God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Monday, July 1, 2019

Top 5 Books on Having Productive Conversations

Introduction- How To Have Productive Discussions With Those With Whom You Disagree

In today's cultural climate, discussions of great importance, such as politics, worldview, morality, and science, often get heated. All sides are trying to convince the other sides that one view is correct and all others are incorrect. Usually, the sides reject the others due to their seeing that it does not match with the world as it is and/or that it violates some universally recognized, objective moral value. Those who strongly desire to be on the side of reality and morality have a deep conviction of the falsehood of the violating views and a deep conviction of the truth of their own views (assuming that view does not also violate reality). These deep convictions often cause discussions about which view is correct to get quite emotional. Each side accuses the others of either being unwilling to deal with reality and/or of being pure evil.

Unlike what some people may believe, the reality of the world and morality are not at odds with one another, so if all sides are truly committed to truth and morality, there is nothing to fear from discovering that our views need tweaking or are completely wrong and need to be jettisoned. But how do we get from staunchly believing that our view is the only possible true view to thinking that we could be wrong, and how do we converse with others who do hold to a wrong view and need to change their view? For Christians, we are given the command to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).

I have compiled a short list of the top five books that I believe will help Christians (and really, anyone) to be able to respectfully discuss worldview issues with others. While I am recommending all of these books, they are presented in the order in which I have read them, but that order is not necessarily the best. Read my reasons for choosing them to be on the list, then feel free to pick the order in which you wish to read them (or pick up the books you have not already read to complete your collection). If you would like more detail on the content of the books, the links I provide are to my chapter-by-chapter reviews, but please note that these are mere summaries, and a great deal of the detail can only be grasped by reading the book. Here they are:

Top 5 Recommended Book for having Productive Conversations Online and In Person

The Top 5 Books for Having Productive Discussions On Ultimate Issues:

Why Did I Choose These Books?

Tactics: A Game Plan For Sharing Your Christian Convictions

This was one of the first books I ever read on the topic of defending the truth of the Christian worldview and it helped me become comfortable with challenging other peoples' views. In it Greg Koukl emphasizes a tone of respect yet one that is committed to seeking truth in discussion. He provides the reader with several questions that they can ask to move conversations forward and to get the other side to think more clearly and deeply about their convictions. Questions such as "what do you mean by that" and "how did you come to that conclusion" not only open the conversation for deeper discussion but they also provide a way to do so with a tone that demonstrates respect for the person and their God-given ability to reason through their ideas. Many times simply asking exploratory questions in an effort to better understand where a person is coming from can help establish trust and a respectful relationship between you and the person you are discussing the topic with. This trust can open doors for more pointed challenges as the conversation continues. Tactics has long been one of my favorite books to help guide productive conversations.

Quote from "Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions" by Greg Koukl: ""A commitment to truth -- as opposed to a commitment to an organization -- means an openness to refining one's own views. It means increasing the accuracy of one's understanding and being open to correction in thinking. A challenger might turn out to be a blessing in disguise, an ally instead of an enemy. An evangelist who is convinced of her view, then, should be willing to engage the best arguments against it." #discussion #debate #conversations

Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith

When people have conversations with others about different moral issues or the truth of one worldview over another, many are often tempted to present their view as more of an opinion rather than a claim of truth, and others are tempted to assert their claim of truth but are unable to present facts to backup their conclusions (in this case they would have been asked "how did you come to that conclusion" as presented in Tactics). This is why being prepared with the evidence to backup our claims is so important. Homicide detective J. Warner Wallace knows the importance of presenting an evidential case for a claim because his very profession depends upon that ability. In his book "Forensic Faith" he presents the case for this most important aspect in our discussions. Many Christians resist a trust (faith) that is based on objective evidence because they believe that a "blind" faith is what God requires, but Wallace presents the biblical case for God's desire that our trust (faith) is grounded in evidence provided by Him through His Word and His actions. The ability to present reasons (objective evidence) for the hope that we have is necessary to follow the command given to us by the Apostle Peter, thus this ability is vital to having productive conversations with those with whom we disagree on issues of worldview and morality.

Quote from "Forensic Faith" by J. Warner Wallace: ""Blind faith can sometimes result in believing something that's true, but it can also result in believing something that's false if there is actual evidence proving the claim untrue. Jesus did not ask His followers to believe without evidence. In fact, He repeatedly provided evidence to support His claims." #Faith #BlindFaith #Bible #Christianity #Apologetics

Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache

With the anonymity that the internet affords us, we are often tempted to write quickly and immediately hit "Send." This can lead to numerous issues with our communication that result in frustration and anger. In "Before You Hit Send" Dr. Emerson Eggerichs takes the reader through nearly 100 ways that our communications can fail. He categorizes these into four key aspects: truth, kindness, necessity, and clarity. If what we write compromises any of those aspects, we are bound to not be understood and conversations will, at best, be difficult or, at worst, come to a halt. It is important for the productivity of a conversation that our communication is true, kind, necessary, and clear. While reading this book, you will likely see many ways that others have failed in their communication to you, but the real challenge is to examine your own communication and recognize how you may currently be failing to give reasons for your hope "with gentleness and respect."

Quote from "Before You Hit Send" by Emerson Eggerichs: "Those who are kind and show respect evidence a contentment and confidence in what they believe. Those who silence...others show just how fearful they are that they are wrong in their supposed truth claims." #Discussions #Debate #Conversations #truth #Beliefs

Always Be Ready: A Call To Adventurous Faith

When we make an effort to be prepared to explain the reasons for the hope that we have, it is amazing the different opportunities that will arise. In this book, Dr. Hugh Ross tells numerous stories of many unique and adverse situations that God has placed him in to be able to share the Gospel. He explains the importance of making the conscious choice to always be ready. He emphasizes that we must not only be ready with truth, but be ready to communicate that truth with gentleness and respect, no matter the circumstances. He explains that this does not just apply to evangelistic opportunities but also to theological discussions. Those who are not saved are constantly watching Christians to see how they treat one another when they disagree, so the truth, kindness, necessity, and clarity (or lack of those things) with which we use to communicate with each other will be seen by the unsaved as how we will communicate with them. If we lack those, they are not likely to even be open to hearing the Gospel presented by us. Dr. Ross also encourages the reader to experience an "adventurous" faith. For those who commit always being ready, they will see how God honors that commitment by continually leading them into productive conversations.

Quote from "Always Be Ready: A Call to Adventurous Faith" by Dr. Hugh Ross: "This entire book represents an attempt to encourage all believers to share in the benefits of developing readiness, always, to give reasons for the hope that we have in Christ. Its deeper purpose is to demonstrate God’s readiness to intervene on behalf of his people for his kingdom’s advance. He’s the one who arranges appointments, and empowers us to keep them, the moment we’re ready. He wants to bless us with these encounters." #Faith #Apologetics #Evangelism

The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting A Generation Free To Know Truth and Love

The final book in my list is one of the more recent books I've read. In fact, when I started reading this book, I placed this list on hold until I finished the book so I could include it in this list. In "The Beauty of Intolerance" father and son team, Drs. Josh and Sean McDowell, tackle many cultural issues and conversational challenges that will arise as we have discussions with those we love. Because of the many moral positions that Christians do take, we are often accused of being intolerant. But this accusation comes from a misunderstanding of "tolerance" that does not include love or what is best for the person. They take the reader through several hypothetical conversations, about common cultural issues, that end in disaster then explain what was missing and how the conversation could have gone in a more loving and productive direction. Drs. McDowell emphasize the importance of discussing emotionally hot topics of morality within the context of a loving and trusting relationship.

Quote from "The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting A Generation Free to Know Truth and Love" by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell: "Whenever we share the truth with our young people, or with anyone else, for that matter, it is more effective when expressed in the context of a loving relationship that has the other's best interest at heart." #Discussions #Debate #Conversation


Even if we do not have the benefit of a years-long relationship with those we are communicating with, when others see that we speak truthfully, kindly, and clearly, they will see that we are gentle and respectful, and their willingness to trust us and listen to us increases. Please read each of the books in this list and apply their cumulative wisdom to your own conversations. This can only lead to a more adventurous faith and many more productive conversations.

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