Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion is a book I have been hearing a lot about over the course of the last year and I was not disappointed in my reading of it. Through this book Guinness introduces the reader to the art of Christian persuasion. Persuasion—is perhaps the best way to view apologetics. Over time I have seen many followers of Jesus take varied stances on apologetics. Compelled by 1 Peter 3:15 personally, for some time now I have been an advocate for apologetics, not so much from the sake of winning arguments but in our role of evangelism and the stewardship of relationships. This book does well to unpack the role of apologetics and it’s necessity in our day while addressing and avoiding common pitfalls that most fall into in navigating this challenging topic. Apologetics, and the persuasion that lies at its heart, is more important today than ever and a true missing link in our discipleship contexts.
We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, “I post, therefore I am.” To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply.
As the author states, our time and our context is perhaps the greatest opportunity for Christians and Christianity since Jesus and his apostles walked the earth. But what are we doing about it? “Many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce, as deep as the human heart, as subtle as the human mind, as powerful and flexible as the range of people and issues that we meet every day in our extraordinary world in which ‘everyone is now everywhere’.”
Guinness asserts, we have lost the art of persuasion—the kind of persuasion we see modeled in Jesus, Paul, and the Old Testament prophets before them. Jesus especially had a remarkable ability to communicate to people disposed to reject him, and yet to do so in such a way that they had to see his point despite themselves. Thus, persuasion is “the art of speaking to people who, for whatever reason, are indifferent or resistant to what we have to say.”
Guinness builds his argument on three elements that have served him over his work as an apologist—a deep love of scripture, an advanced understanding of classical Greek rhetoric and his own “cloud of witnesses” (such as, Erasmus, Peter Berger, C. S. Lewis, and C. K. Chesterton) that add strength to his arguments.
Great summary, jdm. I was delighted to see your reviewing, having recently plowed through Fool’s Talk, thanks to Audible.com.
As you mention, Os Guinness posits that we have lost the art of persuasion in the church, and I could not agree more. I love his concept of subversion and the discussion of Nathan the prophet.
Keep up the good work!
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