Evangelism and apologetics fail in our time — here’s the social science explaining why


What I see of evangelism and apologetics are essentially debate tactics and marketing strategies. In other words, they tend to speak to less than the full scope of human experience, so by themselves they cannot convert humans.

Granted, I’m looking at evangelism and apologetics through a skeptical lens right now, and I’m looking at persuasion as an ongoing subject for learning and research.

I want to learn good persuasion strategies to attract my university students to topics I think they need to know, and I want to learn bad persuasion strategies to filter the political, advertising, and religious messages. (I’m spending more time on that general project at TwistedSpeech.com.)

What’s missing from evangelism and apologetics? Probably a long-game perspective (instead of a quick-sell agenda), but most certainly attunement. And my guess is, attunement is missing from attempts at evangelism and apologetics because attunement probably takes time.

We Americans, we Westerners, myself absolutely included, love technologies of any sort — mechanical technologies, political technologies, psychological technologies. We like to set up assembly lines, literally and metaphorically, and then to sit back and watch the work get done. Technology is not unlike magic.

Thinking of persuasion, how can I forget: The Apostle Paul once wrote to the early Christians in ancient Galatia, referring to them as, “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

I doubt anyone can “form” anything inside another person without cultivating real empathy and attunement.

Daniel Pink explains attunement in part of the below short video from The RSA.

Are Pink’s “attunement, buoyancy, and clarity,” as described in the below video, their own technologies? Maybe so. But I think attunement requires some genuine humanity, corresponding to the best of reality, whereas some psychological technologies are attempts to “subdue reality to the wishes of men.”

(Also see this Jacques Ellul passage on Christianity as propaganda.)

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