The debate was over but the air was still thick with tension. After shaking hands and chatting for a moment, my opponent and I attempted to step down from the platform we had been on but were blocked by a handful of people. After expressions of “thank you” and “you are welcome” to a few faculty members and an elderly lady asking us what we would do if the September 11th attacks were to happen where we lived my opponent and I parted company.
One of the first people to stop me on the floor to talk to me was a girl and her boyfriend. The girl claimed to believe in God, but did not like the way I had approached the debate. She expressed confusion over my claim that everyone knows God. While exhibiting a great deal of kindness and humility which was especially noticeable given the excessive number of angered attendees the young lady made it clear that she was not going to let go of her objection that easily.
Smiling, I started to open my thinline ESV to explain my view from Scripture. As soon as I did this, she interjected that she did not trust the Bible. “That is okay,” I assured her, “We can talk about that in just a moment. Is it alright if we look at why I said what I did?” The girl and her boyfriend agreed to this and I read the relevant portions of Romans 1 to them out loud and explained that I believed the Bible and so it would be silly for me to try and argue differently. They understood!
“Okay, that makes a lot more sense to me now. I can see what you mean now!”
“Yes,” I answered, “Now why is it that you do not trust what I just read?”
She replied, “Well, because it has been translated”.
“But I know some Greek. I can go back and check it to make sure it has been translated.”
She was not about to give up that easily. “Well I know Latin, but I still make mistakes!”
“You make mistakes in your translation?” I asked.
“How do you know that you make mistakes in your translation?”
She began to grasp that her objection was failing and tried to explain that she knew because her language professor would tell her when she was mistaken. Of course, the language professor just knew Latin better. The point had been established. The translations of the Bible that we have are generally pretty good, and if they are not then they can be compared to the Greek and or corrected. Translation is not some impossible feat that destroys our trust in texts. For a moment the tension in the air around us dissipated. The couple looked as though a light had come on.
I spoke with the couple for a few more minutes and went through the Gospel with them. Smiling and shaking hands, we parted company.
Not all apologetic encounters are this easy or fruitful, but I dare say that many can be. I do not believe that they can be so if we forsake our ultimate presuppositions, however.