Biola Professors Rick Langer and Tim Muehlhoff describe how to hold deeply held convictions with passion, grace and civility in the midst of the polarization of our current culture, especially true given the election of 2020. Join Scott and Sean as they talk about how to stand firm in one's convictions but do it in ways that build bridges, not walls.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast, Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology here at Biola university.

Sean McDowell: And I'm your cohost Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Scott Rae: We're here today with two of our faculty members, two of our faculty colleagues, Rick Langer, who's a professor of theology at Talbot School of Theology and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, professor of communications at Biola University. They are partnering together in what's called the Winsome Conviction Project. They'll tell you a little bit more about what that's involved as we go along. They have a book entitled Winsome Conviction that will be coming out in just a few weeks that you want to be sure to either preorder or get a copy of as soon as it comes out. They've been at this for a while in a variety of different settings.

Scott Rae: They've had a lot of terrific experience at fostering winsome conversations and enabling the people that they're around and the communities that they're around to hold their convictions winsomely. So appropriate today in our culture that's characterized much more by divisiveness and rancor and anger than it is by by winsomeness. We seem to be very skilled at holding our convictions in what I call a scorched earth way, which is not great, not great for building bridges and fostering relationships across issues and across the types of questions that we have pretty serious divisions about.

Scott Rae: So Tim and Rick, thank you so much for coming on with us. So grateful for the work that you're doing in this area. I can't wait for our listeners to hear a little bit more about what's involved in the Winsome Convictions Project. So why don't just one or the other of you, tag team it however you like, tell us a little bit about what you mean by the term, winsome convictions, and why it's so important today?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, Rick, I'll go first. What we mean by winsome is just turn on your television, watch the news, and do the exact opposite. That's what we mean by winsome. We are locked into what Deborah Tannen, she's a Georgetown linguist, calls the argument culture, where we demonize each other. Finding common ground is seen as compromised, seen as weakness. So we've lost the relational level of communication today. The relational level of communication is made up of the amount of respect between two individuals, the amount of acknowledgement, and the amount of compassion.

Tim Muehlhoff: If you take a look at that, the argument culture, by winsome we mean is it possible to be cordial? Is it possible to be civil? Is it possible to start with common ground areas of agreement and work towards areas of disagreement which, honestly, would be a flipping of the argument culture? So that's kind of what we mean by winsome is can we do this and keep our sense of humor? Can we do this and keep our convictions, but still show charity towards the person with whom we disagree? So that's kind of what we mean by winsome.

Rick Langer: One thing I would would add to that is just oftentimes we state our convictions as if it's a way to end the conversation. Part of the Winsome Conviction Project is to say, "Hey, how about if we stated our convictions in a way that begins a conversation, that invites others to contribute, respond, interact, and therefore will kind of deepen and enrich our convictions? Not just as you put it so well, Scott, the scorched earth version that once stated all conversation is done and you leave in its wake just sort of a charred landscape.

Scott Rae: But these things we disagree about are not trivial things. I mean they're not like disagreeing about what your favorite movie of all time is or who your favorite sports team is. These are things that we hold really deeply, passionately. I mean these are convictions that we've staked our lives on. Certainly, it's easy to understand why people can be very passionate about this and go out of bounds, so to speak, and not be particularly winsome. I mean, it's one thing to have the divides that we do, but it's another thing to recognize that these are ... The things that we're debating are things that really matter. We would expect us to have very strong convictions. How does that play into this idea of winsome convictions?

Rick Langer: Yeah. One of the things that we talk about right at the beginning of the book is one of the challenges for us as Christians is we tend to view things either as simply being a matter of taste or it's a matter of conviction. If it's a conviction, then it's an absolute conviction and it should be a conviction that's universally held by all Christians. Indeed, anyone who disagrees with it is simply kind of professing their lack of a sincere Christian faith. One of the big points we make in the book is I think there are things like that, things that we might call areas of absolute conviction or Christian conviction.

Rick Langer: There are certainly matters that are merely matters of taste. But in the middle there's this whole area that Paul really unpacks and dives into in Romans chapter 14 that he calls disputable matters or what we might call areas of personal conviction. They aren't universal convictions, but each individual Christian needs to form their own opinion. As Paul says, "I want you to be fully convinced in your own mind." So this is an area of conviction, but it's your own mind and it's before Jesus you stand and fall. So it's a personal conviction. It's an area where there's room for Christians to disagree.

Rick Langer: I think we've forgotten that area exists. Therefore, we assume everyone must agree and we export our convictions in the kind of absolute, or as you put it, the scorched earth fashion.

Sean McDowell: That's a really helpful way to break it down because sometimes non-essentials that are important, people die on those hills as if they're essentials. You're saying this distinction and just thinking it through can help us communicate more effectively together. I think that's great. Tim, let me ask you a question, because I know this comes from some of your work in the area of communication. You mentioned that communication is broken down into two areas, content and relational, almost like the medium and the message, so to speak. What are the roles that each of those play, especially in conflict?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, the content is important. That's our argument. That's our conviction. That's why we feel strongly about a particular issue. So the content level is incredibly important. And again, Biola does a great job through its apologetics program of saying, "Hey, we need to know our arguments. We need to know why we're justified in believing in something." And Sean, you know how much I love our apologetics program. I speak for you guys often and love it. But here's what we learned from communication theory. If the relational level is broken, no one cares about your content.

Tim Muehlhoff: If I don't feel respected by you, I don't want to hear your argument. If I feel like you have no compassion towards me and I feel like you don't acknowledge my position, then I don't care what your argument is because we've been sidetracked. So what I find interesting is Paul says, "I want you to speak the truth," content. "I want you to do it in love." Peter says, "Be ready to give a defense of the reasons that you believe," content, "but do it in all gentleness and respect," relational. You can look at the Book of Proverbs and you see a beautiful balance between the relational and the content.

Tim Muehlhoff: So I think the argument crisis today is that we've lost the relational. That's what I think the argument culture is most about. There was a time when people could be friends. We take a look at GK Chesterton in our book. I mean he was a brilliant intellect, but he was friends with HG Wells. He was friends with Rudyard Kipling. After a bitter debate, they were able to go to the pub together and have a conversation afterwards. That's what we've lost today is just mere association with the person on the other side is seen as compromise.

Tim Muehlhoff: So I think we need to desperately try to reclaim the relational. Let me just say this real quick. Our first book together was called Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World. How do we talk with non-Christians? And then we wrote Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing The Church. Rick and I both realized it is so much easier to talk to non-Christians. It's so much easier because when you get with Christians, it's what Rick just said. Everybody wants to play the biblical trump card.

Tim Muehlhoff: Nobody's content with just letting our convictions live and let live. No, no, no. I wanted to frame this in such a way that the Bible mandates it, thus you're unbiblical if you do not side with me. We call it weaponizing a belief.

Scott Rae: So Tim, explain that idea a little bit further because you used the phrase in the book, weaponizing our beliefs, fairly regularly. What exactly do you mean by that? And give me an example.

Tim Muehlhoff: Okay. I'll give an example, then I'll let Rick jump in as well. So let's jump into the egalitarian/complementarian debate. Okay. Two positions that are well-argued in scripture, though I side on the complementarian side. I know of egalitarian scholars. I think they're top-notch scholars. So to me, this is a robust debate. Well, nobody's pleased with that. Nobody likes that because it's like, "No, no, no. You don't understand. My position is the biblical position." So here's a way to weaponize it. Here's what they'll do.

Tim Muehlhoff: Egalitarians, I'm sorry. Complementarians I know will say something like this, "Tim, do you believe the Trinity is a core biblical belief?" And I'll say yes. Then they'll say, "Well, do you know egalitarians are trying to dismantle the Trinity?" I'm like, "Wow, really?" Because if they're trying to dismantle the Trinity, then guess what? They are wrong and they're challenging a core belief. Now, egalitarians would really challenged that. But that's one way to weaponize a belief, to say, "Okay, let me find something that's a core belief and now I'm going to show that this debate is really about the core belief, not just about submission within a marriage."

Scott Rae: So it sounds like some of those things relate to certain views that are entailed by our more core beliefs about which we can't have reasonable disagreement, but that those entailments, we hold those entailments with the same amount of passion that we hold the core beliefs. Is that what makes that so difficult?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah, Scott. I would say this is CS Lewis, his hallway of faith. I love this analogy that there is a hallway of faith and this is what makes us evangelicals, the divinity of Jesus, salvation in Christ alone, the Trinity. But then he said there's rooms off the hallway. Those rooms would be the Calvinist/Arminian debate, to me, the egalitarian/complementarian debate, certain eschatological views. Well, one way to end the debate if you're a room off the hallway is I got to get into the hallway. So I got to find a way that you're positioning is challenging the hallway. And then I can say, "Checkmate."

Sean McDowell: How about this question? I'm curious how this plays into it because I know, and this is for either of you. But I know, Tim, you've written on kind of spiritual warfare as it relates to marriage. But how does that relate to our battle, not our battle, spiritual battle play in our disagreement with fellow believers? We don't want to call it a battle. In other words, how can you tell if this is just a normal disagreement or if some kind of spiritual warfare might be at play?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, Sean, that's a great question because we would be so naive at a Christian university, a church, to think that Satan, our adversary, isn't trying to destroy our unity. He does not care how he does that. He wants to get a foothold. So when I'm having a theological debate with a brother and, again, I'm very passionate when it comes to certain theological issues. If I start to demonize the other person, if I start to let anger control me, if I'm attacking that person and feeling the temptation to do so, I think it's wise to pull back and pray some spiritual warfare prayers to protect our unity as we're about to jump right back into this really good, but fairly strong theological debate.

Tim Muehlhoff: So I think we need to pray a mantle of protection around our disagreements. I think we'd be naive if we didn't think spiritual battle is at play in some of these real disagreements about politics, theology, diversity, immigration. Satan wants to get a foothold and drive the church apart.

Rick Langer: I think we talk about sometimes a root of bitterness springing up and you notice that happens a lot in arguments, just ordinary discussions. But that's the exact language that Paul uses to identify that with giving Satan a foothold. And yet at that point, you really realize that the spiritual warfare issue is intimately connected with our ability or our inability to have healthy conversations with one another, when we begin to get to a point where they're feeling bitterness.

Rick Langer: One of the things I realized, I'll kind of listen to the tapes that are rolling in my own mind as I think about a person with whom I'm having a disagreement. I'll realize, "Oh my gosh, I'm drifting into bitterness." That's the thing that just gives Satan a foothold to divide the body of Christ.

Scott Rae: Guys, let me ask you just on a real practical level here. Let's say that Sean and I have a disagreement about a particular area of ethics or philosophy or theology.

Tim Muehlhoff: Scott, you're right. You're right in this disagreement. Let me just jump in right now. I don't want to pick sides.

Scott Rae: I guess I'll move on to the next question then.

Tim Muehlhoff: Okay, thank you.

Scott Rae: It's one thing to hold your convictions in a winsome way once you're involved in the conversation, but starting difficult conversations, I think it may be even tougher than maintaining civility once you're in the midst of them. I know we talk to a lot of students who they don't have any idea how to even begin to approach some of these subjects with their peers, with family members, or whoever it might be.

Scott Rae: What kind of practical advice would you give to someone when it comes to starting one of these difficult conversations?

Rick Langer: Yeah. One of the things that comes to my mind just as you described that, Scott, which is a really good ... I mean this is a thing I think a lot of us face is that you need to make up your mind at the outset, whether or not you want to hear from them or if you want to tell them something.

Scott Rae: But with Sean, I definitely want to tell him something.

Sean McDowell: I'm getting thrown under the bus here.

Rick Langer: That pretty much answers the question, because sometimes we'll ask these questions and you suddenly realize that person isn't asking me a question. They have veiled a statement in a question and they don't really want my input. They want my repentance or my change of view. So one of the things I would really encourage people to do at the outset is just stop and say, "How well do I understand their position? What questions might I ask that would help me understand it?" Begin the process with an attempt to have discovery, reflection, inviting input from the other person. Even though you know that you may disagree, you probably don't understand their position super well.

Rick Langer: One of the things I say a lot is that one of our biggest challenges is actually successfully achieving disagreement because we so frequently don't understand each other. If I can't state your viewpoint in a way that you nod your head and say, "Yes, that's right, that is what I think," then I can't possibly disagree with you because I don't know what you think. So I have to go through a certain effort to be able to really articulate another person's viewpoint well enough that they can nod their head and say, "Yes, you've not only captured what I believe, but you've captured how I feel about that issue."

Rick Langer: So I would encourage people to begin a lot of these conversations with that kind of an effort and say, "Hey, I know we disagree about this issue, but I'm not sure I understand all of your reasons why or some of the reasons that may sit behind why you feel that way. Could you talk to me just a little bit about your conviction on this issue?" It invites them to tell kind of a broader story and it moves it far more into an area of seeking mutual understanding, not as a replacement for having the honest disagreement, but as a starting point for laying a context for having a disagreement.

Tim Muehlhoff: Can I jump in real quick and piggyback on what-

Sean McDowell: No. Sorry.

Tim Muehlhoff: Okay.

Sean McDowell: I'm kidding, Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff: Doggone it. See, Scott? I was right. I was right. You guys know I do martial arts. The father of modern karate has a quote that we just love. The quote is, "Spirit proceeds technique." If you don't have the right spirit, then you can never do the technique. So we're very leery of just giving people techniques if we don't address the heart issue, because techniques will not work. I wrote a book on marriage. Marriage, it's not going to work if my heart's not in the right place entering into the conversation. So you guys are writers. Both of you are great writers.

Tim Muehlhoff: You know how you come across something that is so convicting. You just put it in the book because you want to convict other people and not just be you who's convicted. We came across a humility checklist from a philosopher. This is some of the questions we want people to wrestle with before the conversation even starts. Here's the first question. Even when you feel strongly about something, are you still aware that you could be wrong? do you reserve the right to change your mind? Or do you feel weak or ashamed to change a strongly held opinion?

Tim Muehlhoff: Then consider this one. Do you approach others with the idea that you might have something to learn from them? To me, that's a spiritual issue. If the heart's not in the right place, if the spirit isn't in the right place, then any technique we give people is going to break down in a heartbeat in the moment because our hearts are not in the right place. We think spiritual formation is a precursor to getting to having these winsome conversations.

Sean McDowell: That's really interesting that you talk about how important it is not only to have the right heart going into this, technique aside. But also a minute ago, Rick, you kind of talked about what we considered a conversation failure or a conversation success even when we disagree. So it sounds like not only our heart, but our mindset going into this is going to shape the conversation.

Sean McDowell: So I'm curious, back to your point, Rick, how would you describe a successful conversation in which there is disagreement? Because that's a very different mindset than a lot of people who say, "The conversation is I want to win and show the person why." You're framing this differently, aren't you?

Rick Langer: Yeah, we really are. I think one of the big hallmarks of any successful conversation is the way you feel about the person you had it with afterwards. Have you deepened your respect and understanding of that person? Have you given and received love from that person? These are things that I think are just mandatory for Christians, whether we're talking to friends or enemies. We love our friends. We love our enemies. These are things that we need to be able to convey in conversation.

Rick Langer: So that sense of where did I come out with my attitude and understanding of that person? Another hallmark of a good conversation in an area of conflict is that you really do understand not only what they're thinking, but why they're thinking that. Whenever you have a feeling like, "Tim, he just believes this thing and it just is a completely stupid viewpoint." Do you think Tim is completely stupid? Now, I'll pause here for anyone to fill in the blank for how they'd like to answer this one.

Tim Muehlhoff: Quiet, Sean. Quiet, Sean.

Sean McDowell: I missed my cue.

Tim Muehlhoff: Turn the other cheek.

Rick Langer: But is it really that plausible that this person with a PhD is completely stupid? If you're feeling that their arguments and reasoning for holding the position they do are that way, then you probably don't actually understand the reason why they hold that position. So this is what's so important to us is to be able to, hey, let's think this through and understand what the reasons are. Sometimes those reasons are more personal than they are intellectual, where they grew up, life experiences that they bring to the table. These things shape our opinions profoundly.

Rick Langer: But they help us make sense of each other when you realize this person grew up in Nazi Germany. Well, that explains a lot. This person grew up in the South before the Jim Crow laws had been repealed. There's a lot of those experiences that aren't an intellectual argument point, but they're a huge help in understanding. It's what we call thickening the conviction, understanding the backstory, understanding the heart and the feelings a person brings to it. So that's a big part of a successful conversation is understanding the person better in all of their kind of dynamics.

Tim Muehlhoff: We do this all the time. We demonize the other person and get into that kind of black and white thinking Rick just described. We've been keeping quotes because now we're working with a church and a Christian high school on how to talk about the election. So we're keeping quotes that just casually happen. Here's what one friend of mine said, "There is nothing that the Democrats believe that I could vote for, nothing." I'm like, "Wow." Then another friend of mine, he said, I actually wrote it down. He said, "Listen, I'll make this really simple. Republicans are liars, period." You're like, "Wow." I want to say, "Rick, be careful how you're talking about ..." No, I'm just kidding. But you know what I mean?

Tim Muehlhoff: That demonization, don't think that that's something that only non-Christians do. I mean these are both committed believers that I just quoted. They are committed believers. And yet, whatever reason, they've slipped into the argument culture and now they're doing what Peter said not to do. Peter said, "I don't want you to give an insult for an insult. I don't want you to do that. I want you to give a blessing instead of an insult." That's where some people say, "There is no blessing I can give to that individual. There's nothing good to bless."

Tim Muehlhoff: Somehow Jesus was able to have the moniker, the friend of sinners. We need to go back to his table fellowship model that you can hold this tension of really disagreeing with a person, but also having fellowship and keeping the relational level alive as you have these disagreements on the content level.

Sean McDowell: I've listened to both of you speak on this, read some of your works, and tried to do this in my life and find myself falling short many times. But I also find myself in conversations with people that aren't even trying, Christians, to put these principles into practice. What do you do when you kind of have that moment and you realize, "I'm trying to live out civility and respect and charity and this person doesn't?" Do you step back and call them on it? Do you narrate the conversation? Do you end it? How do you navigate that? Which seems to be more often than not where conversations often go.

Rick Langer: Yeah, that's a great question, Sean. I've certainly had that experience myself. I think one of the things that I've noticed in my own heart, my reflex reaction is to try and come back at the person or what the person said rather than to move back into my own heart and just say, "Hey, let me just share with you just a little bit what I'm feeling right now because I'm feeling like our conversation isn't working and here's some of why I'm feeling that," referring to my own response. Maybe I feel like the person's attacking or not listening, whatever it may be. But I'm sharing some of that as opposed to it's the old thing that people talk about all the time. The I statement rather than the you statement in that moment.

Rick Langer: It's uncanny how often everything changes if you can somehow get both people on the same side of the table and the problem on the other side. So we're looking at this problem together in saying, "Hey, we're not having a good conversation right now. What could we do to make it just a little bit better?

Tim Muehlhoff: Can I mention a principle that comes from John Gottman? He's one of the top relational experts today. He says this, "How a conversation begins is how it's going to end." I just taught a class with a colleague at Biola and we just fundamentally disagree theologically and even politically on certain issues, but we absolutely had a blast. I later called him. This was mid-semester. I called them and said, "Why do you think this works?" He said, "You know what you always say?" I didn't even realize I said this. And then I realized he did the same.

Tim Muehlhoff: When he would disagree with me, he would say this, I really respect Dr. Muehlhoff and when he said this in that last lecture, boy, hang on to that. That's really, really good what he said. But I have a question about that because I think I disagree maybe at this point." It was such a soft startup, that it really got us on a roll. By the way, we were able to keep our sense of humor. I think that was really important is we joked about a bunch of ... We're ardent college football fans and we joked about each other's teams and stuff like that. So the humor part is really important. And then it's how we disagreed with each other, that we felt respected even as we were disagreeing with each other.

Scott Rae: Guys, let me push back a bit on this, hopefully in a winsome way. But as I read through the gospels, there are several instances in the life of Jesus that come to mind where I think you can make an argument that He wasn't practicing this kind of civility and winsomeness, when He threw the money changers out of the temple, when He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs or in the gospel of John, when He referred to the religious leaders as, "You are the children of your father, the devil." How do you incorporate those examples from the life of Jesus, into your notion here of winsome convictions?

Tim Muehlhoff: Well, let me just say one thing real quick. Rick?

Scott Rae: Always punt to the theologian, don't you?

Rick Langer: Nice. Yeah. I have certainly thought about that as well. We actually had the same thing. This came up too with our previous book on Winsome Persuasion because that was a relevant issue there. One of the things we said in that context was actually if you were to learn rhetoric from the Holy Spirit, so to speak, you'd find that sometimes He speaks in what you might call a prophetic voice, both with a, "Thus sayeth the Lord," but often speaking a word of judgment. You read Old Testament prophets and they will declare bold judgment. You'll find other times in the Holy Spirit, He's called the comfort or the Paraclete, the one that comes alongside and so He kind of speaks in a pastoral voice, but He's also in allegiance in the truth. So he speaks in a persuasive voice.

Rick Langer: I would want to say at the outset, there's probably a room and space for these different voices at different times. I think one of our biggest worries is we've either defaulted to the pastoral voice only, where you just kind of meet the person where they're at and you say words of love and kumbaya and that kind of a thing. If that isn't good, then you turn up the prophetic mode and if the prophetic mode doesn't work, then you turn up the volume on the prophetic mode. We've forgotten there might be this middle ground where we really can have a conversation.

Rick Langer: I don't want to claim that that's the only way we could ever talk or the only thing that would ever be warranted. There's times where you just shout at a person, "Get out of the street because the bus is coming," and you don't want to invite them into a conversation. You just want them out of the street. I'm just concerned that we have defaulted into either of these two directions of merely kind of taking the whatever, it's all good, or the absolute draw the line. We've lost this whole middle area of conversation that I would argue, even in the life of Christ, would be the preponderance of the way you see Him interacting, not denying the fact that there maybe times and places where He interacts in another way.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. I would just add to that. We have to let Paul be complex. I mean this is the man who powerfully says that evil can be overcome by good. He powerfully says when your enemy is hungry, don't take advantage of him, but rather give him food. Give him drink. And yet, this is the same man who took on the Judaizers in some very powerful language. We don't want to deny that, but let's make Paul complex. So I think we're going to have to do what we call situational communication, is not one size fits all, but we have to take a look at each instance.

Tim Muehlhoff: Because remember, when Paul's speaking on Mars Hill, we know what he thinks about idols. It literally turns his stomach when you read the Greek. He hates it. But when he gets up to address the men of Athens, he says, "Men of Athens, I observe that you're men of worship." You think, "What? What?" That's Paul using winsome communication right there. I think we have to make Paul A complex communicator who often allows the situation to drive what may be the best thing to say in that moment. On Mars Hill, he decided to focus on their positives, the men of worship, and not that fact that he despised idol worship.

Scott Rae: So let me ask one final question for both of you. What advice would you give to our listeners for how to have winsome convictions and winsome conversations as the presidential election approaches?

Tim Muehlhoff: Rick and I just did a test group with some of our friends who are just people we admire to death, their walk with the Lord, their commitment to Jesus' kingdom. And yet, everybody was conflicted. We broke them up into different groups and everyone was conflicted in that group, whether they were going to vote one way or the other. So I just would say the conflictedness I feel most likely is being felt by other people. This is not easy, whether you're pro or against. This is a tough situation. It needs to be nuanced.

Tim Muehlhoff: I think at the end of the day, nobody's particularly happy. But we're trying to find values that will guide us, biblical values. And yet, people can have different values, how they're arranging them. So give grace. Know that all of us are wrestling with this as we come to a second election involving President Trump. So give grace and understanding and just know the conflictedness you feel is being felt by other people. So give grace even to those who aren't conflicted. I absolutely think this is what you should do. But to give grace to those individuals that they feel passionate and understand what's fueling that passion might be a good starting point.

Rick Langer: One other thing you might say, this is the thing that I use a lot in encouraging my students in my classes. When you know it's a contested issue like that, sometimes you can begin by saying, "Here's what I think I think about the upcoming election." That kind of provisions-

Sean McDowell: You know what, Rick? Let me stop you right there. Let me stop you. Somehow there was snapping in the background. If you want to start your response again, I think we can get a better recording. Sorry about that.

Rick Langer: One other thing that I think is a helpful way to begin one of these conversations is just to make your own statements a little bit more provisional. The thing I tell my students and have them do a lot of times when they're having a hard time making a statement about a difficult topic like Tim has just described, is instead of saying, "Here's what I believe or whatever," say, "Here's what I think I think. Here's what I think I think about President Trump or about Joseph Biden or about the upcoming election." It just gives room for softening.

Rick Langer: Again, it's that image that Tim picked up from John Gottman about the way you begin the conversation is the way you end it. So to be able to say something like, "Here's what I think I think," makes it both easier to skate into it and also easier to give room for your own adjustment, but also for interacting with the person that disagrees with you.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Guys, this has been super helpful. In particular, I'd commend our listeners to maybe listen to this a couple of times and think really hard about what you heard today as the election approaches and as you think about how you're going to have conversations with people about the different aspects of the election. So commend you guys for your work, both on Winsome Persuasion and your new book, Winsome Convictions. This is great stuff, so helpful. Would that our culture could take some of these things and apply them and be less divisive and have more conversations that actually both start and end constructively where we listen, we learn, we have humility, and we have really productive conversations.

Scott Rae: So we really appreciate you guys coming on with us. My guess is we'll probably do a follow-up on this right after the election to hear about how some of those conversations have gone. I know you're training groups to do this as the election approaches. So we'll have a follow-up to hear how some of those things went. So much appreciate it to both of you.

Rick Langer: Thanks so much, you guys.

Tim Muehlhoff: We're big fans of you guys and so we love what you're doing. So thank you so much for letting us come on.

Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast. Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guests, Dr. Rick Langer and Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, and to find more episodes, go to That's If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.