Thinking Christian

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Why We Must Tell Christianity’s True Story

Posted on Aug 25, 2013 by Tom Gilson

We who believe in Christ have got to tell Christianity’s true story. We have to do it a whole lot better than we have been.

Here’s what got me thinking about this today. I’ve been shaking my head in wonder at Peter Boghossian’s nonsense: not so much that he’s spouting it, but that he’s not getting laughed off the stage for it. His errors are elementary, yet some people take him seriously.

The same holds for other New Atheists. Their reasoning is pitifully weak, and demonstrably so. Still they have an audience of followers who think they’re the reasonable ones.

How do they get away with it?

I led a project to provide reasoned, rational refutations of their positions. Many others have done the same. It’s not making much of a dent.

Boghossian says faith is pretending to know what you don’t know — strictly that, nothing but that, and never anything but that. Let’s recognize that for what it is: it’s so simplistic, it verges on the childish. (It isn’t only “Internet atheists” who inhabit a strangely simple world.)

For those who know the story of what Christian faith has accomplished down the centuries, the suggestion that it was all motivated and guided by a pretense of knowledge is hilarious. Few know that story, however. For many, Christianity has been an unremitting force of moral and intellectual darkness from the beginning: which is as far from historical reality as it could be.

What favorable attention Boghossian gets, he gets because his description of faith fits persons’ stories of faith, their cloudy opinion of what faith has done in and for the world. He gets it in part because recent writers have been treating all faith as one thing, regardless of which religion, and regardless of what it is in which different religions place their faith. This, too, is strangely simple, but I see it making headway.

I keep telling myself it’s time to change my focus on this blog. My problem is the same as the problem of apologetics in general. We have good rational answers to every rational question. We haven’t been telling a good enough story.

We have a good story to tell. It’s a true story: a tale of moral courage, intellectual depth, artistic achievement, social progress, liberation for the oppressed, care for the poor, and above all spiritual life and joy. I wouldn’t dare suggest I think we’ve had anything like a perfect historical record — I’ve read at least as much church history as you have, probably, and I’m well aware of the embarrassments there — but we’ve had a very good one.

But few seem to know it. They “know” instead that Christianity opposed the progress of science; that Christians burned libraries and millions of supposed witches; that Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism everywhere. That’s the story they think they know.

I’m telling myself again that I need to spend more time telling our story, the true one, not the distortion most people hold in their minds. I’m urging my fellow apologists to recognize the same thing, too. Again. Maybe if I start taking my own advice they’ll take it more seriously.

I have more to share this week in answer to Boghossian’s nonsense, defining faith at some length, showing (as if it hasn’t been shown already!) that he has made up his own invented version of the word for reasons of rhetoric, not truth.

In the meantime, I’m thinking again about how we must tell Christianity’s true story, and how I need to think through ways to do a better job of it.

Update Monday morning: this post was written to encourage Christians to think about and to express our message differently. It was not written to open the door for every atheist/skeptic complaint concerning Christianity down the years. Per the discussion policies, linked above the combox, discussion is to be on the topic of the OP. See Comment 16 for more.

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42 Responses to “ Why We Must Tell Christianity’s True Story ”

  1. I heard Tim Keller speak regarding this recently. His point was that traditional apologetics (such as his own “Reason For God Book”) presupposes that people care and are open to the idea of Christianity. But in our current age, the first question we have to ask isn’t why Christianity is true, but why people should want it to be true. We find ourselves today in a place where Christianity seems to have no relevance to life or indeed a negative relevance. To a modern individualist libertine, it seems on the surface that he shouldn’t want Christianity to be true, hence he applies confirmation bias to what he hears about it. Christianity actually has something to offer the world (Keller gave the example of addressing suffering, which is a meaningless, unredeemed evil in our modern worldview) but we haven’t made that case. Today Christianity appears to be little more than a bunch of retrograde superstitions and thou shalt not’s.

  2. Holopupenko says:

    Part of the problem is the word “relevance” (worthy of a Greg Gutfeld word-ban) in the modern context: it itself begs a context, i.e., relevant “for what?” Scratching those who use that word is revealing…

  3. Keith says:

    They “know” instead that Christianity opposed the progress of science; that Christians burned libraries and millions of supposed witches; that Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism everywhere. That’s the story they think they know.

    The difficulty is all of those statements are correct (not the Library in Alexandria, and tens of thousands, not “millions”, but otherwise, all factually true).

    Further, these are current events (with the exception of slavery); as we speak, Christians are opposing science, burning books, burning witches, and supporting sexism.

    It’s hard for me to imagine a “narrative” that might compete with headlines like African Children Denounced As “Witches” By Christian Pastors.

    Without question: Christians are also leading the fight against every one of these activities, but from the outside, they all look like “Christians”.

    To create a better story of Christianity, you have to distinguish between the “good” and the “bad” Christians. That’s a daunting task.

  4. Holopupenko says:

    The problem for you, Keith, is you’ve identified and you believe in something you, well, don’t believe: that we’re broken. Christianity calls it exactly as it sees us: broken. Atheism denies objective brokenness… except when it’s useful for bashing people of faith. Atheism, to one extent or another and depending on the concrete individual, denies the efficacy of human reason to obtain to verities beyond that which is sensory accessible. From which one of these would you buy a used car?

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    And really, now, Keith, why is it so daunting to distinguish real Christianity from false? I don’t mean in the fine points of belief, where there is difference of opinion on whether doctrine A is more Christian than doctrine B. I mean Christian practice, and the broad scope of Christian belief?

    I don’t get the problem.

    Well, actually I do. The problem is that defining Christianity is difficult if you try to do it by studying everything else but Christianity. If however you study the Bible and the great teachers of the faith, it’s not that hard after all.

    “They all look like ‘Christians’ from the outside,” you say. Do you also think all Asians look like Chinese from the outside? Do you also think that all farmers look like rednecks from the outside?

    Do you see the point?

  6. John Moore says:

    I’m with Keith. Christians need to take a balanced view and recognize both the good and the harm that Christianity has brought through history. History matters, of course, because of the ongoing issues.

  7. Keith says:

    Holopupenko @4:

    I believe in something in which I don’t believe? And I don’t know what “objective brokenness” even means, let alone what it might mean to consider it in the context of a disbelief in gods. And then we jump to a fairly innocuous statement of fact about non-sensory accessible data (which, let me tell you, was an important lifeboat in the turbulent white-water of your posting).

    Ummm, OK.

    Atheists deny brokenness? You’re saying atheists don’t think people are fundamentally flawed? I don’t think so: atheists believe people are fundamentally flawed. Not only do atheists think people are fundamentally flawed, they don’t think religion makes people less flawed.

    “Except when it’s useful for bashing people of faith”? I can’t even take a swing at that one.

    Some atheists deny human reason is evidence of things beyond the sensory accessible. I’d agree with that: I think it’s incorrect to claim human reason is not evidence (it’s not physical evidence yet, but why does that matter?)

    That said, I would argue it’s less reliable evidence, it’s not replicable or otherwise shareable.

    And then we’re considering the possibility I might purchase a car from a concept?

    The problem for you, Holopupenko, is that half your postings are amazingly erudite and insightful, and the other half… are not.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Nevertheless what you say does reinforce my point: the confusion you speak of is another reason we need to tell our story better.

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    John Moore, I agree: Christians need to take a balanced view of the good and the bad in Christian history.

    So does everyone else. Which is what’s lacking in a big way through miseducation.

  10. BillT says:

    “Christians need to take a balanced view and recognize both the good and the harm that Christianity has brought through history. History matters, of course, because of the ongoing issues.”

    The problem with this is that it’s only Christians that really do have this “balanced view”. On the other hand, the secular press, secular education, secular historians, secular writers have spun the history, theology and impact of Christianity into a fiction. And it couldn’t be more evident than in the quotes in this very thread. Here is John Moore lecturing us that we need to acknowledge “both the good and the harm” when it couldn’t be more evident that he certainly doesn’t acknowledge or probably even know of almost any of the good (which outweighs the bad by multiple orders of magnitude). And then we have Keith telling us “The difficulty is all of those statements are correct…”. They don’t have, or I think want, a “balanced view” and the press, educators, historians and writers have a vested interest and the power to keep it so.

  11. Holopupenko says:

    Comment removed by siteowner

  12. Clay the atheist says:

    Tom, presumably in reference to Christian support for witch burning and slavery: “And really, now, Keith, why is it so daunting to distinguish real Christianity from false? I don’t mean in the fine points of belief, where there is difference of opinion on whether doctrine A is more Christian than doctrine B. I mean Christian practice, and the broad scope of Christian belief?”

    The practice of individual Christians in this secular age is of course different from what the Bible actually commands. The OT is sexist to the core, with an unhealthy fear of women’s menstruation and the command that a mother who bears a daughter is considered unclean twice as long than if she had born a son. Even in the kinder, gentler NT there’s Timothy and Paul commanding that women be silent in churches, since it was a woman who made Adam eat the fruit.

    How does Tom or anyone else get to decide who is a true Christian and who is a false one? That’s a pretty sobering task, to take it upon yourself to decide that an individual only thinks they are going to heaven, but is in fact going to hell.

    I thought the definition of Christianity was pretty straightforward: that you believed the son of God came to earth to die for human sin. You can’t try to artificially keep Christianity morally superior by kicking out of the faith people who adhere to that simple definition of Christianity, but also do horrible things in the name of the faith. You take that to its extreme end, and you’re only left with Jesus in the circle of faith. (See: “No true Scotsman.”)

    As for slavery, the Bible contains reams of regulations on animal sacrifice, but not one word against slavery. It regulated the sale of one’s daughter into slavery in the OT. It allowed one to beat your slave. And the lame apologist rebuttal that these were not slaves, only “indentured servants,” as if that gets the Bible off the moral hook, only applies to Hebrew slaves and is a distinction without much difference. If you could be beaten, couldn’t leave, and worked without being paid, then you’re a slave.

    Only during The Enlightenment, the more secular age, did Christian-dominated Europe seriously challenge the institution of slavery. Then, after 17 centuries of it being perfectly fine, it’s suddenly “Score one for Jesus” for the abolition of slavery. Not very credible.

  13. Izak says:

    Your post makes me think of this book I’m reading. It’s been in my kindle library since last year and I’m actually re-reading it hoping to finish it this time… its Brian Godawa’s ‘Myth became Fact’, a title he borrows from CS Lewis. Chapter one starts:

    “The pantheon of gods assembles to battle the chaos monster to protect their territory and kingdom. When the waters of the heavens part, the sea dragon of chaos breaks through and leaves destruction in its wake. The pantheon fights the sea dragon and its monster allies until it is stopped in its tracks by the mighty storm god.

    Those who are educated in ancient Near Eastern mythopoeia will recognize this storyline as the Canaanite epic of Baal and Leviathan or the Babylonian epic of Marduk and Tiamat the sea dragon. But what they may not know is that it is also the storyline of the 2012 Marvel blockbuster movie, The Avengers.”

    He writes about how subversion and polemic is used in these ancient stories to communicate and replace the reigning world view.

    He explains subversion as: “The literary act of replacing one identity with another by investing new meaning into commonly understood words, images, metaphors or motifs”.

    In a sense that is what we’re seeing from atheists. New meaning is being invested into commonly understood words and imagery, and much as we object sometimes (That’s NOT what I meant!), I think that is unavoidable. Somehow it would appear that the only way people will understand where we come from, is by being better story tellers.

    Brian writes: “We need more storytellers to tell vampire stories with a Christian worldview (The Addiction); more zombie stories with a Christian worldview (I Am Legend); more demonic stories with Christian redemption (M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil); more post-apocalyptic thrillers that honor God (The Book of Eli); more subversion of adultery (Fatal Attraction), fornication (17 Again), unbelief (Paranormal Activity), paganism (Apocalypto), humanistic anti-supernaturalism (The Last Exorcism), and our “pro-Choice” culture of death (The Island).

    I will end [this chapter] with a question and a charge. With two exceptions, why were all these movies that subversively incarnate the Christian worldview made by non-Christians instead of Christians? Rise up, O Christian apologists and subvert ye the world’s imagination!

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    Clay, the definition of Christianity you gave is straightforward but incomplete. It includes repentance. Mere confession of faith doesn’t show that one is a Christian: if the life of Christ in the believer is not manifested through doing good works, then the Bible gives room to question whether that life is really there.

    Your information about slavery is incorrect and incomplete. Only during the Enlightenment? Gimme a break. I suggest you read Glenn Sunshine’s chapter in True Reason. And look up “slavery” on this blog if you want to catch up on it here. I don’t intend to re-start that one every time someone brings up the same old tired objections.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Further, your comment displays additional support for BillT’s point just above. You have no clue what Christians have done in history for women or for slaves. If you did, you wouldn’t dream of saying what you have said here.

    But I think we Christians need to take a lot of responsibility for that: we haven’t told our story well enough. It’s our job, and we’re not doing it.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    FOR THE RECORD:

    This post was written for the purpose of encouraging Christians to think about our message differently and to practice it differently.

    It wasn’t written for the purpose of opening up every complaint non-Christians have had about Christianity down through the ages.

    Granted, those complaints exist. They have some purchase on people’s minds. That’s because we haven’t done a good enough job on our side of getting out the rest of the story.

    So let’s just stipulate this: Atheists and skeptics, you that we’re wrong about the effects of Christianity in history.

    We got that, so you don’t really need to say it. That means we can focus on the topic of the post, in accordance with the discussion policies, which I will enforce on this thread.

    Never fear: I’ll bring your topics up eventually, and then we can discuss them. But that’s not what this post was for.

  17. Keith says:

    Tom @16:

    Agreed: maybe not my fault, but I didn’t help things, either with my early post. I am not interested in history-bashing here, your goal resonates with real questions I personally have about Christianity, and I’d sincerely like to hear where you end up with this idea.

    Immediately pointing out the difficulties I see isn’t the right way to encourage you, probably, but my intentions were good. :-)

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, that wasn’t really directed toward you. Thanks for the comment.

  19. BillT says:

    And I though John Moore and Keith had provided enough information to validate my post. Now we have Clay to double (or maybe triple) down on that.

    Tom, your right to say “It’s our job, and we’re not doing it.” but when the media, the universities, the entertainment business and more are all invested in creating a fiction about Christianity, that’s easier said than done.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    Agreed. It’s an uphill battle. With headwinds.

  21. Keith says:

    Tom @5:

    “If you study the Bible and the great teachers of the faith, it’s not that hard after all.”

    What teachers of the faith do you have in mind? The great teachers of the faith generally held views we abhor today, it’s a history-bashing point atheists often raise.

    Studying the Bible: Christian history (not to mention the roughly forty-thousand Christians sects that exist today) is all the proof we require that agreement on the Bible is an exception, not a rule. Even if it were possible for Christians to agree, it won’t work for a non-believer, who lacks the leading of the Holy Spirit required for understanding.

  22. Keith says:

    Bill T @10:

    I think there’s a lot of confirmation bias on both sides, and positions are aggressively defended.

    Secularists focus on the bad, Christians focus on the good, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    When Tom talks about telling Christianity’s true story, I’m assuming he’s talking about telling Christianity’s true story to non-believers, who are inclined not to be receptive.

    Of course, Christian theology can be interpreted to say unbelievers are actively deceived, and cannot perceive the truth without supernatural assistance, no matter how might be presented.

  23. Keith says:

    Izak @13:

    If there are many stories imagined from a Christian worldview, does that risk the devaluing of the one, true story? In other words, how do you distinguish the one, true story from all the other imaginings?

  24. BillT says:

    Keith,

    Perhaps but what we see here, and Clay couldn’t be a better example, is folks without a clue what the story of Christianity is, its history and what the Bible says. This though though they position themselves as people who have studied the matter. And not to leave out your own contributions, you did sign on to the idea”…that Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism everywhere.”, correct?

  25. Clay the atheist says:

    So I don’t get to comment, but you’ll continue to post personal insults against me, like that one from BillT: “Clay couldn’t be a better example, is folks without a clue what the story of Christianity is, its history and what the Bible says.”

    Not cool.

  26. Keith says:

    Holopupenko, Tom @5:

    Holopupenko and Tom both raised the point of seeing Christians as an amorphous group; Holopupenko said:

    Can you imagine if someone claimed that because some scientists cook their lab books, that science itself must be questioned… and that distinguishing between “good” scientists and “bad” scientists is “a daunting task”?

    It’s a good question, and I think they’re correct, my point-of-view isn’t tenable. :-)

    I want to push back a little:

    With non-religious questions or groups, we can (often?) agree on definitions, allowing us to make moral judgments. For example, once we agree on definitions of good/bad science, we can distinguish between good/bad scientists without further ado.

    With Christian questions, there are jokers in the deck: First, Christian theology declares human moral judgments are insufficient and faulty, limiting our reach; second, because the basis of Christianity is the Bible, it’s harder to reach agreement; third, there’s the question of evidence private to the individual.

    In other words, it’s a perfect defense for a Christian to declare: “God has spoken to me, and you’re wrong”, or “My exegesis is different than yours, and you’re wrong”, or “God is outside of human morality, and you’re wrong”.

    That’s not to say a scientist couldn’t make similar claims, it’s just those claims don’t carry much water outside of religion.

  27. Keith says:

    Bill T @24:

    Yes, I did sign on for “Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism everywhere.” I believe it’s a true statement, and I believe I can prove it.

    But as I said in the same post, Christians were/are leaders in the fight against slavery and for women’s rights. Another statement I believe I can prove.

    It’s complicated. :-)

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    Clay,

    I’m sorry, but I only deleted your comment because it was very clearly off topic. That’s not the case for BillT’s comment.

    And BillT’s assessment of your knowledge was fact, not insult. Sorry, but that’s just the truth of the matter.

    You’re welcome to participate if you keep on topic with the OP.

  29. BillT says:

    Keith,

    Christianity (with a capital “C”) was the central driving force behind the abolition of slavery worldwide. That some Christians in the American South misused it to support slavery doesn’t change that. Thus, it’s an error to say “Christianity supported slavery in the south” though it’s true that some Christians supported slavery in the south.

    Similarly, Christianity (with a capital “C”) has been a positive to women and women’s rights since it’s inception. Christian thought provides the ethical underpinnings for the entire human rights movement, women’s rights included. Thus, it’s an error to say “Christianity supported….sexism everywhere” though some Christians were and are undoubtedly sexists.

    Do you see how you’ve taken specific instances of questionable Christian behavior and attributed them to Christianity as a whole? Can you see why that is a misleading and untrue despite your admission that “Christians were/are leaders in the fight against slavery and for women’s rights.” where you, in essence, have done the opposite. That is, taken the actions of Christians who were following Christian ethics and not attributed them to Christianity as a whole though it’s appropriate to do so.

  30. Clay the atheist says:

    Thanks for piling on with another insult, Tom. The love of Christ surely shines within you. Seriously, if Heaven is full of people like you and Holupupenko, I’ll tell C.S. Lewis’s bus driver, “No thanks, I’m good.” I can hardly stand reading you for two minutes — why would I want to hang out with the likes of you in eternity?

    And given that I actually cited scripture, and that none of the theists questioned my interpretation of the Bible, it’s pretty rich to be accused of not knowing the Bible. But don’t worry. You won’t have to bother anymore. Why bother? Only true believers could find fringe figures like Paul Copan and Glenn Sunshine’s arguments in defense of OT slavery and genocide convincing. If those are your beliefs, you are welcome to them. Just don’t expect anyone who hasn’t swallowed the Kool-Aid to find them anything but morally repellent. Buh-bye.

  31. BillT says:

    Clay,

    I have addressed you on previous threads concerning you understanding of Christianity and you haven’t responded to me. Thus, I thought that was going to continue (which is perfectly ok if that’s what you want). Thus, my somewhat casual reference to your postings. I addressed some of what you said in my above to Keith though this thread isn’t really about debating those facts.

  32. Keith says:

    Bill T @29:

    I’m hearing you argue there’s a numerical requirement: if enough “Christians” do something, then it’s “Christianity” acting, otherwise, not.

    Not to be snarky, it’s a real question: you say I’m taking specific instances of questionable Christian behavior and attributing them to Christianity. That’s the right thing to do if it’s all Christians, and the wrong thing to do if it’s one Christian acting alone: so, where do we draw the line?

    And, to be clear, I meant to assign credit/blame equally in both directions, it was accidental word choice that tripped me up: I believe Christianity supported slavery in the south and sexism, and Christianity was/is a leader in the fight against slavery and for women’s rights.

  33. BillT says:

    Keith,

    The overarching understanding of Christianity and Christian ethics isn’t really that much of a mystery. I made two statements about Christianity. Christianity was the central driving force behind the abolition of slavery worldwide and Christianity has been a positive to women and women’s rights since it’s inception. These reflect both Christian teaching and Christian actions. When Christian teaching and Christian actions coincide that’s a pretty good hint we are on the right track. Your examples both run contrary to Christian teaching and even you admit the one was held by a minority population (the south). When small groups of people act in ways that contradict Christian teaching (e.g., The Spanish Inquisition) that’s a pretty good indication we are on the wrong track.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Clay, the time came to get us re-focused on the OP and not get tossed off on tangents. See the last line of #16.

    I don’t know why it’s necessarily an insult to say you don’t understand what the Bible teaches. You could tell me I don’t understand a, b, c, d, e, f, …, zzzzz and I wouldn’t be insulted.

    If I were to pretend knowledge in any of those fields in which I had little understanding, and if someone told me I didn’t understand them, I would consider myself corrected, not insulted.

    Granted, I would take that kind of correction better if it included some specifics. But that’s just what this post isn’t for.

    On the other hand I know that several dozen other people are visiting this thread. I didn’t really want your point to stand without some response at least.

    When you say, “The OT is sexist to the core,” or what you said about slavery in that comment, then it requires an answer, but it needed to be very brief for the sake of staying on topic. Oh, and by the way: when you say that about Christianity on a Christian-run blog, your complaint about being insulted seems a little ironic. Even more so in your last comment. But I wasn’t taking it personally as you were.

  35. Keith says:

    Bill T @33:

    I’d leave it alone if you limited the argument to slavery. I would agree Christianity’s support for slavery was a minority position, and Christianity has arguably led the fight against slavery, not just in the present day, but for centuries.

    That said: to talk about the Inquisition as a “minority position”, and not the position of Christianity as a whole: the Inquisition was a judicial arm of the Roman Catholic church, how could that be a minority position?

    With respect to sexism, I just noticed some wording in your post I missed the first time: you said “Christianity has been a positive to women and women’s rights since it’s inception”, and follow with “Thus, it’s an error to say “Christianity supported….sexism everywhere”.

    The second statement doesn’t necessarily follow the first, and that’s where I may be misunderstanding you.

    I agree with you: in the same way Christianity was better than its predecessors with respect to slavery, Christianity was better than its predecessors with respect to human rights in general, and women’s rights specifically.

    Does that mean Christianity didn’t institutionally support sexism everywhere? No; it only means Christianity was comparatively better.

    The Bible, and Christianity’s leaders — from Tertullian, Augustine, Magnus, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, onward in an unbroken line to Robertson and Driscoll — have spoken against women for centuries. Is Christianity now and historically sexist? Yes.

  36. BillT says:

    Let’s leave the Inquisition as I shouldn’t have brought it up. It’s too big a topic and subject to many interpretations and off topic. My apologies.

    As far as women you seem to be forgetting that no matter how long it took and how many statements have been made, Christian thought provides the ethical underpinnings for the entire human rights movement, women’s rights included. It’s quite a bit more than “Christianity was comparatively better.” Yes, not only was it comparatively better but in comparison to every other current and past religious teaching, still superior. It’s also superior to secular thought on the subject who’s will-to-power is always disadvantageous to women. What, of course, is most appalling is that secularism has adopted the Christian ethical orientation regarding equality of the sexes, claimed it as their own and then turned around and claimed Christianity is an oppressor to women. Dishonesty on top of a lie. Here’s the bottom line. What would women’s rights look like without Christianity? Check out Saudi Arabia or anywhere Sharia law is in effect..

  37. Izak says:

    Keith @23, I think my comment was also influenced by Aaron @1, which I think builds on Tom’s statement that “we have good rational answers to every rational question”. It reminds me of the story of some spraypainted grafiti, where someone had painted: “JESUS IS THE ANSWER” only to have someone else paint below it: What was the question?

    As Aaron argues, the first question in this day and age isn’t whether Christianity has any truth to it. The question is if it is even relevant.

    In Africa we have a saying: You have to put a bread inside the Bible before a man will accept it. When a man is hungry the question isn’t whether the book contains truth, the question is whether he an eat it.

    In this same way, and to answer your question hopefully, telling the one true story might have to go hand in hand with telling other stories. Other stories by which we seek to subvert (or sometimes restore) the meaning of words and imagery.

    Take for example the age old question of why there is something rather than nothing. Recently, the meaning of “nothing” has changed. Nothing is now really “something”, at least if you’re a physicist, and that something is hard to define but it is as close an answer is science has for us now. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, tomorrow, or the next day, people will no longer wonder how something could come from nothing, for nothing has become meaningless.

    Unless, that is, we keep subverting the talk of nothing like it is something, or so goes my thoughts at present.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith and BillT, there will be opportunities to go off on this topic another time.

  39. BillT says:

    Done and done, Tom. It didn’t start this way (see #29) but it has devolved as I should have seen coming.

    Keith, look forward to further discussions.

  40. Keith says:

    Done, Tom, thank you for letting us diverge from the OP a little.

    Thank you, BillT, and likewise!

  41. […] by it, although it really cannot be encapsulated in such a short statement. I spoke recently on how obviously wrong Boghossian must be about faith simply on grounds that the term couldn’t possibly be as one-dimensional as he […]

  42. Les Taylor says:

    I haven’t read all the comments here so it’s possible I’m reiterating something but a thought came to mind while reading this wonderfully concise post.

    I think there are two things missing in the sharing of the gospel.

    The first is, as you mention, our telling of it. We often get wrapped up in things many don’t care about or that even if they do care about it, they probably won’t listen. We get wrapped in the details about history or evidences because those are things we’re interested in. We get wrapped up in presenting our church doctrines and theological constructs on various issues. We get wrapped up in our present day needs and concerns. And in so doing, though we don’t intend to, we often water down the story God is telling in the Bible. We ought to, I think, just get back to the basics of God’s message. Forget what our agenda is or how we think people might want to (or not want to) hear it, and just say what it is. Trust God when he says his word will not come back empty. I believe it won’t.

    Second is living the gospel. I’m a missionary in Japan actually, and I can tell you this is so important here. The majority of people I see who are interested in studying aren’t interested because the church is fun and entertaining, or because they already know something about the gospel; here, most people know next to nothing and most churches are the size of a small country congregation. These people become interested when they see Christians living it out. It takes time. But when they see Christ living in the lives of his followers, that is, when they see the effects of the gospel, then they want to know more about it. I believe it is the same in the West. We become known for what we oppose and who we vote for, and really just a bunch of nonsense that isn’t as important as perhaps we make it out to be. Maybe if we became known for who we are serving and how we are helping and showing the love of God, that would have an impact greater than anything else.

    But at the end of the day, they rejected Jesus, and they’ll reject us too. I do think these two points appropriately applied would help though.

    Thanks for the encouraging and though provoking post.

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