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''Guinness offers helpful discourse on the anatomy of disbelief, how to respond to it, and how to avoid compromise while charting a journey toward faith.'' --(Publishers Weekly, May 11, 2015)
''Os Guinness's books have been invaluable for the Christian church for decades. A great deal of what I know about communicating the faith in modern times I learned from him. This book does not disappoint. Unlike most books on apologetics, it addresses the actual dynamics of conversation and persuasion -- as well as providing an unusually comprehensive range of accessible and useful arguments and appeals for the truth of Christianity. I highly recommend it.'' --(Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City)
''In a battle of ideas, unlike a battle between nations, the goal is not to vanquish the opponents but to win them. Making that challenge even more difficult is that oftentimes, what we win them with is what we win them to. The art and science of dialoguing and debate must bring together the message and the method in concert. No one does this better than my colleague Os Guinness. For years I have benefited from his incisive thinking and carefully studied presentations. Here, he wisely observes that 'Our urgent need today is to reunite evangelism and apologetics, and make sure that our best arguments are directed toward winning people and not just winning arguments.' I am thrilled to see his unique thinking on these crucial subjects, co-extensive with a lifetime of doing apologetics. It is a must-read for anyone interested in engaging the skeptic or seeker. Few thinkers today rise to the level that Os does, even as he plumbs the depth of vital issues in defense of the historic Christian faith.'' --(Ravi Zacharias, author and speaker)
''Guinness is a master wordsmith, using biblical theology, logic, history, philosophy and a keen understanding of worldviews to express his insights. This book about apologetics and evangelism avoids the overused cookie-cutter approach to sharing the gospel. . . . Readers interested in apologetics and evangelism will need time and focus to absorb this profound work.'' --(John Bernstein, CBA Retailers + Resources, July 2015)
''The outcome of decades of rich reflection and fruitful ministry, Fool's Talk is a wise, creative, refreshing and unique book on the art of Christian persuasion.'' --(Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University, coauthor of Introduction to Biblical Ethics and The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas)
''Fool's Talk is a direct exposition of the inner logic and rhetoric of persuasion, showing how hearers are moved from unbelief and doubt to conviction of the truth of the Christian faith. Guinness's focus is not only on the nature of effective argument but the character, ethics and faith of the apologist. Intellectually profound and immensely practical. I loved the book. So will you.'' --(James W. Sire, author, The Universe Next Door, Echoes of a Voice and Apologetics Beyond Reason)
''There is no doubt about it, Christian apologetics is having a renaissance. Oddly though, precious little of it addresses the art of persuasion. Who better to redress this lacuna than the preeminent apologist of our times, Os Guinness. Among the many virtues of Fool's Talk is the presentation of a robust Christian faith that is not predictable. Many people are so sure they know what Christians are going to say that they don't actually listen. Guinness keeps them off-balance, much in the way Jesus' parables caught his audiences off-guard. Faced with a plethora of modern challenges, from technology to globalization to political sales talk to moral relativism, we are tempted to develop a single, safe, reactionary method -- ten steps to the punch line. Guinness does the opposite. Like G. K. Chesterton in an earlier age, Guinness reminds us that truth is quite unlikely, that is, dubious to unaided reason. He advocates a broad range of arguments, all of them imaginative, but all of them pointing to the surprising truth, the unpredictable love of God.'' --(William Edgar, professor of apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary) --This text refers to the mp3_cd edition.
About the Author
--This text refers to the mp3_cd edition.
- Publication Date : June 4, 2015
- File Size : 1003 KB
- Print Length : 273 pages
- Publisher : IVP Books (June 4, 2015)
- ASIN : B00ZJ9TJHM
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #331,553 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, “I post, therefore I am.” To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply.
As the author states, our time and our context is perhaps the greatest opportunity for Christians and Christianity since Jesus and his apostles walked the earth. But what are we doing about it? “Many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce, as deep as the human heart, as subtle as the human mind, as powerful and flexible as the range of people and issues that we meet every day in our extraordinary world in which ‘everyone is now everywhere’.”
Guinness asserts, we have lost the art of persuasion—the kind of persuasion we see modeled in Jesus, Paul, and the Old Testament prophets before them. Jesus especially had a remarkable ability to communicate to people disposed to reject him, and yet to do so in such a way that they had to see his point despite themselves. Thus, persuasion is “the art of speaking to people who, for whatever reason, are indifferent or resistant to what we have to say.”
Guinness builds his argument on three elements that have served him over his work as an apologist—a deep love of scripture, an advanced understanding of classical Greek rhetoric and his own “cloud of witnesses” (such as, Erasmus, Peter Berger, C. S. Lewis, and C. K. Chesterton) that add strength to his arguments.
Fool’s Talk introduces the reader to the art of Christian persuasion. Persuasion—that is a word I don’t hear too often. That is a word I don’t think I have ever heard within the walls of the church. Yet apologetics, and the persuasion that lies at its heart, is more important today than ever.
"We are all apologists now, and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others. The age of the Internet, it is said, is the age of the self and the selfie. The world is full of people full of themselves. In such an age, “I post, therefore I am.” To put the point more plainly, human interconnectedness in the global era has been raised to a truly global level, with unprecedented speed and on an unprecedented scale. Everyone is now everywhere, and everyone can communicate with everyone else from anywhere and at any time, instantly and cheaply."
Guinness considers our time and our context the greatest opportunity for Christians and Christianity since Jesus and his apostles walked the earth. But what are we doing about it? “Many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce, as deep as the human heart, as subtle as the human mind, as powerful and flexible as the range of people and issues that we meet every day in our extraordinary world in which ‘everyone is now everywhere’.”
What we have lost, he believes, is the art of persuasion—the kind of persuasion we see modelled in Jesus, in Paul, and in the Old Testament prophets before them. Jesus is the best example of course. He had a remarkable ability to communicate to people disposed to reject him, and yet to do so in such a way that they had to see his point despite themselves. Thus, persuasion is “the art of speaking to people who, for whatever reason, are indifferent or resistant to what we have to say.” It is the difficult and intimidating work of speaking to people who do not agree with us and are simply not open to what we have to say. And yet the Great Commission calls us to speak to them and to give them the opportunity to respond to the gospel.
One of Guinness’ great concerns about life in a digital world—and this may be a remnant of modernism—is the focus on victory. We want to win arguments and don’t care a whole lot for patient, gentle persuasion. “Our urgent need today is to reunite evangelism and apologetics, to make sure that our best arguments are directed toward winning people and not just winning arguments, and to seek to do all this in a manner that is true to the gospel itself.” That rings true in a Facebook world, doesn’t it?
It must be said that this is not a book about technique. While I believe there is a time and place for such books (my favorite is Greg Koukl’s Tactics), Guinness goes so far as to say that “Technique is the devil’s bait for the Christian persuader today, and at point after point we must turn down its seductions point blank, just as Jesus refused the tempter in the desert.” This book, then, is not technique, but persuasion. Guinness means to persuade you of the value of persuasion. And, by my assessment, he succeeds admirably.
Of all the book’s many strengths, one of the foremost must be the author’s suspicion of technique. Again, it’s not that technique is necessarily wrong, but that it can become a crutch. It can become the lazy man’s apologetics and, in that way, be very ineffective. “The desire for a surefire, foolproof approach to sharing faith is understandable—if only because there are people whom we love so much that we wish them to come to faith decisively, people we love, for whom anything short of success will seem a heartbreaking failure. That is only natural. But as we shall see repeatedly, we live in a fallen world in which any thoughts are thinkable, any arguments are arguable and any doubts are dubitable.” When we admit technique, we admit expertise. And there is a subtle danger here: “One danger of our specialized times is that apologetics will become the art of apologists talking to other apologists about apologetics, but never doing it.”
A second strength is the focus on apologetics as a lover’s defense of his beloved. We, the ones who love God, rise to his defense. “Christian advocacy is a lover’s defense, a matter of speaking out and standing up when God is framed unjustly and attacked wrongly.” It is not that God needs us, of course, but that he chooses to use us. “We therefore speak only on behalf of God, we speak under God, and we have no authority or power apart from God. The prophet’s formula is always ‘Thus says the LORD,’ and the worst indictment against the false prophets was for their presumption in claiming to speak for God when their words were entirely their own. In short, the major work in the defense of the faith is about God and by God. It is not about us, and it is not up to us.”
A fair assessment of the book will evaluate its weaknesses. But I see few beyond, perhaps, Guinness’ ecumenism. He is considerably more inclined to ecumenism than I am, and tends to draw from a wider stream of Christianity. Still, what he says is helpful and, in many cases, brilliant.
Eminently quotable and packed full of helpful insights, Fool’s Talk is a thoroughly enjoyable and remarkably helpful book. It is well-written, well-structured, and well-argued. I enthusiastically recommend it.
Top reviews from other countries
Os Guinness points out that the Internet means we are all now "apologists". Everyone (Amazon book reviewers included) is " in the business of relentless self promotion - presenting themselves , explaining themselves...sharing their inner thoughts and emotions as never before in human history". An opportunity for Christians then, but as Guinness points out whole parts of the church in the West have completely given up on evangelism while others stick to a "cookie cutter" formulaic approach as if everyone who hears the Christian message is the same. Historically, most people in the West were aware of roughly what the Christian faith is about and at least vaguely interested in hearing more. Today this is (sadly) not the case.
Guinness argues, persuasively in my view, that we have to take a different approach. After all, Jesus spoke in a very different way to the people he met - take Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman (John 3 and 4). The Lord also used many questions and often answered questions with questions. he was very patient and kind with people who just did not "get it". (Most notably his 12 disciples). So if the Son of God can take that approach certainly his followers should imitate him - rather than tending to browbeat our opponents and winning the argument but lose the war. The Christian seeking to persuade others must be relational, must ask questions (and be genuinely interested in the replies!) and must especially be honest to admit that there are some questions he or she can't answer. If you have read my other reviews you will know that the question "where did evil come from" and "why does God allow evil and suffering" are two of those. Ultimately Guinness points out "if we truly know why we trust God, then God is greater than all and God may be trusted in all situations, despite everyone and everything". This trust in God extends to how we seek to persuade others - we are all sinful, incompetent and hypocritical apologists. Fortunately, it's not up to us. We can't move anyone's opinion one millimetre, let alone bring anyone to faith. We dont fail if we fail to win others, we fail if we fail to persuade in the first place. After that its God's supernatural act to bring people to faith in himself. "If the Christian faith is true, it is true even if no one believes in it and if it is not true it is false even if everyone believes it" says Guinness.
I have a couple of minor caveats but don't let this detract from my recommendation to read an excellent book
Firstly the "title and theme" that we must become like fools seems to me a good point but it's pushed slightly too far in places I feel and I am not sure if it acts as a logical framework for the whole thread of the book's arguments. Guinness points out rightly that we not only have to be willing to look foolish and despised (the Lord Jesus in front of Pilate being the best example) but that it takes "the full folly and weakness of the cross to find us out and win us back". Remember that the cross was so unexpected and strange that even Jesus's closest friends were bewildered by it. But I wonder if the idea of the "apologist as fool" is strong enough to act as an overarching idea for the whole book. In particular I wasn't convinced by the use of Erasmus's book "The Praise of Folly" - or maybe it was over my head!
Secondly, Os Guinness rightly argues that apologetics is not only for intellectuals but for everyone. However, and in fairness this may be due to lack of space, it would have been helpful if the book spelled out in more detail what apologetics actually looks like in everyday life. Against this, there is certainly some really excellent raw material and lines of argument and discussion for talks or chats with our friends eg:-
The philosopher and atheist Thomas Nagel "It isn't just that I don't believe in God...its that I hope there is no God! I don't want the universe to be like that". Many people don't want there to be a God because it infringes their freedom to do as they wish. Its about what we want, not what actually exists (in fairness the same accusation is levelled at Christians - God is a crutch - so "15 all" I guess)
The French Christian thinker Pascal "Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid that it may be true....being unable to cure death, wretchedness and misery, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things...men cannot be too occupied and distracted and that
is why if they have some time off they spend it on diversion and sport and always keep themselves fully occupied."
There is lots more in this vein and the book is packed with useful quotes, advice and insights.
But it might have been helpful to have more about what apologetics looks like in practice "over a coffee" and in a non university/academic setting. Possibly this should be Os's next book? In any case, this book is well worth reading, like all of his writing.