The use of creative apologetics–engaging with the Christian worldview via storytelling–is a particular interest of mine. That’s largely because I’m a storyteller, and stories speak to me in ways that lectures, sermons, and theological tomes do not. But I’ve been grappling with a question recently: is imaginative apologetics useful as well as emotionally compelling?
This really comes down to a question of practicality. It may appeal to me specifically, but will it appeal to others in everyday conversations? And how can it even be used in everyday conversations? The answer, as so often happens, came to me not in my shower musings or some sort of intellectual brainstorming session, but in a conversation.
An Everyday Conversation
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a new convert who was struggling with some tragic things that had happened in his own life. I won’t give the full details of his story, but it includes the deaths and terminal diagnoses of multiple family members. These things were in full swing before he became a Christian, but his central question kept nagging at him: “Why would God let this happen?”
As he was unpacking the spiritual challenges of this question, I was thinking about several arguments in the realm of apologetics. I was thinking about lectures by Craig Hazen on the fallen world, podcasts by William Lane Craig on the free will response to the problem of evil, and other approaches from a philosophical lens. None of these are what I responded to my friend with, however, because it occurred to me that there is a story in the Bible that deals with this exact question: “Why would God let this happen?”
So we talked about Job.
Now, as is the case with these conversations, we eventually hit on some of these other points. We did actually end up talking about the free will response in particular, but it was grounded in Scripture, and the fact that a person in the Bible experienced something like he has experienced. And that Scripture actually engages with the question he was struggling with.
This interaction showed me both the why and the how of creative apologetics. Facts and arguments can be woven into engaging with a story. The story in and of itself will not be as meaningful for everyone as it was on this conversation, but it can be a powerful tool.
The Why of Creative Apologetics
People tend to feel a disconnect between the organized and crisp theology that they hear from the pulpit and the messy problems that typify their own real-world lives. Stories show how the theology and philosophy of Christianity looks. Good story shows how that looks in the messy lives that real people experience. As a result, story is sometimes much more relevant than theology alone. At the very least, it certainly makes the theology more relatable and accessible.
The How of Creative Apologetics
Making theology more accessible can be done in simple terms by telling the stories in Scripture that relate to people’s lives. Talk about the story, the characters, and how something from the story shows what living out Christian doctrine looks like. For instance, when someone wonders if the worst sinners are capable of change, I talk about Manasseh, and how Chronicles records him repenting even after engaging in child sacrifice. Job used as an example of why people suffer is one, but I’ve also used the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose to talk about how Christians suffer as a form of witness.
I can say with confidence that engaging with story has real, practical benefits for Christians. Story is powerful, and stories both inside and outside of the Bible can help us visualize our faith in the real world.
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At A Clear Lens, he focuses on worldview analysis and pop culture, as well as co-hosting the A Clear Lens Podcast. In addition to his work on the ACL website and podcast, he is also the author of three novels. He tweets @loganrjudy about story, faith, and Batman.