“Fool’s Talk” Book Review

Have you ever read a book just because it seemed popular? That’s why I read “Fool’s Talk.” I kept seeing it on “recommended reading” lists and my curiosity was aroused. I didn’t know what to expect since this was the first book I had read by Os Guinness. The title “Fool’s Talk” also seemed rather strange for a book on apologetics. However, I wasn’t very far into the book when I realized I would need my highlighter.

Christian Persuasion

Guinness starts his book with the simple premise, “We have lost the art of Christian persuasion and we must recover it.”1 He points out that everyone is promoting something, whether on social media or at your door. As Christians, we are called to promote our living Savior by skillfully using persuasion.

Persuasion? Where does that fit into Christians carrying out the Great Commission? Many cringe at the thought of persuasion and rightfully so. One might imagine a door-to-door salesman selling vacuum cleaners, or a Jehovah’s Witness sugarcoating heresy. Why would Christians ever want to acquire such a trait?

A quarter of the way through the book, all of my doubts about persuasion were erased. Guinness helped me better understand the purpose of persuasion in the life of a believer. First and foremost, persuasion is defending our beloved Father. Sin has framed Him as unjust, hateful, authoritarian, and unloving — if He exists. Unbelievers point their fingers at God and ask, “If God exists, why all the evil and suffering?” Ultimately, persuasion is not about us promoting an agenda that we embrace, but about us representing our Heavenly Father in an unfair world.

Winning Hearts

From the very beginning, Guinness reveals his bias against technique. He feels apologetics has focused too much on winning arguments and too little on winning hearts. Step-by-step instructions, canned responses, and template conversations will always miss someone. Every person we meet has a personal story and a unique background. Quoting Guinness, “Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we.”2 This made me stop and think. I like creating neat-and-tidy boxes. I like step-by-step explanations. It feels safe. But I could see what Guinness was saying. And I kept reading.

As one would expect, this book does not give techniques for persuasion. Instead, Guinness helps the reader understand where an unbeliever is coming from. With real-life examples, he gives an inside view of the unbeliever. Using that as a springboard, he shares stages of an unbeliever’s journey towards belief. He provides helpful suggestions for Christians who are walking with unbelievers at each of these various stages.

Towards the end of the book, Guinness highlights the most difficult aspect of faithful persuasion – dealing with “kissing judases;” that is, heresy from within the church. Again, the faithful Christian is called to stand on truth and engage the heresy with effective persuasion. He puts it well, “There is no question that the inside task is far harder and more thankless for apologists than addressing the open enemies of the church. It requires a costly courage as well as faithfulness”3. This was especially challenging for me. How willing am I to stand up and speak out against doctrinal error when I see it?

Highly Recommended!

If you are like me, this book will not be a quick-read. However, it is well-worth your time! You will be humored by Guinness’ trademark wit and enlightened by his time-proven insights. Ultimately, it will boost your confidence as a truth-proclaimer in today’s relativistic society.

Ian Ian Miller lives in Harrisburg, PA with his wife Marci, where they are involved in a Spanish church plant. Ian volunteers for a non-profit organization while working on his BA in English through College Plus. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.
  1. Guinness, Os. Fool’s Talk. InterVarsity Press, 2015, p. 17.
  2. Ibid, 33.
  3. Ibid, 226.

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