The Shocking Weakness of God's Truth

Should a speaker be concerned solely with truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and therefore with the strict logic and merits of his argument? Or does effective persuasion require that the speaker use whatever tricks of the trade succeed in winning others to his point of view, regardless of truth and logic? Quite obviously, speakers who are skilled in persuasion can turn the worse case into the better, truth into lies, lies into truth, good into evil, and evil into good.

Truth is crucial to persuasion, just as persuasion is crucial to truth, but it takes more than truth to be persuasive, and in the daylight between those two facts lies a gap through which every shape and size of demagogue, mountebank, trickster, con man, snake-oil salesman, and fraud can squeeze with ease.

Provocative title aside, I think the author makes a good point. I remember learning in a Psychology course that people typically don’t make decisions based on facts or arguments: they do so out of emotion and gut feelings. Facts and arguments come later as a way to justify their decision. They made the point that judges – individuals who you would hope would make up their mind solely on the basis of the law and evidence – tended to act in this very manner.

Truthfully, I think that the liberal left has been far, far better at tapping into people’s emotions and intuitive gut feelings than we have (although I don’t think it would be fair to say we’re any less guilty of trying). If you look at the big cultural issues – abortion, euthanasia, LGBT marriage and social acceptance, abortion – you’ll note that logic tends to take a back seat to the issues involved. That’s primarily evidence by way dissenters are regarded. People opposed to Euthanasia are heartless cruel monsters. People opposed to SSM are evil bigots. People opposed to abortion hate women. I don’t think anyone who seriously took the time study these issues would feel that way, but that’s just the point: no one does take the time to study those issues. When all people have is emotion, then only way they can respond is through emotion.

Anyways, if Christians and the conservative right in general want to better interact with the culture, then we need to get emotional. And, in accordance with that article, it means using the tools of persuasion that have been so effectively used against us.

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