Gasoline; match. Apologetics 101b
Observe the behaviour of those who challenge you and remember, they need the love of God. Do not try to win an argument for the sake of winning an argument. Use the knowledge you do possess to answer as best you can. If you do not have an answer to a question, and if someone is bullying you for an answer, insist that they ask a a properly intended question rather than targeting you. Speak in a calm voice, the voice with which you want them to address you so that ideas can be heard and not drowned out by “fists” and fury. Some questions take time to answer. Invite the person to come to Mass and to follow up with another conversation in a timely manner. Make time for holy conversation.
Ask questions. Ask the bully apologist if he thinks his ideas are perfect, or perfectly expressed. Ask him if his position/belief is truly satisfying—”How’s that working for you?” If he is satisfied with his life/behaviour/approach, ask “Why?”. If he is not satisfied with his life/behaviour/approach, ask “Why not?” Be prepared to follow up with a thoughtfully worded observation that verifies or challenges his assumptions based on whether or not his disclosure is consistent, i.e., truthful.
“Forgive me for saying so, but your behaviour seems out of step with your answer. It seems to me that if you are truly satisfied with your own beliefs, you wouldn’t badger another person in order to prove your beliefs.”
A discussion can be rigourous and charitable if people agree that mutual respect is essential to the exchange of ideas. Ideas can and should be challenged without resorting to badgering and condescension.
Consider for a moment that the bully apologist is sincere and wants a real answer, but he or she has difficulty admitting a need. You must be prepared to find him or her an answer. As mentioned above, some questions require time to formulate a coherent answer. Do your homework.
If, however, the bully apologist is not prepared to listen to you, you may have to excuse yourself from the encounter. You may have to conclude with a question or two:
There is questioning for the sake of finding an answer. And, there is questioning merely to disprove, in which case no answer is likely to satisfy you. Which is it? What is your motivation?
Leave time for a response. Leave room for God to work. Do not conclude that because “success” did not arrive according to your schedule that nothing good will come from an encounter. At the very least, by being challenged to “give reason for the hope that is within you” (1 Peter 3:15), you are being refined in the Faith. The Holy Spirit draws all closer to Himself in His way.
Pray for the bully apologist. Ask God to provide him/her with opportunities to reexamine his or her approach to life’s big questions, and that God may grant him/her the peace only God can give.