"I used to go to church, but I got tired of how church people won't converse intelligently about science."
He wasn't the first person who had said something like that to me. How should I react? Is he a lost cause? Another secular worldview? Not worth the circular argument neither of us will win?
Or is he right?
Maybe, when someone accuses Christians of failing to speak intelligently about science and creation, we need to listen. Maybe, when people who honestly stand by science and rationalism are finally, actually, momentarily willing to engage in a conversation about their beliefs we should listen, and smile, and nod, and do a little research, and engage.
Even if you feel like you don't know enough, you cared enough to try - and to be honest the real difference between speaking stupidly and speaking intelligently isn't just having better answers than everybody else. It's having better questions and being willing to ask them and think about them. What's more, speaking intelligently doesn't have to mean compromising or "losing" the conversation. It means being willing to care enough about a person to communicate with them. It also means being smart enough to listen to God when he says the light of the truth will overcome the darkness of lies.
There's an X factor, though. It isn't enough just to speak intelligently, because what matters isn't just that you speak the truth. What matters is that when you speak the truth it is understood. Truth isn't truth to someone who misunderstands what you're saying. If you say one thing and they hear another, it might not be your fault, but they're not getting the truth. So speak intelligently, yes, but just as importantly speak intelligibly. Figure out what that means for them. People like the guy quoted above need you to.
I'm scared of conversations with guys like him, because I know he cares deeply. He has standards I'd hate to disappoint, especially if it's my one chance to connect him to the truth. I'm not, by my power, going to win him to the faith, but God's word can. It's powerful. He just needs to hear it, really hear it, and God lets me and you be a part of that.
And if my intelligent conversation takes down a barrier between him and understanding the truth - may I do whatever it takes to speak intelligently.
There are more similarities between speaking intelligently and speaking intelligibly than their spelling. They are inseparable. And when the God who makes the truth the truth gets involved, they are unstoppable. May we know what we believe well enough to be perceived as intelligent, and may we know our audience well enough to be unmistakably intelligible.