How–that is, by what reasoning standards–she [an author] introduces these observations, defends them, and allows them to build into a coherent, defensible, and ultimately persuasive statement is the book’s argument…

…The indispensable predicate for effective argument is command of your subject matter…

…For every conclusion there must be a trail of facts available in the text…

…Your research is trying to tell you where your argument lies. You just have to learn to listen.

Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato
Thinking Like Your Editor
W. W. Norton and Co
(C) 2002
pp. 145-152

In their book on writing serious non-fiction, Rabiner and Fortunato instruct writers to shape proper argument. Authors must provide a “coherent, defensible, and ultimately persuasive” line of thought, showing the reasonableness of their conclusions. There are three prerequisites for such an argument: (1) clear grasp of the broader subject, (2) a trail of evidence supporting the author’s thesis, and (3) willingness to listen to the evidence, even when it contradicts the thesis.

What does this have to do with the church? Followers of Jesus have a variety of opinions, many of which are strongly held and vigorously (if not visciously) defended. Some of this stems from our finite nature–we just don’t see things clearly. Some stems from the corruption–some of our deep beliefs don’t allow us to get it. Whatever the cause, love for Christ and for others demands we agree respectfully.