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Telling a Better Story: How to Talk about God in a Skeptical Age

, 2020
ISBN: 9780310108641

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The practice of offering reasons for the Christian faith, or apologetics, strikes many unbelievers today as offensive, an attempt to proselytize, while Christians themselves often view apologetics as unsophisticated or even faith-undermining. After all, shouldn't a believer focus on presenting the gospel rather than attempting to argue people to belief?

In Telling a Better Story, author Joshua Chatraw presents a new and better way to do apologetics, an inside-out approach that is attuned to our late-modern moment and respectful of unbelievers, all the while remaining focused on Jesus. With chapters on cultural understanding, dealing with the difficult issues, and presenting Jesus in a holistic, contextual manner, Telling a Better Story offers a roadmap to effective apologetics both for experienced apologists and those new to sharing their faith with others.

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  • Offers a roadmap to effective apologetics
  • Equips believers for fruitful apologetic conversations
  • Presents a new, inside-out approach to offering reasons for the Christian faith

A Better Story about Apologetics

  • In Search of a Better Way
  • The Story Lives On
  • What Time Is It?
  • When Talking to Humans
  • Inside Out

Offering a Better Story

  • Imagining a Better Meaning
  • Imagining a Better True Self
  • Imagining a Better Happiness
  • Imagining a Better Inclusiveness
  • Imagining Better Reason(s)

Objections to the Story

  • An Oppressive Story?
  • An Unloving Story?
  • An Untrue Story?

Top Highlights

“Central to our task, then, is learning how to help others see the splendor of God and his purposes by reimagining the world through the Christian story.” (Page 11)

“A helpful way to understand the immanent frame is to picture a two-story building. Our ancestors lived in a two-story world. Humans inhabited the first floor, but this overlapped with a higher realm on the second floor. Theirs was an enchanted world where higher beings were assumed to be active in and relevant to the affairs of everyday life. This higher realm held significance beyond this life while also giving meaning and purpose to our present lives on the first floor. In contrast, we live in a disenchanted, one-story world today that denies the existence of the divine.” (Page 35)

“Rather than encouraging others to use what Charles Taylor refers to as ‘conversation-stoppers’ (e.g., ‘I have a three-line argument which shows that your position is absurd or impossible or totally immoral’) or what Alan Jacobs refers to as the habit of ‘militarizing discussion and debate,’21 many apologists are emphasizing the need for Christians to become better listeners who seek to understand the person they are speaking with before making appeals. This enables us to meet people where they are and find points to affirm before finding points to challenge.” (Page 19)

“The historian Tom Holland, a longtime secular progressive, recently wrote that despite his faith in God fading during his teen years, he now realizes his most fundamental instincts about life only make sense as an inheritance from the Christian story. Holland’s book, Dominion, is a journey through Western history to narrate how our culture’s moral ideals derive ‘ultimately from claims made in the Bible: that humans are made in God’s image; that his Son died equally for everyone; that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.’” (Page 16)

The gospel is, first of all, a true story, but it is a story after all. With intellectual verve and winsome charm, Telling a Better Story not only tells but shows how the gospel outnarrates all the other plots offered. Only when our apologetics reaches the imagination of our story-starved age will it be compelling. This book does just that. Definitely a must-read!

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen professor of systematic theology and apologetics, Westminster Seminary

If we are to be compelling witnesses for Jesus, we can't offer answers to questions people are no longer asking. Apologetics, then, is never a static endeavor. It requires listening as well as talking--which makes Telling a Better Story an essential book for equipping the church. Using a broad array of sources, Joshua Chatraw has incisively explored the reigning cultural scripts and illuminated the beauty and coherence of the gospel by contrast. This is a book to underline, to study, and to discuss in groups. I look forward to recommending it widely.

Jen Pollock Michel, award-winning author of Surprised by Paradox and Keeping Place

If human beings are not simply rational animals, as Aristotle thought, but storytelling animals, what are the implications for Christian apologetics? In our post-Christian society, the Bible is no longer considered 'the greatest story ever told,' if it is told at all. Today, various stories pit one community's identity and interests against others. Accordingly, those who wish to defend gospel truth must learn how to recover the plausibility, goodness, and beauty of the Bible's account of what God is doing through Jesus Christ to make things right. Telling a Better Story proceeds with proper confidence to do just that. Josh Chatraw is faithfully attuned to the biblical text while listening with one ear cocked to the various cultural texts (including films) that compete for the attention and allegiance of our hearts and minds. The way forward, he rightly argues, is to show that the Christian story answers our burning questions and leads to flourishing communities. By telling a better story, and embodying it, we 'take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School


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    Save during the Summer Reading Sale!


    Print list price: $18.99
    Regular price: $14.99
    Save $4.50 (30%)