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« The Point Radio: Who is Jesus? | Main | Recommended Reading: ’World War IV’ »

September 28, 2007

RE: The Myth of Dialogue

Under my original post on this subject, Anna asks this question: "With most dialogues I try to understand the person on their own terms, but I rarely go into it thinking that I might change my opinion--I know it to be true so how could you change my opinion?"

Good question, Anna. The answer goes to the heart of true dialogue, where people of goodwill, who truly seek and want to know the Truth, are willing to admit that many of their opinions are not, in fact, based on solid foundations. We absorb -- rather than formulate -- many of our opinions from our environment (parents, teachers, peers, church, culture) without necessarily spending a lot of time (or, sadly, any time) to determine whether those opinions are based on fact or solid reasoning.

So, people of goodwill, as they enter into genuine dialogue, are willing to test the foundations of their own opinions. And, if their opponent offers strong, persuasive reasons against their stance, they are reasonable enough, and humble enough, to admit they were wrong: they change their mind. In the aftermath of such exchanges, however, they move from "mere opinion" to true conviction. And as someone once said, "Opinions are beliefs we hold; convictions are beliefs that hold us -- even to the point of death if necessary." 

A good example of how this process works can be seen in the efforts of William Wilberforce and the members of the Clapham sect to end slavery in the British Empire. Bit by bit, they persuaded the British public to change its mind about slavery. Initially, the response of British citizens ranged from indifference to outright support for the trade since it was how they made their living. Through many means, including honest dialogue, Wilberforce and his friends made them see the true horrors of slavery, made them see Africans as people "just like them," and made the Christians in particular realize that their support for slavery was a violation of God's Law. It took 46 years to accomplish their goal -- which gives us a pretty good idea of just how clueless and stubborn people can be when it comes to holding on to their erroneous opinions!

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Sy Hoekstra

Well now, Diane, that just throws me for a loop because I have no objections at all. Good post.

Bruce Warmack

How refreshing to be reminded of the necessity and goal of real dialogue, which is so rare these days.

Two monologues doth not a dialogue make.


Oh, wow. My comment got it's own post and I didn't even notice it until just now. Thanks, Diane! Good thought.

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