It will never be enough to win an argument if we lose people.
Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion
Author: Os Guinness
Publisher: IVP Books (www.ivpress.com)
C. S. Lewis. Francis Schaeffer. Josh McDowell. When Christ took hold of me these individuals were highly influential in the world of evangelical apologetics. The latter is a term used to describe the task of defending the faith, particularly against the attacks of those who seek to undermine it. One example from this time period is Evidence that Demands a Verdict, a bestseller that is an astonishing array of factual and historical analysis, even if it isn’t highly readable.
In Fool’s Talk Os Guinness argues that apologetics can no longer be the same. Today, someone like Roger Waters (co-founder and principal lyricist of Pink Floyd) proclaims himself a radical atheist. The new atheists are not marginalized. They brazenly write best-selling books, give their lectures on college campuses and gain the attention of mainstream media.
It’s not enough in response to present facts, proclaim the truth and win arguments. This book is all about becoming winsome. The subtitle says it all. This subject has never been more of a necessity, since so many have little or no interest in listening to what Christians have to say.
Guinness is masterful in every aspect of where we are today and what we need to do. I cannot imagine a better book on the subject being released this year.
This is not a presentation of facts to be learned but an approach to be made. If the heart of apologetics is the heart of the apologist, this covers all the bases. The author consistently gets it right on every topic.
A favorite response to the anatomy of unbelief, which is covered quite extensively, is a strategy used by G. K. Chesterton known as “table turning.” “This strategy turns on the fact that all arguments cut both ways. It therefore proceeds by taking people seriously in terms of what they say they believe and disbelieve, and then pushing them toward the consequences of their unbelief. The strategy assumes that if the Christian faith is true, their unbelief is not finally true, and they cannot fully be true to it. At some point the falseness shows through, and at that moment they will experience extreme cognitive dissonance, so that it is no longer in their best interest to continue to persist in believing what they believed until then. When they reach this point, they are facing up to their dilemma, and they will be open to rethinking their position in a profound way” (109).
I wonder if someone like Roger Waters is aware of all the consequences of his belief. Has he ever considered the logical outcomes? He may be aware that believing “A” implies “B, C, D,” but what happens when you get further down the line.
I appreciate the fact that Christians can believe “A” and suffer no loss of integrity in the consequences that follow. Christ is the Alpha and Omega. From A to Z there is no breakdown in truth.
To be sure this is a strategy from the negative side, but there is also a broadly positive one called “signal triggering.” “This strategy proceeds by making people aware of their human longings and desires, and what these passions point to. These are longings and desires that are innate and buried in their lives. In particular, the strategy draws their attention to what have been called the ‘signals of transcendence’ that are embedded in their normal, daily experience. These are indicators that grow out of very positive experiences and, like beeping signals, puncture their present beliefs and point beyond them toward what would need to be true if these signals are to lead to a fulfilling destination” (109-110).
Does this rely too much on strategies and techniques? “The lost art of Christian persuasion certainly includes a method, but a method that is overwhelmed and utterly lost in the message that shapes it and the Master whom it serves. In other words, whatever little of apologetics is method must come from our experience of God and his love, his truth and his beauty, which are the heart of faith” (45). All that is said must come from and lead to love and the One who is love.
I respect Roger Waters for his accomplishments. The music that he helped create has been part of the soundtrack of my life. I would to God that he becomes as I am in relation to faith. Never have I found anything that makes better sense of life. Nor have I ever found greater peace and love. That’s not to say that I can comprehend or explain all the incongruities of life, even in my own experience. But I’ve come to trust One who is more real than the air I breathe.
Anyone interested in apologetics and evangelism—the two cannot be divorced—will be well-served by this book. It shows how to be persuasive and so much more. It will never be enough to win an argument if we lose people.