Os Guinness: Why Balaam's Ass Is the Patron Saint of Apologetics and Christians Need to Recover the Art of Persuasion (CP Interview 1/2)

CP: When did you first meet Francis Schaeffer?

Guinness: I was a student at London University. Somewhat perplexed, because we had magnificent teachers, like John Stott and Martyn LLoyd-Jones, who gave us deep, rich blocks of theology, and so on, but they gave us no understanding of the culture at a time when the counter culture was exploding — the Berkeley free speech movement, the Beatles, Fellini films, Bergman films, and so on. No Christians that I knew understood the cultural explosion of the '60s.

Then along came Francis Schaeffer, who connected all the dots and made sense of the '60s. It was then mind-blowing to see how extraordinary, how relevant and how liberating Christian truth was. And of course, part of his teaching was in the area of apologetics, teaching us how you can speak to anyone, anywhere, and be persuasive.

So this book owes a lot to him, but also to the great teachings of Peter Berger. They didn't know each other and I've often wondered if they would even like each other. But their ideas put together are very powerful.

CP: How does Peter Berger fit together with Schaeffer?

Guinness: Peter Berger is a sociologist and has a tremendous understanding of how people switch from one worldview to another and the experiences that trigger it. So Schaeffer is better known for his negative approach — pushing people out to the logic of their assumptions, whereas Berger is better known for his positive approach, and the wonderful notion of pointing people to the 'signals of transcendence.'

In other words, people have experiences that, like signals, go "beep, beep, beep" and puncture what they believed before, and point beyond what they believed before to something else, which would have to be true if it's to be meaningful.

I give several examples in the book. A well-known one is C.S. Lewis' being "surprised by joy." Lewis says it was prompted by what he called "unsatisfied desires that were more desirable than in their satisfaction." And those experiences of joy punctured his atheism. He couldn't explain them as an atheist, and they made him a seeker. Years later he found the source of that joy in coming to know God. And there are many other examples I give of those signals of transcendence. That idea comes from Peter Berger.

Check out part two of the interview here.

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