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It’s Not Easy, Being Green

by Jennifer Pinch

Walking into the board room I observed four long tables, each with a bright coloured table cloth in orange, gold, blue, or green. Buckets of craft supplies were placed strategically in the center by the optimistic facilitator. My first thoughts were: A team-building workshop, where we do sentimental collages and art therapy? Great. I wonder how long it’s socially appropriate to display these things before I can throw mine in the recycling?

To my delight, rather than doing crafts, we learned personality temperament theory and took a series of visual and written tests. Founded on 10 years of Canadian research, with origins traced from ancient Greek philosophers and physicians, my interest was piqued. Three hours later, the results were revealed and we were divided into our four “colours”, each of which represent a distinct personality type. There were many Golds, several Blues, a few Oranges, and alone at the Green table was me. Not surprising. I have always known that there is something peculiar about me.

The facilitator started to define and explain the implications of each personality type, beginning with me. Greens are inquiring. Their core needs are knowledge and competence. They value logic, precision, and accuracy. They need the freedom to ask “why?” They are quality conscious, analytical, and systematic. Greens have high expectations and standards. As she finished the description she asked me why I thought she had started with Green. I replied, “Probably because you feel that you need to convince me that this is relevant to keep my attention.” She smiled as she said, “Exactly.” You see, we Greens need rationale for buying into any idea. She knew that asking me for my input in the initial stages would gain my cooperation. She also knew that Greens are seldom intimidated when singled out in a group setting.

In apologetics, I have come to realize that we are primarily Green personality types. It stands to reason that men and women with a passion for defending the truth claims of Christianity do so because of a firm conviction that it is worth vigorously affirming the Christian worldview. We tend to be effective in formal debates because we are able to argue facts, rather than feelings. Passages like Proverbs 2:10 are inspiring to us: “For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” The problem is, Greens are not common in the general population and are easily misunderstood. We may be deeply moved by the study of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem as it relates to the cosmological argument, but this is not typical. For most, the pursuit of knowledge does not result in a pleasant emotional experience, akin to worship.

Beyond a love for solving complex problems and acquiring information, Greens reject doing anything we believe is illogical. Following a religious tradition we know to be false is absurd to us. This can pose a difficult hurdle in communication with nominal followers of any religion.

Recently, I was several hours into deep spiritual conversation with a Mormon friend. We came to a place where it was clear to me that she both knew and accepted the historical, doctrinal, and scriptural problems inherent to Mormonism. In genuine confusion, I asked, “Why would you stay in the LDS church if, personally, you are confident it is not true?” Equally perplexed, she replied, “I don’t stay because I think it is true. I stay because it is who I am and I believe the church makes me a better person. I am Mormon. You can’t wash this stuff off.” Now, I know that many who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints firmly believe it is the one true Christian church. But, this isn’t about them. I am speaking about those who do not believe and yet do not appear to suffer any significant tension or cognitive dissonance participating in something they don’t even personally affirm.

The challenge for a Green personality in apologetics is learning how to resolve the conflict between presenting formal arguments that aim to satisfy those who hold a correspondence theory of truth, but are lost entirely on a culture which eagerly embraces a pragmatic theory of truth. That is to say, when an apologist defends and shares the faith with the assumption that her audience believes in objective truth, she may quickly get the feeling that she is speaking a different language. In a culture that is persuaded by arguments they preferand narratives that work for them, the Green apologist can feel stumped. This has been true for me over and over again. No matter how many times I attempt to explain the irrationality of a belief in something – even something unimportant in light of eternity – it takes a measure of self-discipline to contain my frustrated confusion if the person simply shrugs her shoulders, unimpressed and unconvinced. Understanding valid arguments while continuing to cling to an opposing belief makes no sense to me, or those like me.

Admittedly, I am relatively new to the intentional study and practice of Christian Apologetics. In that way, I am also “green”. I am a rookie. Yet, God is growing me up rapidly in the understanding of both His Word and the nature of truth. It has been a steep learning curve, and one for which I am overwhelmingly thankful. One of my favorite verses of all time is Proverbs 12:1. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” For Greens, being corrected doesn’t hurt our feelings so much as it discourages us when we are forced to admit an area of incompetence. God has been teaching me to be on guard against the temptation to respond defensively, without gentleness and respect. Generally speaking, I can swallow my pride if I have been convinced that I am wrong. However, it is a whole other story of God at work in my heart to keep my attitude in check if I am convinced I am right and my arguments are rejected unjustly.

Many non-Christians and skeptics reject Christianity for sincere reasons we may fail to uncover if we are too busy thinking and not busy listening. There is truth in the observation that, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” We must guard against impatience and insensitivity to the genuine emotional needs of others. Sarcasm and arrogance are alluring enemies to those of us who are Green, in both senses of the word.

All Christians are called to be prepared to give a defense for their faith (1 Peter 3:15) and, whether we feel particularly good at it or not, we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). My personal passion for Christian Apologetics began in my teenage years, but at that time I lacked the terminology to describe what it was I was doing. Presently I am gaining clarity on what it means to be an apologist in everyday life. For me, it has meant that I need to be a much better listener than a lecturer, more interested in asking good questions than in making assertions or assumptions, and prayerfully petitioning God to open the eyes and heart rather than living a purely intellectual agenda.

The question becomes, how do we communicate effectively with a culture that is not primarilypersuaded by logic? I believe we have to learn to both give valid arguments and share our personal testimony, in a raw and real way. As a woman with a high regard for the scientific method, it is no small task to choose to use anecdotal evidence, knowing it is the best way to communicate my faith in some situations, while simultaneously intellectually rejecting it as a form of confirmation bias. Truly, it’s not easy being green.

One of the most fascinating things I have discovered as I have become actively involved in apologetics is how uncommon it is for people to embrace Christianity or abandon false religions based on evidence and reason alone. Coming to understand that was, in a sense, an epiphany. It is the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit that draws people to Christ. While I know that to be true, it has not always been my instinctual understanding. In the end, it comes down to another course correction from God. We must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). Wisdom is the awareness that God may condescend to use me for His glory, but it really is not about me. It is about Him.

Our motivation to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” must be inseparably tied to the second half of that very verse: “and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As Walter Martin writes, “… we are to vigorously oppose the [false] teachings, with our primary objective the winning of the soul and not so much the argument.” Being Green in both personality and experience, I am learning that faith is a beautiful harmony between logic, rationality, and evidence and the indescribable and undeniable internal witness of the Holy Spirit. I do not fully comprehend it. I often struggle to articulate it. But I know it to be true.