Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015), 270 pp.
Fads come, and fads go. Since the 1980s, there have been many apologetical and evangelistic methods emerge within Christian circles. One pops up today and disappears as fast as it showed up when a new and improved method raises on the scene. All of these methods have a single thing in common: each one implies that this approach to sharing the gospel message will work for everyone in every situation. In other words, they all advocate a cookie-cutter ideology.
Then, the inventible happens. Individuals discover that the method they were taught would work every time regardless of the scenario does not work as described to them. It is for this reason that Os Guinness did not want to write a text on apologetics. He did not want to provide the body of Christ with another method prescribing how she ought to do this and that depending on the circumstances she finds herself. Interestingly enough, Christianity Today awarded Fool’s Talk the 2016 Book of the Year in Apologetics/Evangelism. They gave Guinness’ work this award for good reasons.
Living in a post-Christian world means that people are not necessarily open to or even interested in spiritual matters as seen by followers of Christ. Many of the fads of yesteryear assume and presume that the world desires to have an encounter with a Christian so that they will find “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:16). In a fallen world, this is simply not the case; people are satisfied and comfortable where they are.
In his magnum opus, Os Guinness revisits the lost art of Christian persuasion. He provides an in-depth examination of the art and power of persuasion. This art form is not a one-size-fits-all, which is why it is a must read for believers. Guinness walks in the footsteps of gifted polemists who have gone before, such as Justin Martyr, Erasmus, Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, and C. S. Lewis.
Below are two of the multitude of places where Guinness does not hold back on why it is vital that the body of Christ recovers the lost art of persuasion that gets to the heart of the matter but likewise encourages her to take risks.
Christian communication is a communication of the gospel that is shaped by our understanding of God’s communication in Christ, just as God’s communication in Christ is shaped by God’s understanding of our hearts that God addresses in the gospel (p. 27).
If the Christian faith is true, it is true even if no one believes it, and if it is not true, it is false even if everyone believes it. The truth of the faith does not stand and fall with our defense of it.
A good or bad defense of the faith may be helpful or unhelpful, but in each case that is only corroborative. The Christian faith is not true because someone argues for it brilliantly, nor is it false because someone defends it badly. Christian faith is true or false regardless of anyone’s defense of the faith. Faith’s certainty lies elsewhere than in the rapier sharp logic or the sledgehammer power of the apologist. At the end of the day, full certainty comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit (p. 34; emphasis in original).
Os Guinness knows that God gives different gifts and abilities to the members of the body. With recovering the lost art of creative or imaginative persuasion, each Christian can use the gifts God gave to communicate the gospel when fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Jason D. Crowder