- Speaking from within that particular argument's assumptions, I think the distinction between winning the arguments and winning the audience isn't sharp. It's like asking whether a fire produces light or heat. We don't typically light candles for warmth, and we don't typically light bonfires to help us find a lost contact lens, but all fires produce both. The point I borrow from Ehninger in premise five is that argument itself brings a relationship into being. I'm not talking about building up credibility derived from expertise, and I'm not talking about Sam Harris working an audience; I'm saying William Lane Craig and Sam Harris entered into a relationship with one another by submitting to mutual correction. Argument in front of an audience is one thing, but argument between arguers, the retail version of what Craig and Harris peddle wholesale, can break down barriers of non-engagement and alienation if it's handled deftly. I should note, just to take the edge off the quip in my first three sentences that it's not necessary to win the argument for the relationship-strengthening to occur; simply conducting oneself in a respectful and secure fashion during the argument is sufficient.
- Speaking as a communication scholar, I don't think tilting the balance in favor of being more human and relational is the way to go. Richard Petty and John Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood Model locates that approach on the peripheral route, and predicts that it will result only in weak attitude change that's unlikely to persist over time, resist counterpersuasion, or shape future behavior. They say a central route approach, which involves scrutiny of evidence and reasoning, is far more likely to yield strong attitude change. Put in business terms, a peripheral route appeal can swing an impulse buy, but only a central route appeal can result in brand loyalty. The problem is, people only process persuasive messages along the central route if they agree that the subject matter is highly relevant to them, and if they are fully able to process the message. If Petty and Cacioppo are right, and a good deal of research suggests they're onto something, then the apologetic enterprise needs to allot some of its focus toward preparing listeners, as opposed to preparing appeals. That might take the form of helping people understand that what Christ did cannot be ignored, that the reality of the universe's Creator, His relationship with His creation, humanity's sinful and fallen nature, all are realities that can't be brushed aside; that money and popularity and every kind of physical pleasure numbs for a time the need to have those answers, but it never banishes them and the cost of trying to ignore them is unacceptable. It might also take the form of helping people put aside distractions, as well as grounding appeals in the most concrete, familiar, up-close illustrations possible, stripping them of every trace of church jargon. Petty and Cacioppo's model says if people have high motivation to hear the message, adequate ability to think carefully about it, and they then hear a strong, well-crafted persuasive appeal, they'll be persuaded. The persuasive effects of audience-courting like Sam Harris' antics are, praise God, short-lived and weak.
- Speaking as a Christian and a student of Christ's teachings, I look at John 6:44 and 65, and I worry that we're over-thinking this, and taking too much into our own hands. I don't have an easy answer to questions of election, irresistible grace, etc., and I think when we try to wordsmith formulas to explain God, we utterly waste our time and create more ignorance than we undo. I do take note of 1 Peter 3:15, and certainly part of the Bible's charge that I continue to grow in my faith, to abide in Christ, includes being willing and prepared to talk out my thoughts and explain to the best of my ability any of the puzzling questions that are stumping a sincere questioner. But I also believe in divine appointments, and I think the best approach to take to such encounters is to trust that whom God calls, He also equips, and that in every case He sees what people's needs are. So long as I do my best to be patient and gentle and conduct myself the way I should in other interpersonal encounters, God will take care of the rest. We don't have to pick between having our facts straight and being sufficiently warm; we're the nurses, not the doctor. God will do the prescribing, not us.
Debate. Is. Everywhere.
1 day ago