Narrative Apologetics by Alister McGrath has one purpose to make a case for, “the joyful, creative, and faithful use of stories to communicate and commend the central truths of the Christian gospel.” He is not negating the importance of intellectual apologetics, but makes efforts to show that stories can sometimes be more effective than intellectual methods. Stories help people make sense of the world and our lives are made up of a collection of them. He draws upon the many examples of CS Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien using stories such as the Chronicles of Narnia, to present deeper truths in a way people resonate with and see themselves in.
Some of the stronger points I found in the book:
McGrath has a good motivation for why we should be making more usage of story to teach truth. According to him, “Back in the 18th century, it was important to show that Christianity was true; in the 21st century, it has become important to show that it works.” In a relativistic, feelings drive culture, you can’t just hope to prove truth. Modern truth is determined by feeling even when the facts say they are wrong. Stories can sidestep the conflict over truth and appeal to the feeling of the culture. In turn, this conveys truth in an effective way.
McGrath points out that Christianity is based on a narrative- the life of Christ. In fact, the whole of Scripture is based on many narratives that make up one metanarrative: the story of salvation.
Narrative apologetics can help us communicate things that are unpopular and awkward such as sin. He points out that Paul and other writers of Scripture used this method to communicate. Jesus himself did this through the usage of parables. There was a deeper truth at the heart of a story. Rather than Jesus hitting people with a hard and direct truth, we would help them reason and see themselves in the story.
One more thought he shared that I appreciated: Narrative apologetics helps us raise questions on the truth of popular cultural metanarrative. Christians need to tell better stories that show the inadequacies of modern stories or that reframe the story with a Christian worldview. This explains the ageless appeal of CS Lewis’ work in Narnia. It still has deep truths that Christians have meditated on for decades. These challenge our modern cultural stories in an appealing way to even the lost.
Areas I think could have been better: The only thing that I found strange was the last chapter. After setting the stage, the last chapter felt abrupt. I was hoping for a little more example of using narrative as apologetic in a modern context. It didn’t go into great detail on examples. I would have loved for it to expand those ideas.
Overall, I really enjoyed the argument McGrath makes for using stories. As a pastor, I like using stories to convey truth. I know they are memorable, interesting, and effective. This challenges me to go even deeper in my approach to storytelling to convey truth rather than just stating what I believe or challenging from a purely intellectual approach.