One of the greatest mistakes we can make in defending the Christian faith is to act like we have all the answers.

If you’re anything like me, you love it when you have a ready-to-go answer to whatever question or objection to the faith somebody sends your way.

And the more specific and obscure the question or objection is, the more there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in knowing that those countless hours spent studying that one argument made by that one guy nobody’s ever heard of on that one subject that almost nobody’s even talking about has finally paid off.

But what about when we don’t know the answer? What should be our response to those who raise questions and objections that leave us stumped and scratching our heads?

Should we blurt out the first thing that comes to our mind, so long as it sounds somewhat relevant? Must we simply dodge the question or objection and move on to a different subject? Or perhaps we ought to let our flight response kick in and flee the room from the intellectual superiority of our conversation partner?

Let’s consider each of these tempting options in turn.

Option 1: The Blurter

First up is what we might call “The Blurter.” This is the person who speaks the first thing that comes to their mind, even when they don’t actually know the answer to the question or objection being raised. (In some cases, they don’t even really know anything about the particular subject matter.)

Maybe this temptation is rooted in pride and a desire to save face. Or maybe it’s rooted in a sense of duty to the person asking—to leave them with something. Or perhaps it’s rooted in not wanting to make it look like Christianity doesn’t have all the answers. Or maybe it’s a mix of these

Whatever the underlying motivation may be, we must resist falling into this temptation. When we give less-than-adequate, off-the-cuff answers to the questions and objections that we really have no idea how to address, we’re not actually helping our case.

Instead, in the eyes of those listening, we hurt our own credibility and that of the very faith we’re attempting to defend, for such answers will prove to be uninformed at best or blatantly false at worst upon examination.

So, “The Blurter” isn’t a good option to resort to when we don’t know the answer.

Option 2: The Dodger

The second option to consider is “The Dodger.” This is the person who sidesteps the question or objection, usually by deliberately rerouting the conversation to avoid the subject entirely.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this approach is that it shows little to no respect for the person with whom you’re speaking. At best, it can give the impression that you’re only willing to talk about the things you want to talk about, never what they want to talk about. At worst, it can suggest that you’re not actually concerned about winning the other person to Christ since you’re not even willing to engage with this barrier to faith with which they’re genuinely wrestling.

This approach could also give the false impression that you and even Christianity itself have something to hide. In other words, you might inadvertently be sending the message that the other person has just exposed some fatal flaw to the faith simply by asking a question!

As with “The Blurter,” then, we don’t want to be “The Dodger” when we don’t know the answer.

Option 3: The Runner

The third option to consider is “The Runner.” This is the person who simply stops the conversation dead in its tracks either by running out of the room, pulling the fire alarm, or, you know, simply saying, “I’m done.” One way or another, they put an end to the conversation altogether.

“The Runner” is kind of like “The Dodger” on steroids. If “The Dodger” doesn’t successfully send the other person the message that you’re not interested in them or what they want to talk about, or that Christianity has some dirty secret, then “The Runner” sure will!

What’s more, “The Runner” gives the impression of being afraid to have the conversation. From the other person’s perspective, it could easily seem like your Christian faith is so fragile that you can’t bear to have it put under the microscope. However, Christianity presents itself as a well-evidenced worldview that welcomes scrutiny, so we should too.

Along with “The Blurter” and “The Dodger,” then, “The Runner” is disqualified as a viable option for when we don’t know the answer.

Thankfully, there’s a much better fourth option available to us.

Option 4: The Humble Apologist

We might simply call the fourth option “The Humble Apologist.”

Yes, Scripture calls us to always be ready to give a reason for our faith (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15). However, when faced with questions and objections to which we don’t know the answer, the most honest and compelling answer we can offer in that moment is humble ignorance.

The term “ignorant” bears some negative connotations these days, but it simply refers to one’s lacking knowledge about something. And Christians ought to be completely honest when they don’t know something.

There’s often this unrealistic expectation put on Christians, either by themselves or by others, to have all the answers to every possible question and objection that may arise. However, this holds Christians to an unreasonable standard. (Last time I checked, omniscience wasn’t listed among any of the spiritual gifts.)

There’s nothing wrong with Christians admitting when they don’t know the answer to this or that question or objection about the faith. We are, after all, limited human beings like anyone else.

In fact, humbling ourselves and admitting our own limitations, including our ignorance about certain things, will go a long way in relieving us of those aforementioned temptations to make ourselves look more knowledgeable than we really are.

And in my experience, those raising questions and objections have a lot more respect for and are a lot more receptive to those who have the integrity to admit when they don’t know something.

Sometimes, the right answer to give is simply, “I don’t know.” However, I usually like to add, “But let’s try to find the answer together.”

Honest inquirers tend to appreciate that, too.