WHEN you make a statement, your listeners are fully justified in asking: “Why is that true? What is the proof that what the speaker is saying should be accepted?” As a teacher, you have the obligation either to answer such questions or to help your listeners find the answers. If the point is crucial to your argument, make sure that you give your listeners strong reasons to accept it. This will contribute to making your presentation persuasive.
The apostle Paul used persuasion. By sound argument, logical reasoning, and earnest entreaty, he sought to bring about a change of mind in those to whom he spoke. He set a fine example for us. (Acts 18:4; 19:8) Of course, some orators use persuasion to mislead people. (Matt. 27:20; Acts 14:19; Col. 2:4) They may start with a wrong premise, rely on biased sources, use superficial arguments, ignore facts that disagree with their view, or appeal more to emotion than to reason. We should be careful to avoid all such methods.
Based Firmly on God’s Word. What we teach must not be of our own originality. We endeavor to share with others what we have learned from the Bible. In this, we have been greatly helped by the publications of the faithful and discreet slave class. These publications encourage us to examine the Scriptures carefully. In turn, we direct others to the Bible, not with the goal of proving that we are right, but with the humble desire of letting them see for themselves what it says. We agree with Jesus Christ, who said in prayer to his Father: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) There is no greater authority than Jehovah God, the Creator of heaven and earth. The soundness of our arguments depends on their being based on his Word.
At times you may speak to people who are not familiar with the Bible or who do not recognize it as the Word of God. You should exercise good judgment as to when and how you bring in Bible texts. But you should endeavor to direct their attention to that authoritative source of information as soon as possible.
Should you conclude that simply quoting a relevant scripture provides an irrefutable argument? Not necessarily. You may need to direct attention to the context to show that the scripture truly does support what you are saying. If you are merely drawing a principle from a scripture and the context is not discussing that subject, more evidence may be needed. You may need to use other scriptures that bear on the matter in order to satisfy your audience that what you are saying is really solidly based on the Scriptures.
Avoid overstating what a scripture proves. Read it carefully. The text may deal with the general subject that you are discussing. Yet, for your argument to be persuasive, your listener must be able to see in it what you are saying that it proves.
Supported by Corroborative Evidence. In some cases, it may be helpful to use evidence from a reliable source outside of the Bible to help people appreciate the reasonableness of the Scriptures.
For example, you may point to the visible universe as proof that there is a Creator. You may draw attention to natural laws, such as gravity, and reason that the existence of such laws presupposes that there is a Lawgiver. Your logic will be sound if it is in harmony with what is stated in God’s Word. (Job 38:31-33; Ps. 19:1; 104:24; Rom. 1:20) Such evidence is helpful because it demonstrates that what the Bible says is consistent with observable facts.
Are you endeavoring to help someone realize that the Bible really is the Word of God? You might quote scholars who say that it is, but does that prove it? Such quotations merely help people who respect those scholars. Could you use science to prove that the Bible is true? If you were to use the opinions of imperfect scientists as your authority, you would be building on a shaky foundation. On the other hand, if you start with the Word of God and then point to findings of science that highlight the Bible’s accuracy, your arguments will be established on a sound foundation.
Whatever you are endeavoring to prove, present sufficient evidence. The amount of evidence required will depend on your audience. For example, if you are discussing the last days as described at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, you may draw the attention of your audience to a well-known news report indicating that men have “no natural affection.” That one example may be adequate to prove that this aspect of the sign of the last days is now being fulfilled.
An analogy—a comparison of two things that have important elements in common—can often be helpful. The analogy does not in itself prove a matter; its validity must be tested against what the Bible itself says. But the analogy may help a person to see the reasonableness of an idea. Such an analogy might be used, for instance, when explaining that God’s Kingdom is a government. You might point out that like human governments, God’s Kingdom has rulers, subjects, laws, a judicial system, and an educational system.
Real-life experiences can often be used to demonstrate the wisdom of applying the Bible’s counsel. Personal experiences can also be used to support statements made. For instance, when you point out to a person the importance of reading and studying the Bible, you might explain how doing that has improved your life. To encourage his brothers, the apostle Peter referred to the transfiguration, of which he was an eyewitness. (2 Pet. 1:16-18) Paul too cited his own experiences. (2 Cor. 1:8-10; 12:7-9) Of course, you should use your personal experiences sparingly so that you do not draw undue attention to yourself.
Since people differ in background and thinking, evidence that convinces one person may not satisfy another. Therefore, consider the views of your listeners when deciding which arguments you will use and how you will present them. Proverbs 16:23 states: “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness.”