“Conservative evangelicals are dogmatic and don’t tolerate questions.”
Along with others, I have seen this narrative develop and take hold among progressive Christians, former evangelicals and those outside the faith.
Many tell compelling de-conversion stories of how they used to hold restrictive, evangelical views, but now they have “seen the light” and embraced a more loving version of Christianity.
In response to this, conservative evangelicals unleash what amounts to very thorough PowerPoint presentations.
Evangelicals know the power of a conversion story. Our history is steeped with “testimony times” in churches where people share how God has saved them or what He is doing in their lives.
We instinctively know the power of a story, but too often in our attempts to challenge misconceptions about ourselves we forget this.
Gripping narrative about love and acceptance are countered solely with brute facts about biblical interpretation and historical theology.
Someone is won away with an inviting story and we try to win them back through strictly rational arguments.
We forget our history, our own lives and the very thing we say we value—the Bible, much of which is narrative and creative writing.
When God gave us the Scriptures, He didn’t only give us commands, but also an exodus story. We don’t only have Proverbs; we also have Psalms. Paul’s theological epistles follow the stories of the Gospels and Acts.
Truth should inspire not only the presentation of facts, but also the telling of stories.
C.S. Lewis’ Story
Evangelical Christians remember C.S. Lewis for his apologetic and theological works—Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Weight of Glory—and treat his fiction work—The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce—as if they were somehow removed from those other truth-imparting books and essays.
In reality, Lewis conveyed as much or more truth through his stories as he did his arguments. And he felt the story may be the most effective means for communicating truth to those hostile to it, as it could “steal past the watchful dragons” a person places to guard against having their mind changed.
And he would know because that was his testimony.
As an atheist, he saw the rational being on his side. Arguments were in his favor, but his imagination longed for something else.
He believed he had the cold facts, but he could not shake the warmth of feelings that lie elsewhere.
After accepting the reality of the supernatural, Lewis still had hangups about a personal God and His coming to the Earth as Jesus.
His friends J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson again turned to story to help Lewis understand. They spoke of Jesus as being the True Myth, myth become fact, that had so captivated Lewis’ imagination.
Once that story sunk deep in his heart, it was not long before Lewis became a Christian and then he saw that Christianity had both the rational and imaginative.
There is a definitely a place for rational arguments about God’s existence and factual presentations of deep theological truths.
Those should not be abandoned, but neither should they be the only way our faith is presented—particularly in a post-modern, narrative-driven culture.
State facts, but tell stories, too.