Reflections of a Broken Man

On Game Theory and Evangelism by StephenMac
May 25, 2009, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

**Currently mellowing to Transatlanticism – DCFC**

So today, I found myself in a conversation that, as it usually does by God’s hand, ends up on the topic of Christian faith and apologetics. It was only semi-planned, but I found myself doing the usual “So how do you know?”

I am beginning to wonder why God has brought me here to college in the first place. A year and a bit, and I still can’t do much more than rant (just now at a more educated level…) But while my ineptness was salvaged by the fact that at least the Gospel was proclaimed (I think…), I began wondering if there is a game theory of evangelism.

Think of this scenario: two robbers pull off a heist. They hide the evidence, but are imageseen coming out of the bank which has just been robbed. The police arrest them, and interrogate them separately. There is only enough evidence to nail them for a minor charge (6 months gaol time). If they both say nothing, they get nailed… 1 year each. However, the police cut a deal: if one of them defects and rats out the other guy, he gets to go free, and the other guy takes the rap (10 years). If they both defect, then they both get 5 years.
The two robbers have to trust each other to get the best scenario for both of them. But the best scenario for the individual is to defect, and hope that the other is a sucker who trusts you.
There is a thing called a “one-shot game”. If you knew that there would be only one game played, and thus no repercussions, would you play differently? Would you, instead of choosing to trust, defect?
This kind of thinking is used to determine behaviour of rational humans, as well as politics and economics.

My thought is this: in evangelism, if you are planning on developing relationships, prisoners dilemmawould you do things differently than if it was a one time conversation? If you knew that you would meet this person again, you would aim to develop relationship, ensure that you said nothing that would inhibit the relationship until you were certain of the strength of the relationship (in game theory terms, you would acquiesce as you knew that there were repercussions). If you knew that this was the one conversation that you would have, you would approach it differently… perhaps say a few more controversial things, perhaps be a bit more forward than you would normally, because you knew that there would be no relational repercussions…

If you were on the proverbial train, being asked the proverbial question “What is Christianity in 30 sec”, would your answer be different to if your best friend asked you the same question?

Question: at what point is evangelism (particularly walk-up/spontaneous evangelism) a one-shot game?