Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion - Os Guinness

Fool's Talk:  Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness is quite a convicting book, a book that really makes you  think about how serious we really are about evangelism/apologetics.  It provokes the question:  how much thought do we really put in our conversations (or even our small-talk) with unbelievers?  Do we hold back on saying anything related to the Gospel because we are ashamed of being considered foolish because of our belief in God's Word?  Or if we do evangelize, are we just sticking with simple pre-contrived evangelization questions like, "If you were to die today and stood before God and He asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?"  Are we willing to truly put thought into persuading someone of the truth of Christianity, giving answers to their questions, and asking thought-provoking questions ourselves, rather than merely turning to someone else's pre-designed method of evangelism.  Do we not seriously think of persuasion outside of some other persons pre-written evangelization answers/questions (though not outside the word of God)?  And are we loving when we talk to others, truly more concerned about winning the person rather than just winning an argument?  

This book's author does an excellent job at making one think about the answers to questions like the above.  For instance, as evinced above, he critiques modern-day evangelism, and makes the case that the 'method' used to evangelize actually does matter, "Recent forms of evangelism are modeled on handbooks for effective sales technique…After all, if all truth is God's truth, it is surely legitimate to use the best tricks of the trade, but this time use them in the service of the truth." "Not so…" Guinness answers. "…The Lord's work must always be done in the Lord's way.  The method must serve the message.  Technique is never neutral.  It can be positive and useful, and it can also be harmful.  Sometimes it an even be so brilliantly effective that its danger lies in its weaning us away from needing God at all.  True apologetics is the art of truth, and its art must be shaped by the distinctiveness of the truth it proclaims." 

He also does an excellent job at keeping one's perspective straight, because, though we do want to persuade others as best we can, and as Scripturally as we can,  we are not to have the posture of winning discussions with non-believers at all-costs, the truth is true even if we do not defend it well, or even if we don't have answer to a certain question.   Not matter how good are argument is, God is ultimately the only One who can change a person's heart and give them faith, though we do hope to have the opportunity to be used of God in helping others see the truth of the Gospel, "Faith's certainty lies elsewhere than in the rapier sharp logic or the sledgehammer power of the apologist.  At the end of the day, full certainty comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit."

There were some things in the book that had I had trouble with though.  At one point the author says, "The next time you see Auguste Rodin's Thinker look at it closely"  Ummm…. Sorry but if that work of 'art' is what I think it is (an unclothed statue of a man…who is in the process of thinking…probably trying to figure out what he forgot to do that day, he forgot to put on clothes!) I think that then next time I see it I'll look away quickly!  I don't care if it doesn't show anything really inappropriate, it's the implication of nakedness that bothers me.  Naked statues don't fit the list of  attributes the Apostle Paul gives as to what we should think on/meditate on in Philippians 4:8,  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure…(ASV)"etc.

Also, I really have trouble with some of Guinness's statements…I was really shocked by some in particular, "Just so did God shame the world's folly, subvert the world's pride and put death to death through the death of his Son.  And the sober truth is surely that this was the way, the only way that it had to be done.  There was no other way.  God is always able to respond to sin and defiance with power….Power, however, usually overcomes by destroying what defies it.  Thus, as Reinhold Niebuhr insisted, there is a limit to what even the power of God can do as power alone, for 'such power does not reach the heart of the rebel.'  Power can fence us in, but only sacrificial love can find us out.  Power can win when we are ranged against it, but it cannot win us."  That REALLY takes away the miracle of Christians being made by God into New Creations, their hearts of stone that couldn't love God being made, by God, into hearts of flesh that love Him and His ways.  That's power, being used because of God's love yes, but it's His transforming power just the same! If God didn't use power to change our hearts to love Him,  and give us faith, we would not believe in Him, nor would we wish to follow His ways! See  Colossians 2:8-16, that's not just love, that's God's power!  He acts with His power because of His love for us!  Just as God will do with the nation of Israel in the future (see Ezek. 36)

Some parts of the book get a bit tedious as you get more into it, but overall, I liked the book, and think that it is a good resource for helping us give thought about the answer we should always be ready to give when asked about the hope that we have (1 Pet. 3:15).  I'll end with one of my favorite quotes from the book: 

"To follow Jesus is to pay the cost of discipleship, and then to die to ourselves, to our own interests, our own agendas and reputations.  It is to pick up our crosses and count the cost of losing all that contradicts his will and way - including our reputations before the world and our standing with the people and communities we once held dear.  It is to live before one audience, the audience of One, and therefore to die to all other conflicting opinions and assessments.  There is no room here for such contemporary ideas as the looking-glass self; and no consideration here for trivial contemporary obsessions such as one's legacy…" 


Many thanks to the folks at InterVarsity Press for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

One of the places where this book may be purchased is Amazon.com