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In our post-Christian context, public life has become markedly more secular while private life infinitely more diverse. Yet many Christians still rely on cookie-cutter approaches to evangelism and apologetics. Most of these methods assume that people are open, interested and needy for spiritual insight when increasingly most people are not. Our urgent need, then, is the ca In our post-Christian context, public life has become markedly more secular while private life infinitely more diverse. Yet many Christians still rely on cookie-cutter approaches to evangelism and apologetics. Most of these methods assume that people are open, interested and needy for spiritual insight when increasingly most people are not. Our urgent need, then, is the capacity to persuade to make a convincing case for the gospel to people who are not interested in it. In his magnum opus, Os Guinness offers a comprehensive presentation of the art and power of creative persuasion. Christians have often relied on proclaiming and preaching, protesting and picketing. But we are strikingly weak in persuasion--the ability to talk to people who are closed to what we are saying. Actual persuasion requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Guinness notes, "Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we." Following the tradition of Erasmus, Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge, Guinness demonstrates how apologetic persuasion requires both the rational and the imaginative. Persuasion is subversive, turning the tables on hearers' assumptions to surprise them with signals of transcendence and the plausibility of the gospel. This book is the fruit of forty years of thinking, honed in countless talks and discussions at many of the leading universities and intellectual centers of the world. Discover afresh the persuasive power of Christian witness, from one of the leading apologists and thinkers of our era."


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In our post-Christian context, public life has become markedly more secular while private life infinitely more diverse. Yet many Christians still rely on cookie-cutter approaches to evangelism and apologetics. Most of these methods assume that people are open, interested and needy for spiritual insight when increasingly most people are not. Our urgent need, then, is the ca In our post-Christian context, public life has become markedly more secular while private life infinitely more diverse. Yet many Christians still rely on cookie-cutter approaches to evangelism and apologetics. Most of these methods assume that people are open, interested and needy for spiritual insight when increasingly most people are not. Our urgent need, then, is the capacity to persuade to make a convincing case for the gospel to people who are not interested in it. In his magnum opus, Os Guinness offers a comprehensive presentation of the art and power of creative persuasion. Christians have often relied on proclaiming and preaching, protesting and picketing. But we are strikingly weak in persuasion--the ability to talk to people who are closed to what we are saying. Actual persuasion requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Guinness notes, "Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we." Following the tradition of Erasmus, Pascal, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge, Guinness demonstrates how apologetic persuasion requires both the rational and the imaginative. Persuasion is subversive, turning the tables on hearers' assumptions to surprise them with signals of transcendence and the plausibility of the gospel. This book is the fruit of forty years of thinking, honed in countless talks and discussions at many of the leading universities and intellectual centers of the world. Discover afresh the persuasive power of Christian witness, from one of the leading apologists and thinkers of our era."

30 review for Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Mentioned positively here: We cannot treat our unbelieving neighbors as people with clear-cut "worldviews" that require prefabricated answers from a worldview camp or textbook. Mentioned positively here: We cannot treat our unbelieving neighbors as people with clear-cut "worldviews" that require prefabricated answers from a worldview camp or textbook.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Jones

    One of the best books on Christian persuasion I have read. Guinness is very smart, interacting with all sorts of books and men. But he is also clear and well organized. He is not trying to overwhelm you with his scholarship, which makes this book accessible to almost anyone. One point that stuck with me is that people don't want to hear us. I often enter a situation with a non-believer and even liberal Christians assuming that they care, that I already have their ear. But I don't. People need to One of the best books on Christian persuasion I have read. Guinness is very smart, interacting with all sorts of books and men. But he is also clear and well organized. He is not trying to overwhelm you with his scholarship, which makes this book accessible to almost anyone. One point that stuck with me is that people don't want to hear us. I often enter a situation with a non-believer and even liberal Christians assuming that they care, that I already have their ear. But I don't. People need to be persuaded. Christian persuasion is the art of moving people through various means to where they they want to hear our message even if they end up rejecting it. His chapter titled "The Anatomy of Unbelief" was excellent. He looks at unbelief through numerous different lenses. By the time you reach the end of the chapter you feel like the doctor has given a thorough diagnosis of the diseases. Another great chapter was the one entitled "Kissing Judases." Guinness hammers the post-modern relativity within the church and notes that the hardest apologetic work needs to be done within her walls. He lays out the four steps of compromise: assumptions change (often unknowingly), abandonment of old values, adaption of doctrine and life, finally assimilation of the sinful culture but calling it "Christian." Again the chapter is well outlined and clear. I thought his point about apologetics within the church was good one. Many of the greatest enemies of the faith are those who call themselves Christians. Finally his chapter on the stages by which someone comes to the faith is very helpful. A person begins by questioning their current beliefs, moves to looking for a new answer, then zeros in on one particular answer to investigate, and finally commits to that answer. At each stage Guinness helps the reader understand what the "seeker" needs at that point. He also makes a nice distinction in this chapter between a "browser/channel surfer" and a "seeker." A seeker is someone whose previous beliefs have been shaken and is seriously looking for answers. A browser is someone who really doesn't care that much. Instead of surfing channels, they surf churches or faiths. Our approach to browsers must be different from seekers. A browser must be brought to a place where they care first. A seeker already cares. Guinness nicely balances man's unbelief with the power of the Holy Spirit, the need for rational explanations of the Christian faith, and the need for good answer to objections. All pastors, Christians professors, Sunday School teachers, and even those who don't teach could benefit greatly from reading this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mathew

    Buy Fool’s Talk Now Os begins by setting out two propositions: first, we are in “the grand age of apologetics” (16) and second, “We have lost the art of Christian persuasion and we must recover it”(17 italics original). His game plan? Bringing together the art of apologetic and evangelism. Divorce the two and you get Christians only concerned with winning arguments and not people or just concerned with ABC repeat-after-me tactics. When the two are combined, you have arguments that take other’s be Buy Fool’s Talk Now Os begins by setting out two propositions: first, we are in “the grand age of apologetics” (16) and second, “We have lost the art of Christian persuasion and we must recover it”(17 italics original). His game plan? Bringing together the art of apologetic and evangelism. Divorce the two and you get Christians only concerned with winning arguments and not people or just concerned with ABC repeat-after-me tactics. When the two are combined, you have arguments that take other’s belief seriously, are actually concerned for people, and are aimed at the heart. I’m a recovering ABC repeat-after-me evangelists and grew up in a tradition that could be manipulative when inviting people to Christ. So even though in my head I know persuasion isn’t bad sometimes I find myself suspicious when the word pops up in the context of evangelism. If you’re like me, you might have thought, Shouldn’t we just proclaim the gospel and allow the Spirit to work? What I loved most of all was how cruciform and Spirit-dependent Os was through out Fool’s Talk. He made clear our arguments rest on the cross of Christ which is folly to an unbelieving world and the power of the Spirit (28). Persuasion doesn’t mean deception or cheesy bait-and-switch tactics. It means approaching apologetics-evangelism with excellence like we would anything else. All the while admitting: Our work is important, but at best our part is to bring the presence of God into the debate through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to remember that we are no more than junior counsels for the defense. . . . Balaam’s ass is the patron saint of apologetics. (58, 60) Read the entire review here

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Guinness argues for the recovery of the lost art of persuasion that combines good apologetic work with evangelism and is aware of the many people Christians address who are not open to their message. This is a book that Os Guinness has been preparing for a lifetime to write. Throughout his life, Guinness has been presenting the Christian faith in the public square, not only with the interested but also those who are not, those who would oppose or are disinterested in the Christian messag Summary: Guinness argues for the recovery of the lost art of persuasion that combines good apologetic work with evangelism and is aware of the many people Christians address who are not open to their message. This is a book that Os Guinness has been preparing for a lifetime to write. Throughout his life, Guinness has been presenting the Christian faith in the public square, not only with the interested but also those who are not, those who would oppose or are disinterested in the Christian message and worldview. The book reflects a summation of the lessons he has learned and his urgent sense that the pressing need for Christian witness today is a recovery of the lost art of Christian persuasion. We know how to proclaim and we know how to protest. But do we know how to persuade those with whom we differ, engaging both minds and hearts? He contends that often we settle for mere technique, whether that be "canned" evangelistic presentations, or "canned" arguments for the faith. This often is not enough because such approaches assume the interest of the person with whom we engage. Yet to persist in the work of persuading is urgent for those who love God because our enemy seeks to rob God of glory either by questioning his existence or by impugning God with the blame for humanity's problems. He argues that we take the approach used by Erasmus in The Praise of Folly, becoming the "holy fool" a kind of court jester representing the kingdom of heaven pointing out the follies of unbelief, and perhaps at times following the holiest fool of all, the Lord Jesus. [Having read and reviewed this biography of Erasmus recently, my interest is piqued to read In Praise of Folly!] He then plunges into considering the anatomy of unbelief, and how often it is ultimately not simply an intellectual incapacity to believe, but a heart-driven unwillingness to believe because of what this would mean for one's life. This calls for different forms of persuasion depending on the person. It may mean the turning of tables on them, pressing them to the ultimate conclusions of their beliefs (for example, "relativizing the relativizers"), if they are a person who prides themselves on consistency. For others, less consistent, it may be exploring the disturbing "signals of transcendence" that point to a reality other than can be explained by their worldview. The challenge is bringing a person to a place of facing the inadequacy of the belief they've embraced to be willing to consider something different. The latter chapters consist of several warnings for the advocate of Christian faith. One is the "know-it-all" attitude that is not characterized by a humility before truth. Another is hypocrisy in one's life where one's claims and one's character fail to match up. And finally, he warns of the ways we may betray the faith. The four step process of embracing an assumption of modern life as superior, abandoning all that does not square with this, adapting whatever faith is left around this, and finally assimilating into the culture. What Guinness points out is the danger in our efforts to engage with the culture, that if we are not clear on what must be central and unchanging, that we will make fatal compromises. Perhaps the most significant idea here, and one worth further development, is this idea of the "holy fool." As Guinness observes, there have been some, like Erasmus, G.K. Chesterton, Pascal, Muggeridge, and Lewis, who with wit, humor, and incisive argument point out the weaknesses and follies of others while commending by persuasion and a kind of winsome humility the transforming nature of Christian faith. Such an approach takes both truth and people seriously, engaging heart and mind, not with canned approaches or sterile arguments, but warm-hearted persuasion that gives people reasons for heart, soul, mind and strength to love God more than all else. One might ask, "where is God in all this?", and at points this seems like a book on the Christian rhetorician's art, and this alone is all that is needed. What Guinness reminds us of, is that while the Christian communicator always is dependent of the work of God in those with whom they communicate, the person may often only become aware of this as they come to the place of commitment. He writes, and with this I'll conclude: "Intriguingly, this fourth stage of the journey is often when God's presence becomes plain for the first time. The wholehearted step of faith of the new believer is far more than simply his or her own step. At one moment a seeker making her commitment knows as she has never known anything before that she is more responsible for the step of faith than for any other choice in life, and that she has never been more fully herself than in taking it. But the next moment she knows too that the One she thought was the goal was all along the guide as well. She knows that she has not so much found God as that God has found her. All the time the seeker thought she was seeking, but actually she was being sought, for God can only be known with the help of God. 'The hound of heaven,' as the poet Francis Thompson called God, has tracked the seeker down" (p. 248).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    Like so many other writers that I've read before, I have to say that I cannot believe I am just now discovering the writing of Os Guiness -- this even after having earned a graduate degree in Christian apologetics. This is a well-done and engaging attempt at proposing a comprehensive and cohesive apologetic that draws on philosophy, literature, art, and the task of communicating the core gospel message.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Outstanding. This is probably the best book on apologetics I have read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Bruyn

    A very unusual and extremely perceptive work on apologetics and evangelism, and the need to adapt and synthesise approaches.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    After seeing Dr. Guinness be interviewed on this book, I put it on my reading list. I am so glad I did. This is the best book that I have read on how to 'do' apologetics. One of the things that I respect the most about Dr. Guinness is how he promised the Lord in his early twenties that he would not write a book on how to do apologetics until he had done apologetics for many years. True to his promise, I believe the Lord blessed him in his ministry because of that. His pattern of using this fivef After seeing Dr. Guinness be interviewed on this book, I put it on my reading list. I am so glad I did. This is the best book that I have read on how to 'do' apologetics. One of the things that I respect the most about Dr. Guinness is how he promised the Lord in his early twenties that he would not write a book on how to do apologetics until he had done apologetics for many years. True to his promise, I believe the Lord blessed him in his ministry because of that. His pattern of using this fivefold approach to apologetics at Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Cross, & the Holy Spirit is a great tool to remember. I really enjoyed his illustrations. Even though it is a book for Christians I would actually be comfortable handing this book to non-Christians because he can't help but show how rational and beautiful the faith is. He shows the emptiness of the secular life and how the Christian faith really is the hope of the world. Lastly, in our age of choosing between an evidentialist approach versus a presuppositionalist approach, I appreciated how he challenged Christians to have a both/and perspective in using both approaches when appropriate. If you read one book in your life on how to do apologetics in the 21st century then please read this one!

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Huff

    I have long enjoyed reading Os Guinness, and found "Fool's Talk" to be both a clever title and a very helpful apologetics resource. One caveat: as Guinness himself warns early on, don't expect this book to be a "how-to" primer for either apologetics or evangelism. "Fool's Talk" is, instead, a rich seminar on persuasion rather than just preaching, enriched from 50+ years of experience on the author's part, as well as numerous quotes and ideas from Christian thinkers and apologists across the cent I have long enjoyed reading Os Guinness, and found "Fool's Talk" to be both a clever title and a very helpful apologetics resource. One caveat: as Guinness himself warns early on, don't expect this book to be a "how-to" primer for either apologetics or evangelism. "Fool's Talk" is, instead, a rich seminar on persuasion rather than just preaching, enriched from 50+ years of experience on the author's part, as well as numerous quotes and ideas from Christian thinkers and apologists across the centuries. Guinness points out that, in this present post-Christian age (so-called), "we are all apologists now" -- with many opportunities to speak with people who, frankly, often don't at all want to hear what we have to say. One of the biggest take-aways for me was how well he distinguishes between evangelism and apologetics, and discerning which is needed in any conversation with an unbeliever. Well worth reading, with much helpful material to think about as we interact with a skeptical world!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Robinson

    This is my first Guinness book but it won't be my last. Guinness is making the argument that in order to communicate to a very changing culture our forms of apologetics must change. Not the content, mind you, and the author goes to great lengths to defend that. Instead he makes the seemingly obvious point that the postmodern culture we are living in doesn't respond well to straightforward argument (he details why) and then offers some insightful ideas on how to actually reach skeptics in our cul This is my first Guinness book but it won't be my last. Guinness is making the argument that in order to communicate to a very changing culture our forms of apologetics must change. Not the content, mind you, and the author goes to great lengths to defend that. Instead he makes the seemingly obvious point that the postmodern culture we are living in doesn't respond well to straightforward argument (he details why) and then offers some insightful ideas on how to actually reach skeptics in our culture. I found this book challenging but ultimately encouraging. A must for anyone seeking to understand how to better reach our peers with the unchanging gospel of Christ.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    Picked this up for a men's study which I ended up attending sporadically. Nevertheless, the chapters I did read were articulate and convicting. (The one on "turning the tables" is particularly good.) I plan to revisit the book more thoroughly in future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    I think this was promoted as the "magnum opus" of Os Guinness, and I'd say that I can see why. I already want to read it again. A compelling read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    The idea that Christians today have lost the art of Christian persuasion is not easy to read but it was very convicting and enlightening. Guinness addresses some of the issues I've wrestled with--answering hypocrisy, how do we even try to convince people who don't want to hear? (He never gives a short, straightforward answer). And doesn't rhetoric get in the way?--Paul said he didn't use flowery speech. Shouldn't we just trust the Holy Spirit and say whatever? The writing isn't quick and easy tho The idea that Christians today have lost the art of Christian persuasion is not easy to read but it was very convicting and enlightening. Guinness addresses some of the issues I've wrestled with--answering hypocrisy, how do we even try to convince people who don't want to hear? (He never gives a short, straightforward answer). And doesn't rhetoric get in the way?--Paul said he didn't use flowery speech. Shouldn't we just trust the Holy Spirit and say whatever? The writing isn't quick and easy though the anecdotes/references and quotes are pleasant enough to illustrate. My favorite aspect is the use of scripture to consider God's rhetoric. "The Word became flesh and spoke in human form as one of us, though incognito and in a disguise that fooled us and made Fools of us. And all this was because he had to, as there was no other way to subvert the stubbornness of our sinful disobedience and teach our hearts." This book doesn't tell you outright HOW to persuade specifically in steps. He makes us aware of the importance of rhetoric as well as its limitations. He discusses how revisionism happens and has helped to erode perception of the Christian message, some techniques for helping turn nonbeliever thinking on its head with questions and other methods employed through prophets and Jesus and apostles. However, he doesn't give easy answers for how to winsomely persuade. It was definitely more theoretical, but that's NOT a bad thing! Ultimately, I'm confronted and convicted by reading it. I do a poor job helping people from the path of totally closed to the gospel to committed believer. But I do believe I'm better aware of things for having read it. I will need to reread sections to nail down the ideas a little more. And mainly just listen to people.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Philliber

    Slick spin and polished patois throb and thud their way through every aspect of American society. Whether it’s left or right, liberal or conservative, revisionist or traditionalist, each group has its own particular guild-talk and encoded lingo that fulfills and fortifies their respective self-perceptions. On top of this, much of our communication has become self-serving and self-absorbed, as we post and present and publish our blogs, statuses, thoughts and tweets. As all of this self-important Slick spin and polished patois throb and thud their way through every aspect of American society. Whether it’s left or right, liberal or conservative, revisionist or traditionalist, each group has its own particular guild-talk and encoded lingo that fulfills and fortifies their respective self-perceptions. On top of this, much of our communication has become self-serving and self-absorbed, as we post and present and publish our blogs, statuses, thoughts and tweets. As all of this self-important and self-fulfilling hype clouds our associations, “social” media and society what, then, happens to the Gospel? Increasingly it falls into the trap of just being another slice of profile-raising that craves all the “Likes” it can garner. In “Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion” Os Guinness, author, editor, and founder and past senior fellow of the Trinity Forum, has compiled a 270 page hardback to help Christians remedy the situation. It is a book about apologetics, but more than apologetics. It is about evangelism, but more than evangelism. It is concerned with Christian persuasion that is an advocacy of the heart, “an existential approach to sharing our faith” that is “deeper and more faithful as well as more effective than the common approaches used by many,” that is less concerned with winning the argument and more focused on “winning hearts and minds and people” (18). Throughout “Fool's Talk” it is clear that Guinness is not presenting a pre-packaged, cookie-cutter program. The author is making a case for keeping apologetics and evangelism, proclamation and persuasion together (27). But he is also cultivating the important mindset of humility. As he wisely states, 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” (58). To have this as a settled condition of the heart relieves the Gospel presenter and defender from the need to close the sell or win the debate, and instead it frees them up to care about the person or persons they are conversing with. But it seems to me that Guinness is up to something bigger in “Fool’s Talk” than just stressing the value and importance of keeping apologetics and evangelism together. He appears to be doing three other, very important things in the book. First, the author challenges Western Christianity’s attraction toward modernism and postmodernism; the “breathless idolizing of such modern notions as change, relevance, innovation and being on the right side of history,” especially in the areas of time and technique (30). The new forms of “toxic syncretism” that spread “cowardice and compromise,” kowtowing to the pollster as king and data as all decisive, where “truth and falsehood, right and wrong, wise and foolish must give way to statistics, opinion surveys and pie charts,” that becomes “compatible with anything and everything, and so means nothing” (209-27). The importance of this challenge reminds us that if the truth of Christianity is true no matter what, then we don’t have to be captured by relevance as society defines relevance; and it reminds us that we will need to be just as focused on persuasion with those inside Christianity as we are toward those outside. Along with this, the author will not leave Christians in a self-congratulatory position. Guinness, rightly it seems to me, persuasively subverts our propensity to whitewash our own failings. He defies our need to always be right, to win at all costs, whether with “showy exhibitionist rhetoric or ruthless streamrollering” (170). But more importantly, he lays open our own fault in the crumbling influence of Christianity in the West by pointing out how our own hypocrisies have undermined the Gospel; “Atheists gain their main emotive force not by setting out the purported glories of their worldview, ( . . . ), but in attacking the evils and excesses of Christians and Christendom. Something has surely gone terribly wrong when Christians are the best atheist arguments against the Christian faith and Christendom their best arguments for atheism” (204). Therefore Guinness points to the rightness of confession and repentance; “Plainly, there is a time in our arguments to confess, and confession and changed lives have to be a key part of our arguments” (206). Finally, Guinness lays out the composition of unbelief; not for the purposes of excuse-making or ridiculing, but to show how the heart, mind and life are engaged in unbelief, and so “we must always need to be ready to go beyond purely rational arguments, for the human will is in play, so our arguments are never dealing with purely neutral or disinterested minds” (94). This means, for the author, that though Jesus is the only way to God, yet there are many ways people come to Jesus (232). He spends two significant chapters unpacking this, “Triggering the Signals” and “Charting the Journey”. In both of these chapters he shows the important place that signals of transcendence have in bringing others to start looking and searching beyond their presuppositions and assurances, and journey toward the moment when they will either take to their heels, or fall on their knees (250). The author is promoting a thoughtful charitableness that should pervade all Christian advocacies. “Fool’s Talk” is about reclaiming and recovering the lost art of Christian persuasion. Guinness works masterfully to inspire Christians toward that end, but not through craft or technique. Instead, it is an advocacy of the heart, the face-to-face loving others who are in the image of God, seeking to persuade them with true truth that is life changing, even life changing for the persuader! I recommend this book. My deep appreciation goes to IVP Books for the free copy of the book used for this review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Nelms

    Fantastic book. After 40 years of apologetics, Os Guinness finally writes his first book on apologetics. This is one of his life’s works, and it is great. He offers a balanced approach to engaging the modern culture that is at times brutally honest, very insightful and also creative. This will really help the modern Christian to begin understanding the various frameworks that lie in our 21st century Western world and how to begin laying foundations for engagement. One of my big take aways is that Fantastic book. After 40 years of apologetics, Os Guinness finally writes his first book on apologetics. This is one of his life’s works, and it is great. He offers a balanced approach to engaging the modern culture that is at times brutally honest, very insightful and also creative. This will really help the modern Christian to begin understanding the various frameworks that lie in our 21st century Western world and how to begin laying foundations for engagement. One of my big take aways is that we need less of the Christian philosopher-apologetics that we so often see, and more of the novelist and artist-apologetics. In other words, we need more GK Chestertons, CS Lewis’s, JRR Tolkien’s, etc. - desperately. We’re sorely lacking in this category, and our modern world is suffering because of it. Very recommended read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    mpsiple

    Very helpful (in places). The core concepts here are very important for understanding how Christians can communicate with people who are either indifferent or hostile to Christianity. There are useful discussions on the effects of sin on our thinking, the image of God, the logical outworkings of unbelief, and universal appetite for the transcendent. (However, he is a bit wordy - not overly complicated, just long-winded and even redundant at points. Every chapter could have been 2/3 as long, and Very helpful (in places). The core concepts here are very important for understanding how Christians can communicate with people who are either indifferent or hostile to Christianity. There are useful discussions on the effects of sin on our thinking, the image of God, the logical outworkings of unbelief, and universal appetite for the transcendent. (However, he is a bit wordy - not overly complicated, just long-winded and even redundant at points. Every chapter could have been 2/3 as long, and some could have been left out.) I'd recommend this for anyone interested in learning to communicate with non-Christians in a more constructive way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Salazar

    A breathtaking work on the motives and methods of apologetics. Guinness seeks to unite the best of pressupositional and evidential approaches by calling for discretion and wisdom in their application in the process of Christian persuasion (an umbrella-term that covers apologetics and evangelism). Some chapters uniquely brim with insights, but the work is a holistic fresh contribution to the thinking of apologetics, of which the source, means, and end is love. Highly recommended. Guinness' writin A breathtaking work on the motives and methods of apologetics. Guinness seeks to unite the best of pressupositional and evidential approaches by calling for discretion and wisdom in their application in the process of Christian persuasion (an umbrella-term that covers apologetics and evangelism). Some chapters uniquely brim with insights, but the work is a holistic fresh contribution to the thinking of apologetics, of which the source, means, and end is love. Highly recommended. Guinness' writing is beautifully glorious.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Pate

    How can Christians persuade people to accept their faith, when there are many today who are hostile or indifferent towards Christianity? Os Guinness addresses this question in Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. The book is not really a how-to manual on witnessing. Guinness talks, for example, about the importance of asking questions, as Jesus (and even the serpent in the Garden of Eden) asked questions that influenced people’s thought processes. But I cannot recall any speci How can Christians persuade people to accept their faith, when there are many today who are hostile or indifferent towards Christianity? Os Guinness addresses this question in Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion. The book is not really a how-to manual on witnessing. Guinness talks, for example, about the importance of asking questions, as Jesus (and even the serpent in the Garden of Eden) asked questions that influenced people’s thought processes. But I cannot recall any specific questions that Guinness recommended that Christians ask atheists or non-believers in interpersonal interactions or online forums. Guinness did talk about the importance of trying to show atheists what he believes are the logical conclusions of their belief system, which he deems to be quite negative. I cannot envision such an interaction going smoothly, however, especially since the atheists might not agree with Guinness’ premises. Maybe it is a good thing that the book is not a how-to manual, I thought. After all, people are individuals, not projects. Guinness said that Jesus did not talk to two people in the exact same way. Maybe. At the same time, it did seem to me that Guinness was making assumptions about atheists and unbelievers. He had a chapter about how certain prominent atheists admitted that they did not want God to be real because that could cramp their style and keep them from doing what they wanted. What is Guinness implying in saying this? That Christians should approach atheists with that conception of them in mind? How does that respect them as individuals? Guinness does acknowledge that things are not that simple, for there are atheists who may hold to morality or a belief in order; for Guinness, though, they are being inconsistent to their atheist convictions. Many atheists would probably disagree with him on that, though. The book also did not make a positive case for Christianity, at least not in the sense of offering iron-clad evidence for it. I do not know enough about Guinness to be aware of what kind of apologist he is, but he does say in the book that Christians should be open to classical apologetics, which is evidentialist, and presuppositional apologetics. At the same time, Guinness also cautions that God’s existence does not depend on apologists’ arguments, and he says that certain classical arguments for the existence of God historically tended to make apologetics a matter of philosophy, divorced from everyday people. These are thoughtful observations, and maybe I like the book better as it is than I would have had Guinness regurgitated the usual classical apologetics spiel. Still, should he not have provided some argument or piece of evidence for Christianity being true, since part of his project in the book is showing Christians how they can persuade non-believers of the truth of Christianity? Guinness does refer to times when even sophisticated non-believers had transcendental experiences—-things that make them aware that there is more to life—-and, while that was a good discussion, I do not think those transcendental experiences provide solid evidence for Christianity. There was one part of the book that I especially rolled my eyes at, even if Guinness, as he usually does, said something intriguing in that discussion. Guinness was saying that mainline Protestants try to keep up with the culture. My reaction, of course, was: “And right-wing evangelicals do not imitate the culture? They act as if God is a free-market-loving, militaristic right-wing conservative!” I cannot say that Guinness himself is this, for Guinness, to his credit, does take somewhat of a swipe at Adam Smith; moreover, Guinness is honest about the historical flaws of Christendom. Still, I am wary of conservative Christians criticizing mainline Protestants for reflecting their culture. I doubt that it is even possible for Christianity NOT to reflect its culture, on some level, and that includes conservative Christianity. Does Guinness think that conservative Christians today have the same worldview that the biblical authors had? I doubt that they did, for times change; science changes; cosmologies change. What did I find intriguing in this discussion, then? Well, Guinness did point to liberal Christians criticizing their liberal Christian predecessors for reflecting the culture of their day. That, in my opinion, was a pretty good move on Guinness’ part: don’t just trust Guinness’ critique of liberal Christianity, but see how liberal Christians have criticized their liberal Christian predecessors! My disagreement with Guinness notwithstanding, I still give the book four stars. I appreciated its intellectual and meandering tone, as well as its anecdotes and its quotations of renowned Christians and non-believers. The book had gems—-about humor being a way to cope with a life that one cannot control; how one can be dissuaded from a position by reading what its defenders have to say; how many people’s intellectual struggles have their origin in college (that is true of me!); and how one can arrive at the point where one concludes that God was always a part of one’s journey towards God. I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    Thought-provoking, reorienting, and humbling. In one fell swoop Guinness makes you want to go carry Jesus’ name to everyone you know, but also love God and them enough to trust God and suspect yourself. And, as a cherry on top, it was readable but jam packed with insight; dense like a flourless cake.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Smith

    A fantastic read. As an undergraduate studying Philosophy at an increasingly secular university I found this book extremely helpful. I was both informed and deeply moved by the contents of the book. At times the social analysis was so true it was almost disturbing, yet encouraging to the soul.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rex Blackburn

    This was a slow-starter for me. Once I hit chapter 5, it really picked up! (Chapter 5 is a great chapter!) A lot of helpful nuggets in this book, I'm glad I read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Brown

    Phenomenal. I shall certainly return.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Megan Lang

    Really liked this one, probably one of my favorite Rhetoric books all year.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

    We live in a time in which our culture vacillates between the material world and the spiritual-but-not-religious. Everywhere you look there is either New Atheism or New Age spirituality, evidentialist scientific rationalism or postmodern relativism. Os Guinness points out that the time is ripe for apologetic engagement but first we must recapture the lost art of Christian persuasion (16-17). In Fool's Talk he gives an account of where we are at this cultural moment and what it would look like fo We live in a time in which our culture vacillates between the material world and the spiritual-but-not-religious. Everywhere you look there is either New Atheism or New Age spirituality, evidentialist scientific rationalism or postmodern relativism. Os Guinness points out that the time is ripe for apologetic engagement but first we must recapture the lost art of Christian persuasion (16-17). In Fool's Talk he gives an account of where we are at this cultural moment and what it would look like for Christians to engage the culture persuasively and winsomely. Guinness's first three chapters make the case for Christian persuasion, while chapters four through twelve give shape to the type of persuasion he is advocating for. In chapter one he urges us to allow our talk to be shaped by the cross (which is foolishness to those who are perishing), and states "Christian persuasion must always take account of the human capacity for reason and the primacy of the human heart" (27). Throughout the book he continues to argue for persuasion of both the heart and the mind, in language which speaks meaningfully to unbelievers. In chapter two, he eschews an over-emphasis on communication or marketing techniques, saying, 'Christian persuasion is cross talk, not clever talk' (39). He takes his cues on persuasive speech from the Bible, mostly Jesus and the prophets. Chapter three argues for the vital role of apologetics in Christian speech (Guinness after all, is an apologist), and the need to engage with a passionate intellect. Humorously, Guinness calls Balaam's ass the patron saint of apologists for the vital role it played in saving Balaam by stopping him in his tracks(60). In chapter four unfolds what he means by Fool's Talk--subversion of the 'vaunted wisdom, strength and superiority of the world through the cross'(72). He showcases how the gospel provides 'the most hopeful and humorous view of life in world history' (with a little help from thinkers like Erasmus, Chesterton, Reinhold Niebuhr and Peter Berger and more). Chapter five examines the 'anatomy of unbelief.' Guinness diagnoses the way unbelief stems from a willful abuse of truth, deliberate acts of exploitation and inversion of the truth, deception and self-deception (84-9). He profiles how distractions keep unbelievers from seeing the consequences of their belief systems. Chapter six unpacks what Guinness calls 'prophetic subversion,'--engaging unbelievers beliefs by turning the tables on them. Guinness says, "all thoughts can be thought, but not all thoughts lived" (115)and argues for an apologetic which reveals the pitfalls of unbelief (following things through to see where their ideas lead). Helping others see the full consequences of their position involves engaging with them in their language rather than just saying the gospel louder, slower and in a tone-deaf way. Here Guinness helps us see our way through to engaging others, be he counsels graciousness and care (121). People are not consistently rational and we should take care to speak to the areas where they feel the inconsistencies in their worldview. This requires both gentleness and discernment. Chapter seven profiles moments in the lives of several converts and what caused them to see the cracks in their worldview. Chapter eight explores how to speak persuasively with others through reframing the issues, raising questions, telling stories or dramatizing their predicament. A key biblical story which illustrates persuasive talk is Nathan's confrontation of David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Chapter nine addresses tone of conversation and the trap of always 'having to be right.' Chapter ten tackles the problem of Christian hypocrisy (the 'what about you' boomerang') and chapter eleven profiles religious revisionists within the church who have forsaken the gospel (he isn't particularly friendly to Episcopalians on this score). In chapter twelve Guinness unfolds his method: raise questions, give answers, give evidence and provide a chance for commitment. Admittedly this book was a slow burn for me. It really wasn't compelled until part way through Turning the Tables (chapter five); however Guinness is somewhat of an elderstatesman among Christian apologists and an astute cultural critic. He points a way foreword for Christians to engage in compelling, creative persuasion and synthesizing the insights of other great apologists and Christian thinkers before him. There is a lot of meat that the above summary skips over. I don't think there is a better resource which comprehensively provides rules of engagement for those who want to share their faith with unbelievers. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in seeing unbelievers come to saving hope through Christ. There is sage advice on how to communicate good news winsomely to hearts and minds. I give this five stars: ★★★★★ Note: I received this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    One of the best books I can remember reading on the topic of Christian witness. Deeply wise, even-handed, and very well-read. Worth the price of admission just for the quotes and endnotes alone. Sadly, many Christian books could and should have been booklets. Alas, publishing and market forces distort these kinds of things and we end up with books that have one or two good points and a lot of fluff to fill the rest of the chapters. This is decidedly different. I took my time and worked through i One of the best books I can remember reading on the topic of Christian witness. Deeply wise, even-handed, and very well-read. Worth the price of admission just for the quotes and endnotes alone. Sadly, many Christian books could and should have been booklets. Alas, publishing and market forces distort these kinds of things and we end up with books that have one or two good points and a lot of fluff to fill the rest of the chapters. This is decidedly different. I took my time and worked through it quite slowly over about a year. It is actually very concentrated and distilled, sometimes too brief in exploring an insight. It is rightly described as a magnum opus; Guinness' summary of his life's work. I can only salute him and say my respect and admiration for his heart and mind has only continued to increase. May his tribe increase, and may the church be given many more evangelists and teachers in this mold. I hope to write some more extended reflections on the real content of the book, but for now this little squeal of a review will have to suffice.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara Jones

    This book took me a long time to read because I wanted to absorb the words slowly and the reading is dense. However, it was well worth the investment of time. Guinness takes a look at Christian apologetics, its history, what it is today, what it should be. I love his approach that sharing the Christian faith is much more about walking with someone on their journey, and far less about having perfect Christian theology and an answer to every question. At the end of the day, God is His own best def This book took me a long time to read because I wanted to absorb the words slowly and the reading is dense. However, it was well worth the investment of time. Guinness takes a look at Christian apologetics, its history, what it is today, what it should be. I love his approach that sharing the Christian faith is much more about walking with someone on their journey, and far less about having perfect Christian theology and an answer to every question. At the end of the day, God is His own best defense and truth, and humanity's need for truth, will never change.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    What makes this book stand out among apologetic literature is first the author, Os Guinness, one of the shining lights of evangelical apologetics, whose characteristic warmth, humility, and incisiveness I have deeply admired (just listen to a Veritas Forum talk of his). The fact that Os waited 50 years to write this book so to ensure he would be writing from half a century of experience and not simply theory is another remarkable example of his humility, and not only that, his Christian maturity What makes this book stand out among apologetic literature is first the author, Os Guinness, one of the shining lights of evangelical apologetics, whose characteristic warmth, humility, and incisiveness I have deeply admired (just listen to a Veritas Forum talk of his). The fact that Os waited 50 years to write this book so to ensure he would be writing from half a century of experience and not simply theory is another remarkable example of his humility, and not only that, his Christian maturity and wisdom. Aside from Os, this work is uniquely helpful in that it reimagines apologetics as an art (of persuasion). He prescribes no formulas for quick "success" but helps us appreciate and understand the people with whom we "work", their story and their unbelief, much like Eugene Peterson in his "The Pastor" saw pastoring like his father's butchering: you respect the meat, the bone, the grain, working with it and not imposing your arbitrary cuts upon it. Sometimes Crusades' 4 spiritual laws will make a mess of it. Os gives an insightful look into the makeup of human sin/unbelief and explains various ways we can engage people in their particular unbelief. Not all unbelief is the same. That's part of the art: recognizing and having the sensitivity to see the lay of the land of a person's heart and mind. This requires humility, a posture Os continually upholds explicitly and also implicitly in the tone of his writing. Some may find this book doesn't really give you a "how to" preparation, nor does it prescribe what to say, or how to unpack "the gospel". I found myself at times wanting this, wanting a more "practical" approach, and this accentuated by all his quotes from philosophers I didn't know existed nor would most people I might have the opportunity to engage in spiritual discussion. A few moments I wondered whether this book would be better in the hands of an intellectual Christian who mingles with other well-educated unbelieving intellectuals. But in the end this book offers much for both the average-minded person (like myself) and the intellectual. Reframing apologetics as an art is worth the read alone. Championing humility and at the same time challenging us to uphold God's truth and hope regardless of the cost is much needed today in Evangelicalism. This book is well worth the read. For those seeking. For those desiring to persuade people toward Jesus. For those unsure of what to make of this thing called "apologetics". I'm in no position to say this but I sense this book will become a classic in apologetics and a staple in many post-sec apologetics syllabi. Grateful Os wrote this and lived the faithful and focused life he did to make it possible. Not every day you read a book 50 years in the making.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patrick S.

    I've heard Guinness speak. I've heard him debate. I've read some articles he's published. I know that he is an intelligent man, a skilled debater, and scholar. This was my first book by him and this was to be his magnum opus. And I'm greatly underwhelmed. I read this with another person who is far smarter and better trained in philosophy than I am and met to discuss each chapter. He too did not enjoy this book. This was not really a book on the framework of Christian persuasion because he doesn't I've heard Guinness speak. I've heard him debate. I've read some articles he's published. I know that he is an intelligent man, a skilled debater, and scholar. This was my first book by him and this was to be his magnum opus. And I'm greatly underwhelmed. I read this with another person who is far smarter and better trained in philosophy than I am and met to discuss each chapter. He too did not enjoy this book. This was not really a book on the framework of Christian persuasion because he doesn't really provide much of a laid out philosophy. He seems to attempt to but he tends to write on a wandering path a lot. Nor is this a practical application such as Nancy Pearcey's amazing book "Finding Truth". Both Guinness and Pearcey are students of Francis Schaffer which make my dislike of the book so odd. Guinness' opening stories are well placed and entertaining but once you get into the meat of the chapter it's very confusing as to where he's going or why he's taking the path he is. I gave him three chapters to get going. By chapter four, my notes tended to be more harsh and found myself writing "needs better clarification". That is not to say that there aren't some good points in this book. There are some good practical philosophical and application points. It is just that the book promises to make the case for Christian Persuasion - and it seems to forget to do so; or at least keep a consistent theme of that point. I'm really disheartened to have to review this so low. I was hoping for something like Pearcey's book or a more philosophical version of that book. Instead, I got the lackadaisical stroll of a British philosopher who stops to smell the roses every 100 feet and forgets what he was saying. Final Grade - D-

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brandon H.

    This book is brilliant! "Fool's Talk" was full of so many profound insights about persuasion, the human heart, this postmodern era, God, apologetics, etc. I don't know where to start. I'll settle with one thought the author made that struck a resounding cord with me - apologetics is an act of love; an act of defending God's name. We defend God's name because we love Him. Yes, we want to win arguments that unravel the lies that keep people from knowing truth. We want to see others come to Him and This book is brilliant! "Fool's Talk" was full of so many profound insights about persuasion, the human heart, this postmodern era, God, apologetics, etc. I don't know where to start. I'll settle with one thought the author made that struck a resounding cord with me - apologetics is an act of love; an act of defending God's name. We defend God's name because we love Him. Yes, we want to win arguments that unravel the lies that keep people from knowing truth. We want to see others come to Him and know Him, especially "thinking people." But apologetics goes deeper than that. It is an expression of worship. If I love God I will seek to defend His name. And there's plenty of opportunity for that these days! Yet the main focus of this book is about recovering the art of Christian persuasion so that we may be more effective in our co-laboring with God in winning the lost, especially those who would appear least likely to surrender to Him. Guinness repeatedly notes that there isn't a proven formula we can use and,"Bam!" People will automatically see the light and convert. But he does share oodles of insight that will help sharpen believers in their witness and evangelistic endeavors. I hope this book wins many awards.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Wolgemuth

    "We are all apologists now," Guinness writes to open this important book. An accurate statement, I think, but one that likely doesn't feel like good news to many Christians due to the formality and intimidation that often appears to accompany the idea of defending one's faith. Yet Guinness follows opening statement with a remarkable work (this book is right alongside Crouch's Strong and Weak as a favorite Christian Book read thus far in 2016). He shows that the call of the apologist is different "We are all apologists now," Guinness writes to open this important book. An accurate statement, I think, but one that likely doesn't feel like good news to many Christians due to the formality and intimidation that often appears to accompany the idea of defending one's faith. Yet Guinness follows opening statement with a remarkable work (this book is right alongside Crouch's Strong and Weak as a favorite Christian Book read thus far in 2016). He shows that the call of the apologist is different than what we typically think - a call to artful, winsome, and personalized persuasion (not a formulaic method to be repeated regardless of the situation and one's conversational partner) that's helpful and energizing. Additionally, he continually reminds his reader that God is the both the best and the ultimate apologist; the truth of the Good News doesn't lean on our effort and persuasive effectiveness. Fool's Talk is timeless (as Guinness grounds his thinking in countless historical and biblical apologists) and timely (as he directly addresses the "new atheists" as well as culture's "weapons of mass distraction"), and I found it enjoyable and valuable. (full disclosure: the agency I work for represents author and book)

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