Three Ways of Using Story in Apologetics

by Holly Ordway

Using the power of narrative in apologetics discourse allows the apologist to transform abstract truth into a story that the reader or listener can engage with. There are a number of ways to do this, far beyond the typical ‘start a sermon with an anecdote’ approach.

First, Scripture and theology can be taught in the context of the larger story of  God’s involvement with human history. As one example, the doctrine of the Trinity can be embedded in the context of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan, the Ascension, and Pentecost, to give some Scriptural examples.

Teaching on the attributes of God will be much more effective if it is grounded in stories from Scripture that show these attributes as God interacts with His people. (See Garret Johnson’s excellent piece on Scripture and ‘show, don’t tell.’) This means moving beyond using individual verses and passages as proof-texts and engaging with them as narrative, allowing people to experience the fullness of what Scripture has to say rather than reducing Scripture to being a reference footnote.

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Second, teaching itself can draw on the nature of story. We like conflict, suspense, and resolution in our stories; a speaker or teacher can set the stage for a lecture or discussion with intellectual, theological, or moral conflicts and suspense. This approach is more engaging to the audience, who can follow the ‘story’ of the unfolding argument or lesson.

Third, we should draw much more on Church history and on the lives of the saints in general apologetics. Many of the challenges we face today have been faced by Christians in centuries past…

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