I recently finished Mapping The Origins Debate by Gerald Rau (which is excellent by the way). My review is forthcoming, but I wanted to go ahead an highlight a hugely important point that Rau makes, almost as an afterthought.
After presenting 6 models of the beginning of everything (not one by one, but through different themes), Rau offers an epilogue that almost (almost!) reveals his own position. He does though explain why conceptual change is hard. Pulling from what looks like an interesting essay in Cognitive Models of Science, Rau gives four factors that must be present for conceptual change to take place:
- There must be dissatisfaction with current conceptions
- A new conception must be intelligible
- A new conception must appear initially plausible
- A new conception should suggest the possibility of a fruitful research program
Now, Rau is talking about paradigmatic shifts in science (not unlike The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). However, I think his insights apply just as equally to apologetics, and that makes the initial point crucial.
If you are into apologetics, this would mean your primary task is creating dissatisfaction with the status quo. Not presenting evidence for the Christian faith (which is #2, and #3 above). Unless you’ve made an effort to create conceptual nausea in the person’s current worldview, you are wasting your time trying to prove your case.
This is one of the main reasons I am a presuppositionalist when it comes to apologetic methodology. The key thinkers in presuppositionalism (Van Til, Bahnsen, Frame) get this, and give you the tools to deconstruct a person’s worldview (thus getting to criteria #1 above) and then you can use the tools of constructive apologetics to make a positive case.
In the end though, this is why you usually can’t simply persuade someone they’re wrong. If you’re not aiming at dissatisfaction with their current viewpoint, you’re probably not going to get very far in your efforts at paradigm shifting.