Why Failing to Persuade Others Should Not Discourage Us
Many new apologists get right to work trying to convince others of the truth of the Christian worldview. When they meet with limited “success,” they often lose heart. A recent email to PCM expressed this view; the writer acknowledged that his inability to convince people that his faith was truth caused him to become discouraged. This discouragement often leads to doubt… and eventually to a loss of faith.
There is, of course, a certain logic to this. After all, ideas that are false – that lack persuasive power- are not likely to be accepted by others. That is one of the strengths that the 1st Amendment supports – the notion that in the marketplace of ideas, good ideas prevail while bad ones are eventually weeded out.
But implied in this understanding is the assumption that the listener will give the ideas a fair shake. If the listener has already decided not to accept the claim, even before he considers the evidence and arguments, then all the persuasiveness in the world will not alter the outcome. Moreover, if the listener is motivated by emotion rather than reason, then evidence and arguments are not likely to have an effect.
One way to test for this is to ask the listener what it would take to get him to change his view. Oftentimes, it’s not so much the person’s answer that you are looking for but the hesitation in answering, which reveals the person’s commitment to persisting in his views despite the evidence. This is especially evident when discussing “hot button” issues such as abortion. When you see hesitation, or a commitment to maintaining one’s position, then your apologetical efforts will likely prove futile.
As a prosecutor, identifying hidden biases is of great importance. The jury that is selected to consider a case must be open to hearing and fairly evaluating the evidence. Otherwise, the verdict will be a reflection of their preexisting biases and not of the truth of the underlying charge. Whether its a case of possession of marijuana, or a decision on the death penalty, it’s simply not possible to overcome strongly held biases.”verdict” doesn’t alter the truth either…
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