In a recent post, I suggested that literature has significant value for Christian apologetics. When I taught an apologetics course this past spring, I sought to demonstrate to students that sharing the Gospel and answering challenges to Christianity does not always take the form of an argument – defending a thesis and rebutting an opponent’s counter-argument. Rather, apologetics can – and should – occur through means more natural to our way of daily interaction. So, for my class, I emphasized the role of literature in communicating the truths of Christianity. Continue reading
This past semester I had the opportunity to teach Apologetics. For the last two weeks of class, I focused on using literature for apologetic means. The motivating idea (influenced by C. S. Lewis, James Sire, and Holly Ordway) behind the lesson is that often times, objections to Christianity are not just intellectual, but emotional, experiential, etc. However, the wealth of apologetic resources that we have available today primarily deal with the rational aspect of humanity–intellectual objections to Christianity. Modern apologetics, though valuable and needed, only deals with one aspect of the human condition. When we seek to reach unbelievers, we need to have at our fingertips a more holistic approach.
Though literature alone is insufficient as an apologetic method, it can be a valuable tool to help make important apologetical issues reach the heart of the unbeliever–the unbeliever’s emotions, feelings, desires, etc. In doing so, literature helps to drive home the truths of Christianity. To help illustrate what I’m referring to, my student, Paige Murrell made the following video for a class project:
If we seek to take seriously apologetics, then we need to address all objections brought by the unbeliever, whether they be intellectual, emotional, or experiential. As such, strive to broaden your apologetic repertoire–sometimes, a novel, a song, or other artwork may help to address an objection the unbeliever has to Christianity.
This post is intended to be an introduction of sorts to the idea of broadening your apologetic approach. I plan to write more on this later. In the meantime, check out the following resources that call for a more robust apologetical approach:
I encourage you to check out Paige’s work at http://thestorysketcher.com/. She is a talented artist; you will not be disappointed!
In yesterday’s post, DeWitt shared with us what writers influenced his work on The Owlings. In today’s post – the second installment of a three-part series – DeWitt discusses the role of fiction in teaching.
What role does fiction play as a vehicle for teaching in your novellas?
I’m very new to writing fiction, so I make no claims to being an expert. I’m an amateur. What Andrew Peterson is doing [today] is way up on the list – I think he’s great. What I’m doing is even different from what Andrew Peterson has done – it’s not nearly as good. It’s different in that I’m trying to be a bit more explicit, and so…I think G. K. Chesterton did this a bit.
If you were to have a scale with Tolkien on the far end with rich symbolism and not nearly as explicit; C. S. Lewis might be somewhere in the middle; and Chesterton would write a novel and it would be very explicit with the worldview principles he was trying to teach. I have very specific things I want to teach on, and fiction allows me to tell a story that I think someone can be interested in and want to know what happens – something my kids would be interested in. But, then I turn to teach a very specific principle.
Regarding the power of story, I’ll give a quick example. Several years after James Sire’s book The Universe Next Door, Sire wrote Naming the Elephant in which he critiques The Universe Next Door. And one of the elements is that he talks about the power of story to communicate worldview. Now, the newer editions of The Universe Next Door have an updated definition of “worldview.” I think Sire has come to realize the power of story. Through reading Sire, it’s helped me to realize that if we only teach propositionally, we’re going to miss this postmodern generation.
So, my goal in The Owlings – to go back to Sire – is to teach his seven questions he lists at the end of each chapter. (I say that there is an eighth question, because he always asks whether the worldview in question lines up with how one lives.) I want to find a way to deal with these eight questions and find a way to teach them to kids through story. The first book dealt with metaphysics – nature is not all there is. The second book deals with epistemology – specifically scientism: “Is science the only way to know things?” And so, the next book is going to deal with the question, “What does it mean to be human?” You see that I’m following Sire’s questions, but in total I am writing five stories dealing with these questions.
The theme that sticks out in this post is that fiction can be purposeful. That is, fiction is not necessarily a genre for mere entertainment. Narrative can be a powerful vehicle through which important truths are communicated. The encounter between the prophet Nathan and King David (2 Samuel 12: 1-15) comes to mind here. After David’s affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, the prophet Nathan approached the king to confront David with his grave sin. Rather than accusing David of his sin, Nathan begins with a parable – a fictitious story that aims to instruct. Nathan was able to drive home his point in a powerful way. Nathan’s parable engaged David’s mind, emotions, and imagination such that when Nathan connected the story to David’s sin, David confesses (2 Sam. 12:13) “I have sinned against the Lord.” This is not to take away the conviction of the Holy Spirit in David’s heart; indeed, the work of the Spirit is necessary and vital!
Rather, what 2 Samuel 12:1-15 illustrates is that truth can be communicated through different means, and some times story can be more effective and powerful than just communicating propositionally. In the final installment of our three-part series, Dan DeWitt discusses the value of fiction in teaching, as well as some tips for Christians who aspire to write fiction purposefully.
If you missed the first part of the interview, you can follow these links: