Being persistent in persuading


PHILADELPHIA—You may have noticed over the past month I have been trying, from different angles, to be as clear as I can, using the measure of gifting God gave me, to describe the truths regarding abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial. For example, I have strained to show the hypocrisy of arbitrary legalities that mask morality—gestational age limits (24-week terminations are OK but not 25), methods of killing babies born alive after a failed abortion (the active scissor method versus the passive “comfort care” method).

All the while, I have been under no illusion that my persuasion has changed the minds of the vast majority who disagree. This is because, as the late theologian Cornelius Van Til famously pointed out, all people reason in a circle. We do not like to think we reason circularly (though we believe that of other people), but we do.

That is to say, people walk into a given situation with a preconceived notion about it, and then all the evidence they gather they filter through that preconceived notion so that it ends up confirming the original impression. The Gosnell courtroom gallery has been a collection of the most intense liberals and the most intense conservatives you will ever meet. And yet, after nearly two months of listening to arguments from both sides, I dare say the liberals of March exited the trial as liberals in May. And the conservatives of March were still conservatives on the day the trial ended.

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So why do we bother trying to persuade people day after day? What is the usefulness of pleading our case to inveterate circular-thinking people?

The answer is that, though persuasion does not win everybody, persuasion is still God’s chosen method for changing people’s hearts and minds:

“And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).

God uses words. Always has. Jesus is the Word. And now His followers are commanded to use words. There is something supernatural about truth spoken, truth aspirated. It does something that keeping your silence does not. It may harden and it may quicken, but it will not be ineffective.

“… my word … that goes out of my mouth … shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

This, by the way, is why it is important to speak words to our children at every opportunity, and not to think to ourselves, “Oh well, they already know this.” Or, “Oh well, it won’t do any good anyway.” Once you have spoken a good word to a disinclined adolescent, that child has that word in his head somewhere, and God can work on it, like a seed planted that He can now water.

We speak words of persuasion, like Paul, because God is pleased to use them to open eyes:

“… I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God …” (Acts 26:17-18).

Not everybody you speak God’s truth to will be saved—but leave that up to the Holy Spirit.

One reporter I know of, and observed, throughout the Gosnell trial, came into it solidly pro-abortion but was shaken by the evidence he saw. He’s now thinking about what will happen if he reports in his feature article what he has come to see and understand. You may pray for that man.

But the point is that this one man is proof that words change hearts. And so we do not run aimlessly or box with shadows when we speak them. Don’t be shy or discouraged. Keep on speaking.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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