but it will be well worth the effort if it results in a soul saved from skepticism and long-established doubts.
It is important to adopt a calm, courteous, helpful attitude and to maintain it steadfastly. If we can once convince the skeptic that we are his friend, and that we are sincere in our desire to help him, we have laid another sure foundation in our work of turning him to the truth. If, later, you can lead him to read certain selected texts from the Bible for himself ; and most of all, if you can lead him to the Lord Jesus Christ and show him something of God's love for him, you have reached the fulfillment of a carefully and prayerfully planned program of winning another soul, and this soul, it seems to me, will be one over whom the angels of heaven will especially rejoice. For is not this indeed "a brand plucked out of the fire"?