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October 8, 2015 / compassioninpolitics

How can Christians effectively respond to the accussation that belief in Christianity is just emotional

So how do you engage that? How do you deal with that? What’s your response to that kind of thing?John DicksonI try and call it out. Sometimes if I’m with an atheist who’s really thoughtful I often put to them Aristotle’s theory of how persuasion works. And you all have heard of the sort of logos, pathos, ethos, tripod view of persuasion. And Aristotle really in his book on rhetoric spends a lot of time saying, “Good arguments in persuasion needs logos.” It also needs a little bit pathos, the emotional dimension but you shouldn’t rely on it too much he said. And then he said there’s a social dimension ethos that is we tend to trust those that we trust. If you think about that, we trust those we trust. In other words we trust the statements of those we trust. And this translates into all sorts of things including just the teenager wanting to socialize with his peers ends up believing what his peers does. That’s the socialization of knowledge.

And I often talk about this and I say look, “When you hear a Christian tell how they became a Christina you’ll often hear them being really honest how it was a little bit of logos, a little bit of pathos, a little bit of ethos. Logos they heard some good arguments that were satisfying intellectually. Pathos, they heard the message of forgiveness and they longed for it, it was like psychologically very attractive. And ethos, they hung out with Christians and they saw what a compelling community of goodness they were and they thought, “Man I want that.”” You often hear a Christian talk like that. They don’t describe it as logos, pathos, ethos. And I put it back to my atheist friend, “Are you honest enough to admit that your unbelief is the result of a similar three fold set of factors. That sure you’ve got some intellectual things but it seems to me that there are some emotional or aesthetics going on and also some socialization.” And we are not being honest with ourselves if we say, “I’m only an atheist because of the intellectual arguments.” If there were evidence I’d believe. That’s just not the real world of how belief forms.

Part II

In terms of my own thoughts–beyond that I would say the reasons you give also provide a way out of that straw-person or red herring.

  1. Link to Video of the Discussion
  2. Link to the Transcript of the Discussion
  3. Center for Public Christianity

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