Let’s read Pascal (6): we are best persuaded by what we discover ourselves

Let's Read Pascal
Here’s a principle from the first section of the Pensées that is useful both for the classroom teacher/seminar leader and the apologist.


People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.

How very true. In group exercises in which I take part I always (rather self-servingly) remember my own ideas best, and if I am asked to give an account of what “the group thought” I will usually be very aware in my account which of the thoughts were mine, whether I choose to privilege them or play them down (both excessive privileging and excessive modesty about my own ideas flowing from the same self-regarding attitude).

As for apologetics, isn’t it the case that one of the temptations we need to avoid is deluging anyone willing to give us a hearing with a Niagara Falls of information about the gospel that leaves us panting for breath and our poor victim looking frantically for the nearest exit? Jesus, as Guillaume Bignon discovered, is the greatest attraction of Christianity, and sometimes it can be a great idea just to encourage our friends or colleagues to discover him for themselves: “You’re interested in Christianity? Have a read of Luke’s gospel and see what you make of Jesus. Jot down any questions or comments and we’ll chat about them next time we meet if you like…”

I am very persuaded by this thought of Pascal’s.