Category Archives: Evangelism

What Are the Implications of the Halo Effect?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In the previous post, we looked at the halo effect, as explained by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. We saw that the halo effect causes us to overweight our first impressions of a person so that subsequent impressions are largely influenced by those first impressions.

If we like a person when we first meet them, then we will consistently look for reasons to like everything about them as time goes on. If we don’t like a person when we first meet them, then we will consistently look for reasons to not like anything about them as time goes on.

The halo effect has many implications for apologetics and evangelism. Say you want to discuss the gospel with someone. If that person already sees you as likable, based on their positive initial impressions of you, then when you present the gospel message, they will most likely be receptive.

If, however, the person with whom you want to discuss the gospel dislikes you, based on their initial negative reactions to you, then they will most likely reject anything you say to them about Christianity. They will simply assume that you are wrong about everything because of the halo effect.

I have had many skeptical visitors to the blog over the years who, after interacting with me initially, decide that they just don’t like me. In their minds, I lie, I don’t understand evidence and rational thinking, and I’m just not someone who can be trusted. How do I know? Because they tell me. Once these people have formed their initial opinions, I know that no matter what I say to them, no matter how I say it, they will never accept anything coming from me. This is the halo effect.

On the other hand, there are people who interact with me and immediately like me; they find me to be trustworthy and reasonable. With those people, the halo effect works in my favor. They are quite willing to hear what I have to say, even when we don’t agree on everything.

If a person doesn’t like me, for whatever reason, they are not going to listen to what I have to say about the gospel. I can rest assured, however, that God will bring along someone else who that person does like. There is usually no point in me banging my head against the halo effect to change that person’s impression of me. They have formed their opinion and it is probably not going to change, at least not without substantial effort on my part and theirs.

I think the halo effect is one reason that Billy Graham was such an amazing evangelist. Most people, after first seeing or listening to him for just a few minutes, immediately like him. There is just something about him that people like. The halo effect, undoubtedly, helped him bring thousands and thousands of people to Christ.

Alas, we all can’t be Billy Graham. This is a hard pill to swallow for an apologist or evangelist, but swallow it we must. Most of us know at least some people, even in our families,  who just don’t like us a great deal. The fact is, we probably cannot reach those people, but, we do need to reach those who do like and trust us. They are ready to hear what we have to say.

What Is the Gospel?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

You would think this question would be pretty easy to answer because the gospel message is something that Christians talk about all the time.  However, it is difficult to find the gospel explained in one place within the Bible.  There is, however, one passage where the gospel is defined, and that is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, specifically 1 Cor. 15:1-8.  Here it is:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Theologian Scot McKnight summarizes some key points from this text in the December issue of Christianity Today.  First, “this is the gospel handed on to Paul (v. 3), which suggests it was the gospel the earliest apostles preached.”

“Second, the gospel saves people from their sins (v. 2-3).”

“Third, the essence of the gospel is the story of Jesus (vv. 3-8) as the completion of Israel’s story (v. 3).  Both the word Christ (Messiah) and the phrase ‘according to the Scriptures’ are central to how the apostles understood the word gospel.”

So what is the gospel?  According to McKnight, “Added together, it means this: The gospel is first and foremost about Jesus.  Or, to put it theologically, it’s about Christology. . . . ‘To gospel’ is to tell a story about Jesus as the Messiah, as the Lord, as the Son of God, as the Savior.”

Gary Habermas often summarizes these verses in this way: the gospel is the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

If you’ve overlooked these verses in the past, go back and study them.  After all, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the message we are to give the world.

Steve Harvey Introduces Jesus

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This post is definitely off the beaten path for us, but I was forwarded a video link by a friend of mine recently, and when I watched it, it really moved me.  I don’t get moved very easily (just ask my wife), so I figured this video might be worth sharing with my TQA audience.

All you need to know before watching the video is that Steve Harvey is a famous comedian and actor.  Why he decided to include this material at the end of one of his comedy routines, I don’t know, but it seems very sincere as you’ll see in the video.  Take a look.

How Should We Communicate the Truths of Christianity?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Any serious student of the Bible knows that the biblical authors employed a large variety of written literary genres.  The Bible contains poetry, historical narrative, wisdom literature, personal letters, parables, theological and philosophical arguments, and much more.

As an apologist, I have always been drawn to the theological and philosophical argumentation found in the Bible and in later Christian authors.  When I present Christianity, I usually use logical and rational arguments from the fields of history, theology, philosophy, and science.  Rational argumentation can be very effective with certain kinds of people, but completely ineffective with others.

Jesus certainly presented a rational case for believing he was the Son of God (see Geisler and Zukeran, The Apologetics of Jesus).  However, one of his favorite communication techniques was the parable.  Parables were fictional stories that Jesus used to teach powerful lessons about the Kingdom of God.  Why did Jesus speak in parables instead of just using his unparalleled knowledge and wisdom to slay opponents with irrefutable, logical arguments?

Several years ago I was speaking to a skeptic about Christianity and he said that if God really wanted to reveal himself, then the Bible should read like a textbook.  It should be expository, non-literary, and full of lists and facts.

As an engineer, I could relate to this skeptic.  But as I’ve learned over the years, story is the absolute supreme way that human beings communicate to each other.  Think about it.  We love to read stories, see stories played out in movie theaters, and hear stories from our friends.  Our conversations are often built around story-telling.  Our free time is spent listening to and watching stories.  There is nothing more intriguing to human beings than stories.

The Bible, it turns out,  is a sweeping narrative about God’s interaction with the human race.  God, through the human authors of the Bible, has woven together the world’s greatest story, and with multiple literary genres throughout.  Jesus’ use of the parable is a reflection of the power of story-telling.  Why tell parables?  Because they are effective!

God used the primary vehicle, story, to reveal himself to mankind, but he made sure that within The Story there was poetry, wisdom literature, rational argumentation, and all kinds of other literary forms to capture readers.  These other literary forms are there to support the overarching narrative.

Christians need to communicate the  truths of Christianity employing all means of communication.  All of our methods, however, must always point back to The Story.  The arguments, the sermons, everything we say and do, always have to lead back there.