The Relationship Between Arguments and Persuasion

Anyone who has done a fair amount of apologetics can easily end up saying to themselves “I don’t understand why this person doesn’t accept my argument.” Of course, if you don’t do a good job of explaining the argument, that’s on us. Granted, atheists even say the same thing about Christians and other religious people. I have a wonderful book by the late Ronald Nash who noted the  following:

 “It is important to distinguish between arguments on one hand and personal persuasion on the other. People come to their beliefs about reality and truth based upon various factors, some rational and some nonrational. A good argument provides reasonable and truthful support for its claim. Just because a person is not persuaded by a given argument doesn’t necessarily mean that the argument is somehow logically defective. Nonrational factors such as ignorance, bias, self-interest, fear, or pride may stand in the way of a person genuinely understanding and feeling the full force of a powerful argument and thus being persuaded by it. A person’s noetic (belief-forming) faculties are seldom as neutral, detached, and coolly objective as many people-including especially “intellectuals”-would like to think. This subjective, egocentric predicament is shared by all people, regardless of educational level.Persuasion, then, seems to be “person-relative,” and no single argument will likely persuade everyone-especially when it comes to the big issues.” – Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason

Now from my experience, there is alot of truth to what Nash says here. But note he is not saying arguments nor evidence is subjective. But when people evaluate the arguments and evidence, there is a level of subjectivity to it. Some of my apologist friends don’t like to hear this. I think we want to think people are totally neutral. I wish that was the case. But that’s just not the way humans are wired.

Now what’s more interesting is I am currently reading a new book by Edward Feser called “Five Proofs of the Existence of God. In it, Feser lays out some arguments that lead to rational demonstration of God’s existence. I would like to see if people agree with his conclusions.