Courage, the Truth, and Persuading toward the Good
~ by Phaedra Shaltanis ~
“And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
-William W. How, “For All the Saints”
Between All Saints Day and Veteran’s Day, November presents an abundance of remembering:
unnumbered Christians from the ages, tenacious and steady military, the faithful who’ve endured to the end, and those still “fighting the good fight.” We’ve no shortage of heroes to emulate, and though our names aren’t included in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or on the Vietnam Memorial, we are called to fight on the same battlefield, and for that we need courage. Our war zone may look different from former ones, but our enemy is the same: untruth and its accomplices.
Courage and truth share an indelible bond. Without truth, courage is folly, and without courage, truth may lay dormant when it should be enacting its work. Not everyone advocates for truth, however; cancel culture and the threat of defamation have fostered a spirit of intimidation and fear. We dread becoming victims of this raging trend; we don’t want to be despised or fired or ridiculed, and we’re afraid of unwelcome consequences…and so, we’re tempted to warily pad around volatile issues and edit our words to disguise judgment, cautiously remaining silent when we could courageously further the truth.
Instead, we should daily claim our inheritance as stewards of Truth. Because we know the source of all truth and have understanding, we are responsible for “helping it along.” Make no mistake, truth will always find its way out, but our love for God and neighbor should embolden us to speak rightly even when we risk losing something. We should remember that God’s own Spirit counsels us and provides what we need, that we are buoyed and guided by Truth, and that our confidence is in the preeminent Christ, in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Our courage comes not from ourselves but from him, and He will not fail us. It’s daunting to face hostility when truth is unwelcome, but we are a people belonging to God and not to the world, and our fortitude comes from him.
To help us grow into winsome promoters of the truth, we can study the art of rhetoric. Ideally, this comes after engaging in dialectic, which develops our analytical abilities and is aimed at discovering the truth. Rhetoric informs us in the practice of caring for others through persuasion toward the Good, for whatever is true is good. If we don’t persuade toward goodness, we become liars and sophists, who generally have different end goals than ours. Our goal is to “speak the truth in love” and to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Additionally, we have an outstanding debt to love one another, and withholding truth offends this love; expressing the truth with compassion and out of concern for others upholds it. Studying rhetoric builds our abilities in this area, providing beautiful examples of persuasive speech and upholding the value of “a good man speaking well.”
Understanding the components of loving persuasion is vital to our purpose as God’s children; we are called to truth, and we are called to be courageous, and, because all truth is complete in Christ, we have an endless source of courage. Josef Pieper eloquently states, “For to be brave means not only to suffer injury and death in the struggle for the realization of the good, but also to hope for victory.” The willingness to suffer for truth is a gift of the Holy Spirit who likewise nourishes us with “the surest hope of the final and highest victory…life eternal.” This hope won’t disappoint, so let’s pick up our courage and put on Truth.
Phaedra Shaltanis is a seasoned classical educator with 20 years of experience teaching in the classical tradition. Her experience includes home-educating her 4 children, teaching in private schools, creating a classical curriculum for young learners, serving as a leader in various programs, and mentoring parents and teachers in classical education. Phaedra cherishes conversations built on God’s truth and strives to engage others through discourse, particularly in the areas of literature and history. She hopes to encourage her students toward a stronger ardor for language as they seek after God and treasure their membership in Christ’s kingdom.