What would be the motive for persuasion? Can one really change the minds of others? If I look at myself I must admit that it is extremely difficult for me to change my mind. Even if I do acknowledge that someone has a good point I still approach it with great caution and even defensiveness (and I am one who loves new ideas and fresh perspectives). Even so, I wholeheartedly align to new ideas and the challenge towards growth that these new ideas offer yet my inner core values seem to be often at war with my cognitive choices. This is not entirely a bad thing as we do need to be discerning and not simply accept everything that comes our way. However, what does this say about our ability to be persuaded? What does it say about our ability to persuade others and induce them to make a change or shift in their own lives? Can we do this? Do we have the right to do this?
Some very fascinating angles from biblical texts add more of a twist to all of this. A psalm written in the turbulence of inner suffering and need, even despair and depression says, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” Water often speaks of teaching in biblical symbolism. For me this suggests that even in the roar of much cascading teaching and persuasion it seems that it is the depth in and of the turbulence at the bottom of the waterfall wherein the call is found and settled, not in the rush of many droplets, but in the core body at the base of the waterfall. The issues of life seem to be deep and not cerebrally superficial. They seem to be core values that are deeply inlaid inside of us. Ancient paths laid long ago. Head knowledge is not of no value, to the contrary, but core knowledge still seems to hold all the aces.
Another vexing passage speaks out that no one can come to Christ unless the father who sent him draws him. A quote from the prophets adds to this by saying, “They will all be taught by God.” Jesus continues to say that only those who hear from God the father can or will come to him (Christ). To my mind this injects a challenge to the persuasiveness of man that we so passionately engage in. Surely being taught by God is a very different thing to being taught by man? I mean, although many claim that God ‘speaks’ to them, under greater scrutiny it is almost always revealed that it is not in words but in many other ‘circumstantial’ or ‘intuitive’, even sensual ways. Clearly God hardly ever uses words yet our persuasive ways are virtually exclusively verbal, logical arguments.
Even if we could persuade another does this mean that they are able to change and be accepted by God? According to the texts above we have to ask if persuasion is synonymous with deep calling to deep. What if the person we persuade is not called of God? How will we or they know? What if they or we believe that they are called, does this make them called? Is it not God alone who decides this?
In all our efforts to persuade others by proclamation are we not possibly treading on the path of ground we know not of? Are we not trespassing on land that might not at all be ours to walk on? Are we possibly redefining ‘faith’ by our own presumption?
Yes, we do have a role to play, but God has too.