- Paperback: 219 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic (June 13, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780830851775
- ISBN-13: 978-0830851775
- ASIN: 0830851771
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World Paperback – June 13, 2017
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"In a world marked more by incivility and talking past each other than respectful engagement, Winsome Persuasion is a refreshing consideration of how to pursue genuine engagement with those with whom we may have deep ideological and theological differences. Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer speak not just from a theoretical perspective but from the lived experience of engaging those with opposing views as bearing the imago Dei―the image of God―and therefore being worthy to be seen as our neighbors, to be treated with dignity and respect. This is a great resource for all of us seeking to be the presence of Christ in the world." (Carol A. Taylor, president of Evangel University)
"After more than twenty-five years of working with college students in campus ministry, I would argue that students living in a 'post-discourse' society need all the help they can get with learning to engage others in meaningful discussion―and not just students, but everyone who desires connections with other humans that go beneath the surface. Read this book as a prayer for change in your own life and in the lives of our communities." (Ed Uszynski, Athletes in Action, Cru)
"Looking for a manual on winning arguments and scoring points in the current cultural debates? Keep looking! Winsome Persuasion is not the culture warrior's guide to winning. If, however, you hope to learn how to listen well and be heard, how to speak truth irenically, with more light than heat, keep reading. Deeply rooted in contemporary communication theory and ancient biblical wisdom, this excellent work is a wise and effective guide to speaking truth in love. For anyone who hopes to be truly persuasive in our polarized context, Muehlhoff and Langer serve as faithful guides to the work that's required to gain a hearing, to speak effectively, and to create the best possible relational environment for our words to have an impact." (J. Michael Thigpen, executive director of the Evangelical Theological Society, associate professor of Old Testament and Semitics, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University)
"Muehlhoff and Langer have produced a book well worth the time of any Christian who wants to be real salt and light in a difficult, pluralistic world. To be sure, not only is Winsome Persuasion grounded wonderfully in the Scriptures and current communication theory, but the writing is crisp, the examples and illustrations are entrancing, and the usefulness is immediate and profound. This is the perfect book for church leaders and thoughtful laypersons to read and study together." (Craig J. Hazen, director of the graduate program in Christian apologetics, Biola University, author of Five Sacred Crossings)
"This is an amazing book! Muehlhoff and Langer merge the best of rhetorical theory, biblical witness, and the stories of caring members in Christian counterpublics who have transformed their communities. It's not a book for those who argue, accuse, or insist that 'my way is Yahweh.' Instead, the authors model what they advocate: winsome persuasion." (Em Griffin, author of A First Look at Communication Theory)
"Winsome Persuasion could not be a more timely book! In our increasingly hostile and fractured world, followers of Jesus are needed who embrace their role as peacemakers and ministers of reconciliation. But how? Muehlhoff and Langer are incredibly helpful in that regard. This book shows us what cultural engagement can look like; wise, honest, compassionate, and helpful discourse is more important now than ever. Weaving together strands of multiple disciplines, Winsome Persuasion is a rare book that more than delivers on its title. Highly, highly recommended." (Mike Erre, author of Astonished)
"The American public square is now more cantankerous and less civil than perhaps any time in the modern era. How should a Christian live and speak hope without merely adding more noise? Muehlhoff and Langer's book Winsome Persuasion casts a positive vision for a way forward and indeed models it. This is a book whose time has come." (Jonathan Merritt, contributing writer for The Atlantic, author of Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined)
"In this age of shrill and often hateful public rhetoric, Muehlhoff and Langer's Winsome Persuasion is a breath of fresh air; wise, warm hearted, and well researched, its advice for speaking Christianly in the public square could not be more timely." (Thomas M. Crisp, professor of philosophy, Biola University)
"Following the presidential election of 2016, it was declared that we are now living in a 'post-truth' world. With the dominance of social media where echo chambers are nearly unavoidable and the rise of 'fake news'―which once would have been cast aside as nothing more than a gossip rag―is being used as evidence to support belief claims, what do people who claim absolute truth do to maintain active participation in the culture while maintaining a level of personal integrity that does not feed into the worst of stereotypes? In Winsome Persuasion, Tim Muehlhoff and Rick Langer present both the challenge and a plan for how Christians can regain credibility and speak persuasively into a world that they no longer recognize as their own. This is not a book that just lays out a problem and provides lament to the believer. Rather, it's a strategy for action. Christians do not have to be victims of an increasingly secular society, nor do we have to become the angry, hate-filled rhetors we have been portrayed to be. How we talk about the issues of our day matters. If we as Christians want to be more than political and social pawns, engaging in winsome persuasion may be the best way to present the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ while creating space to be heard and taken seriously." (Joy E. A. Qualls, chair, department of communication studies, Biola University)
"Winsome Persuasion paints an intricately detailed picture of an American public square growing more and more fragmented and frustrated as her citizens entrench themselves along ideological lines. Far from leaving us in despair, though, Muehlhoff and Langer offer incisive exhortations to Christian communities to strive to heal our national divides through Christlike compassion and countercultural communication." (John W. Yates II, rector, The Falls Church Anglican)
About the Author
Tim Muehlhoff (PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California, where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, persuasion, and gender. He is the author of I Beg to Differ and Marriage Forecasting, and the coauthor of The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith and Authentic Communication: Christian Speech Engaging Culture. Muehlhoff and his wife, Noreen, are frequent speakers at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences, and he has served with Campus Crusade since 1986. They live in Brea, California, with their three boys.
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“We write this book in the hopes of helping Christians engage in helpful and constructive public conversations - even when talking to people with whom we radically disagree” (Page 7).
Chapter 6, “Delivering Your Message,” provides several examples where the authors meld biblical teaching and principles together with practical application of its content. The chapter’s conclusion notes:
“‘Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed’ (Prov. 15:22). In this chapter you’ve received counsel on the many steps – choosing a persona, identifying with your audience, providing evidence, starting with a third story – to delivering an effective message. While it may seem like a lot to keep in perspective as you address your audience, remember this simple rule for ancient advisers: ‘A person finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word’ (Prov. 15:23). This applies not only to those imparting wisdom but also to counterpublics seeking to cultivate a timely word that fits diverse communication situations. Rather than forcing your topic on others, it is wise to allow the situation to shape your message” (Pages 122-123).
Winsome Persuasion is a practical communication resource. I have read it twice, will return to it often and highly recommend it.
This introduction gives you the game plan - as they write they book in an academic fashion: defining theories and variables and then applying those to case studies. If you're hoping to learn and get ahead of the game, this read is for you.
This incivility stems from what Deborah Tannen calls the “adversary culture,” which “urges us to approach the world — and the people in it — in an adversarial frame of mind.” According to Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer, the adversary culture writes a script for our interactions with people we disagree with that has four elements:
1. Thoughtful consideration of the other’s point of view is denounced as “compromise.”
2. Monologue is preferred to dialogue, since the latter might result in “questioning of long-held values and ideological commitments.”
3. People on the other side of a dispute must be demonized, not merely disagreed with.
The widespread use of the Internet enables the fourth element:
4. “Online disinhibition” means that “individuals feel unrestrained by normal social conventions, resulting in unfiltered communication.”
Unfortunately, in my opinion, American Christians seem as likely to read off the adversary-culture script as any other American. Doing so means we help make the public square more dangerous. It also means that our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes less effective. No one listens to bullies with bullhorns, after all.
In their new book, Winsome Persuasion, Muehlhoff and Langer make the case for Christians adopting a persuasive voice in the public square, as opposed to a prophetic or pastoral one. The persuasive voice “appeals to the common good and general revelation” and “seeks to change viewpoints or practices within the culture.” It acknowledges the fact of deep ideological disagreement, in other words, even as it seeks to change others’ ideas.
The prophetic voice, by contrast, “appeals to the revealed Word of God as final authority” and “calls for acknowledgment of sin and repentance.” It is useful when dealing with other believers who confess the Bible’s authority in their lives. However, it is ineffective when used with unbelievers who don’t have the same starting point.
The pastoral voice “appeals to shared needs and suffering” and “offers healing, nurture, and aid to those in need.” It is effective at comforting those in dire circumstances, but it does not have the power to change people’s minds. It can build bridges of compassion, of course, but it does not give opponents a reason to cross them.
The persuasive voice is especially necessary given the emerging shape of contemporary American culture. For one thing, many Christian ideas and practices are out of step with the spirit of the age. A recent Gallup poll, for example, indicates that a record number of Americans — 64 percent — support same-sex marriage. In 1997, that number was 27 percent. This sea change of opinion is arguably the greatest on a controversial social issue in our lifetime.
For another thing, an increasing number of Americans are disavowing religion entirely. According to Pew data, the percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation — the so-called “Nones” — grew from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014. The trend is especially pronounced among younger Americans. A recent analysis of the CIRP Freshmen Survey found that 31 percent of college freshmen claim no religious affiliation, a number that has tripled since 1986.
Taken together, these two trend lines should be worrisome to Christians in America. The Christian view of marriage is now a minority opinion, and increasing numbers of people no longer view a Christian affiliation as desirable in the first place. Indeed, a Gallup poll indicates that a third of Americans view religion as “largely old fashioned and out of date.”
This is the cultural context in which American Christians are called to exercise gospel influence. If once upon a time Christians could assume that the public was with us on controversial issues, we can no longer do so. Our opinions on sexual morality and marriage, most obviously, are a minority report. We are what Muehlhoff and Langer call a “counterpublic.”
Counterpublics are characterized by “opposition, withdrawal, and engagement.” Opposition and engagement are easy to understand. The public dislikes our opinions (opposition), and we aim to change its mind (engagement). Withdrawal requires explanation. It is not quietism, the opposition of engagement. Rather, it can be likened to strategic retreat, an opportunity to rest, regroup and rethink before sallying forth again.
Muehlhoff and Langer use Aristotle’s three categories of rhetoric to help Christian counterpublics understand how to persuade the American public on the issues where they disagree. According to them, a persuasive message “is rooted in three factors: the logic of the argument (logos), the speaker’s ability to project a trustworthy persona (ethos), and the speaker’s ability to awaken the emotions of the audience (pathos).” Christian credibility in the public square depends on whether the public views us as credible messengers of a credible message couched in terms they understand and can be persuaded by.
The authors conclude their book with recommendations on how Christian counterpublics can respond to LGBT issues. Christianity’s stance on sexual morality and marriage is arguably the thing that most makes American Christians a counterpublic today. If we’re going to engage the public effectively on LGBT issues — or other hotly contested social issues — we need to think through the kinds of issues Winsome Persuasion so deftly examines.