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Why Good Arguments Often Fail: Making a More Persuasive Case for Christ Paperback – February 22, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (February 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830833811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830833818
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Features & Benefits

* Shows why good arguments may fail to persuade

* Gives advice on understanding your audience

* Gives advice on strengthening your argument

* Includes an annotated bibliography of resources

From the Author

Why did you decide Christians needed a book like Why Good Arguments Often Fail?

James Sire: The besetting sin of a Christian witness is to believe that if a Christian frames the case for Christ well, those addressed will have no reason to reject its conclusions and will readily accept Christ. In other words, good apologists win every argument they have with non-Christians. This is just not so. And thinking it is leads to frustration, discouragement and, worse, an attack on the moral character of those they have tried unsuccessfully to persuade. One of the subtitles I toyed with was An Antidote for Discouraged Apologists.

On the positive side, I wanted to help Christians hone their skills at arguing well. The book contains examples of both successes and failures.


More About the Author

Born on a ranch on the rim of the Nebraska Sandhills, James W. Sire has been an officer in the Army, a college professor of English literature, philosophy and theology, the chief editor of InterVarsity Press (a Christian publisher of books for thoughtful readers), a lecturer at over two hundred universities in the U.S., Canada, Eastern and Western Europe and Asia, and the author of twenty books on literature, philosophy and the Christian faith. His book The Universe Next Door, published in 1976 and now in its fifth edition, has sold over 350,000 copies and has been translated into 18 foreign languages. He holds a B.A. in chemistry and English from the University of Nebraska, an M.A. in English from Washington State College (now University) and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri. His memoir is The Rim of the Sandhills (eBook on Kindle and Nook). His most recent book is Echoes of a Voice (Cascade, 2014), an in-depth analysis of signals of transcendence, those sudden, unbidden, unexpected, strange experiences that point to the Presence of a realm beyond the material.


Customer Reviews

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This book seeks to answer those questions.
Amazon Customer
Sires has split his book into three major categories: Common Logical Fallacies, Good Arguments That Often Fail, Good Arguments That Work.
Jeffrey R. E. Morgan
It is a handy guide that covers most apologetic issues in great detail.
Roger N. Overton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
James Sire has been involved in Christian apologetics for quite some time now. His classic work, The Universe Next Door, first penned in 1976, is now in its fourth edition and has sold over a quarter-million copies. His many years of speaking and writing about apologetics in many different countries makes him an authority on the subject.

Yet he asks, like many of us may have, why do my arguments seem to fail? Why am I not more effective? Why do so many seem to reject the message?

This book seeks to answer those questions. While there are of course spiritual dynamics at work, often our arguments are simply not very good. Or perhaps we are offensive and unloving in our presentations. Or perhaps we have not done our homework. Or maybe we lack sufficient knowledge of who our audience is.

Sire focuses here on how we can better make our case, and how we can avoid common pitfalls. Thus he first examines flawed arguments and common fallacies we often make when seeking to defend the faith. He looks at faulty arguments which both believers and non-believers can make. There is plenty of fuzzy thinking and poor reasoning ability to go around, it seems. Yet Sire reminds believers that we need to do the best we can as we make our case for faith. The involves the effort needed to think clearly and analyse worldviews and arguments carefully.

Secondly he examines what makes for a good argument, and why it may be rejected. How can we learn from our mistakes and more successfully engage our unbelieving friends? What is that keeps good reasoning from being accepted? Sometimes they way we present our case is the problem. We may be abrasive or arrogant or condescending. The way we deliver the message can often be as important as the message itself.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Roger N. Overton on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Some how many Christians have adopted the notion that if they put forward the right arguments for Christian truth claims (such as God's existence or Christ's resurrection), then they can persuade any person to become a Christian. These Christians are often disappointed and dismayed when they're best efforts seems to go no where. Dr. James W. Sire explores why this is the case in Why Good Arguments Often Fail.

The book is divided in three parts consisting of 12 chapters. Part 1 examines the most common logical fallacies by reflecting on a "Love is a Fallacy" by Max Shulman. Part 2 looks beyond logical fallacies to issues of character, perception, worldviews (naturalism and postmodernism), and sin. In Part 3, Dr. Sire offers two persuasive approaches, one from the Apostle Paul in Acts 17 and one from his own experience. The last chapter is a thorough annotated bibliography divided into ten categories.

I think there are primarily two reasons people should buy this book. The first is that Part 1 of the book is an excellent introduction to basic critical thinking. Dr. Sire takes seemingly abstract rules of logic and makes them tangible through clear explanations and applications to arguments against Christianity and even a few bad arguments Christians sometimes put forward. The second reason this book is worthwhile is for the bibliography at the end. It is a handy guide that covers most apologetic issues in great detail.

While apologetics deals primarily with intellectual issues for rejecting Christianity, almost every non-Christian (if not all) have other issues that must be dealt with. This book acknowledges this by addressing the character of the Christian evangelist and the "moral blindness" of the non-Christian.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephan Stuecklin on July 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
James Sire begins with a story that helps outline logical failures in arguments, but then moves to the perhaps more critical areas of reading one's audience and understanding the effect of one's argument. He offers an array of answers for his title question, without ever forgetting to focus on the necessity of going out and witnessing and of remembering that the Holy Spirit ultimately convinces unbelievers. All in all, a rapidly read and very digestible book that will speak to and encourage all Christians, from those who love to talk about Jesus to those unsure about sharing their faith.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Johnson on December 21, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sire is well-known for his world views books. In this new one, he shares some personal stories about how to share one's faith even when argue back. He uses a lot of logic and straight thinking, and I think most readers will be appreciate his style. If you generally enjoy apologetics and doing your best to "give an answer to everyone who asks you," then I think this is a worthwhile purchase and read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey R. E. Morgan on July 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Why Good Arguments Often Fail is a work in which the author tries to lay out the case for why good sound logic can and will often fail amongst family, friends, co-worker, acquaintances, and anyone you may not know. In our current culture, why is it that making a sound, reasoned argument for believing in Christ can seem to go nowhere? It may not be for the reasons you think.

Sires has split his book into three major categories: Common Logical Fallacies, Good Arguments That Often Fail, Good Arguments That Work.

Fallacies, which are deceptive, misleading, and false notions or beliefs, are spoken about in the first section.

One common fallacy, called an Unqualified Generalization is all about making statements that are so broadly defined that on the surface they seem true but with more careful consideration they really are not.

The examples used to describe these fallacies are true to life stories that anyone could have experienced in life. In my own dealings with friends and acquaintances I have seen first hand the various scenarios played out before my own eyes.

The author details the reasons why making certain arguments fail and the reasons or causes why things are this way. A principle stated in the book notes, "Valid, well substantiated arguments presented with arrogance, aggression or an overly clever attitude are often not heard clearly enough to attract the attention they deserve", (p 74)

The old adage may apply here: its not so much what you say but HOW you say it that matters. After reading the book I sum it up this way: if what you say matters, the way you say it REALLY matters.

This book resonated with me because it lays out its case for how to analyze the arguments of one's self and others.
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