Sunday, September 12, 2004


One thing I have taken to doing more often on Sunday morning is watching Tele-evangelists. I have no interest in becoming Christian, but I have a great interest in theology, the philosophical work required to make Christianity work in the eyes of the believers. I am also interested in the techniques that evangelists use to persuade and compel.

This morning I watched one called Questions of Life, which I had watched previously, that frames questions about God and Christianity and then seeks to answer them. Today the question was: How can God allow evil and suffering in the world?

There were many interesting points. Some of them were elegant proofs, while he occasionally used straw-men to disprove other views. This is where you state the oppositions opinions erroneously or incompletel and then blow it away. It works because you can be a little loose with how you make the straw-man so that it is easy to blow down. Opponents are not around to correct the error, or if in a debate situation, sometimes cannot find where the description provided was flawed and have to concede.

He only referred to the Bible twice in thirty minutes. Although this in good for the non-believer's understanding, I realised that perhaps this was not proper. He was addressing a Christian audience so there was nothing to fear. Many of the things he said, as logically necessary as they might be, may not be in the Bible. That meant they were not to be taken as "gospel," it was just his opinions. This was just a passing thought though, I might ask a Christian what they make of such a comment.

Probably one of the best parts of listening for me is just appreciation of a great speaker. Our world is deficit in compelling speakers I feel. I remember while reading A Penguin Book of New Zealand History that it often referred to politicians as wonderfully eloquent. Modern politicians are pretty drab, Winston Peters and Peter Dunn withstanding. Activists are similar. So many causes lack a clear and compelling voice.

The pastor on the programme, Jeff Vines, strung storeys together and punctuated his sentences with emotion. It was great. Perhaps preaching is the last bastion of persuasive talk that people will be subjected to.

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