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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Good Arguments Aren't Enough in Defending the Faith

Facts, reason, and evidence play key roles in apologetics. Christian defenders spend many hours studying the latest arguments for or against God's existence, the resurrection, or other issues fundamental to the faith. This is good and necessary; familiarizing oneself with the latest arguments on both sides of the divide gives you a greater advantage at presenting the most persuasive case possible.

However, there is another piece that many Christians neglect which is just as crucial: how to engage in a disarming, persuasive manner. James W. Sire makes the point in his book Why Good Arguments Often Fail. He writes:
In presentations of the case for Christ, good rational arguments often do not persuade. I mean by "a good argument" one that starts from true premises and/or facts, makes no logical mistakes (fallacies), marshals a great body of evidence, answers objections, clarifies the issues and draws valid (therefore true) conclusions. 1
Sire then recounts the experience of one young Christian who recounted C.S. Lewis's moral argument to an atheist friend. It didn't stir his friend at all. Sire notes such experiences are typical. He then concludes:
When such rational arguments are made in the field of Christianity, they are often not just ignored but rejected. Why is this?

Aristotle overstated the case, but still we should heed the warning it contains:

Every failure of Truth to persuade reflects the weakness of its advocates.

This is a humbling reminder of our responsibility as Christians: we must make the best presentation of the gospel that we can make. Of course, we are limited in our ability—every one of us, the clever and the not so bright. Our Lord knows this and works around our limitations. But we are responsible to do our best.2
Studying techniques at proper approach and presentation, in other words making your arguments not simply sound but persuasive, is known as rhetoric. Rhetoric is probably a more difficult skill to learn than even understanding the arguments themselves, as there is no one pattern that fits every person or every occasion. It's as much art as science, and it requires the rhetorician to be as good a listener as he is a speaker.

This isn't to say rhetoric cannot be taught. Many techniques do exist to make your case more persuasive. Sire's book is a great place to star to learn how to be more winsome and persuasive in presenting your case for Jesus.

When Jesus sent out his disciples in Matthew 10, he told them, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Learning rhetoric is obeying his command to be wise in the midst of wolves. Make sure you take some time to learn persuasiveness as well as the facts.


1. Sire, James W. Why Good Arguments Often Fail: Making a More Persuasive Case for Christ. Downers Grove, IL: IVP /InterVarsity, 2006. Print. 73.
2. Sire, 2006. 73-74.

1 comment:

  1. I thought you were going to say the Holy Spirit. That's what really makes people listen to argument. You'll always be ignored and rejected unless the Holy Spirit steps in.


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