I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what people find convincing. In this post about the Chick-fil-a craziness Mike Patz says “I’ve never seen people change via argument, which is why I prefer to help people taste and see that the Lord is good.” (The post is a great take on the issue, by the way).
As I’ve been speaking with folks and asking them what they think of Jesus I hear a wide range of responses and I try to think through what might make sense to them, how to help them “taste and see” that the Lord is good. I don’t think I’m just putting forth arguments, but I can’t really know for sure. Often I’ll be met with something to the effect of “Yeah, that’s interesting…I’m not sure.” Which is probably grounds for future conversations, although sometimes I’m talking to a stranger in a mall and that’s not something they’re interested in.
I think that helping people taste and see is all about the Gospel: the notion that we are drowning already and no amount of swimming will get us to shore but God in his love and mercy has provided us a way in Christ to stop trying to earn/deserve our redemption but to merely receive it. Additionally I think this is most often expressed in long term relationships, though I hope and pray that it is not impossible to communicate this truth in brevity as well.
The larger question that looms for me is where does traditional Christian apologetics stand in this process of tasting and seeing? I feel it has a place, somewhere in the beginning most likely. To extend the food analogy, perhaps apologetics can help our friends who are unwilling to try a strange new dish (because it seems unlikely to be any good or has been labeled dangerous) to step out on a limb. We help them see that the idea of the Gospel is both rational and fantastic (a true fairy tale, as C.S. Lewis has said). Then, later we take them out to the actual meal, once they have whet their appetite.
This might be church, but it just as easily might not be. If your friend has a major aversion to church for whatever reason it could serve them better to invite them to a home group or just to look at the Bible over coffee or something. This is the tasting and seeing part, where the Spirit is likeliest to move.
So don’t put too much faith in “argument” (not the yelling angrily sense, but the logical and sequential presentation of ideas sense) but don’t abandon the idea that people can and do change their minds when confronted with convincing reasons. How we present these reasons tends to make all the difference in the world though – as always, I suggest an unusual approach.