Effective intercultural communication should aim to gain the acceptance of the receptor’s affections, and not merely his intellect.
People are not only thinkers, but feelers, as well. Reception of a message always involves the affective dimension (Mark Young, Course Lecture, Spring 2008). Jonathan Edwards, aware of this aspect in the communication process, said:
“I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with” (Edwards, 387).
One’s values are probably more determinative in making a decision than are one’s allegiances (Mark Young, Course Lecture, Fall 2007).
Unfortunately, a lot of Christian communicators aim to gain merely the receptor’s intellectual assent to their own message. A great danger follows this line of communicating. For instance, an American missionary presents the gospel to a European unbeliever. The unbeliever listens intently to this message as he perceives its contents. After the presentation of this gospel message, the missionary asks the European for a response, to which the European says, “Yes, I believe everything you just said.” The missionary then says, “Pray this prayer and you will be a Christian.” One of the problems with this method of communication, James implies in his epistle, when he describes the intellectual orthodoxy of the demons: “Even the demons believe — and tremble” (2.19). The devil and his entourage believe Paul’s every word in 1 Corinthians 15.
One of the assumptions of this point is that everyone in this world wants to be happy, regardless of one’s culture or ethnic background. We are whole beings, comprised of the mind, heart, and will (though the limits of language often make it complicated when describing the interaction between the three dimensions). Everything we do, whether consciously or unconsciously naturally inclines toward getting happy. God knows this, because he made people this way. Jesus himself is the supreme example for effective intercultural communication that aims to gain the acceptance of his receptor’s affections. Some of his own last words aimed toward his disciples’ hearts for the purpose of increasing their affections in some way or another: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15.11). “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away…But I have said these things to you, that when the hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (Jn 16.1,4). I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16.33).
Perhaps, well related to this point is the important distinction that Jonathan Dodson makes between faith and mere belief.
Note: More to come on this very subject…