People tell a multitude of stories about themselves: who they are, what they believe in, what they imagine life is all about. As theologian Joshua D. Chatraw sees it, the core task of Christian apologetics today is helping nonbelievers recognize themselves in the story God tells in Scripture. Chatraw, executive director of the Center for Public Christianity and theologian-in-residence at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, is the author of Telling a Better Story: How to Talk About God in a Skeptical Age. Kristi Mair, a research fellow at Oak Hill College in London and the author of More Truth: Searching for Certainty in an Uncertain World, spoke with Chatraw about the role of imagination in gospel persuasion.
Why do you focus on the role of story in apologetics?
Reason and logic are important. However, all our reason and logic happen within a certain framework—in the book, I call it the “grand story,” the true story that Christianity tells. Story is our lingua franca. Everyone has a story. People think in stories. Rather than relying on syllogistic reasoning, we can let story serve as the common ground.
Apologetics can quickly become a monologue rather than a dialogue. When we ask people about their stories, we get some appreciation of their values, their aspirations, and their sense of what makes for a good life. And we can see where their ideals might conflict—or overlap—with the Christian story.
So rather than starting the conversation on our turf, we start it on theirs. Theologically, I know their deepest longings will never be satisfied as long as they are looking in all the wrong places. They were made to worship God, but because of sin, they are worshiping alternatives ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more