The Stories We Live By

One of our Wilberforce Forum Centurions, the hundred men and women across the country studying worldview with us this year, commented that while learning logic and reasoning skills is beneficial, they're often not very useful in explaining Christian truth to his peers. As a 28-year-old, his friends who are not Christians are not convinced by his arguments -- as well constructed as they may be. He's not the only one. Ben Young, an associate pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, spent a wonderful year logically explaining the "major teachings of the faith" to believers. Reaching an audience beyond the church, however, proved to be more difficult. It occurred to him "that embedding the teachings in a story seemed like the way Jesus often taught." So Young and his friend Glenn Lucke created a series of fictional dialogues that share the major Christian doctrines -- a technique, by the way, the great apologist Peter Kreeft has used so well. The result is a book called Common Grounds: Conversations about the Things That Matter Most. The main characters are three successful young professionals and longtime friends, Brad, Jarrod, and Lauren, who meet regularly for coffee. Tension is added to the story when Brad invites a local theology professor, named MacGregor, to join them. That's because Brad and Jarrod are Christians -- though they differ significantly on certain issues -- while Lauren is a skeptic, and the three have been debating questions of faith for years without getting anywhere. As they begin meeting with Professor MacGregor, he proceeds to challenge them all in ways that make them feel uncomfortable but keep them fascinated. In several dialogues Professor MacGregor challenges Brad and Jarrod to rethink the way they share their faith. While they're used to presenting Christianity through a series of logical arguments, he contends that in this day and age, it's more effective to present it as "a story we live by." In other words, people will often refuse to listen to the facts about Christianity, or they will even distort them, because their worldview -- the story that they live by -- has drilled certain ideas into them. For example, Lauren claims that the Bible is full of "fairy tales and contradictions," not because she's read the Bible, but because she's been taught by the culture to believe this. As the professor explains, "We all live by the stories of our community. That culture, in a sense, hands us a script as we grow up. The challenge is to let go of the scripts of the world and then enter into and live by the scripts of God" -- scripts that tell us about "our origins" (creation), "our natures" (the fall), and "our destiny" (redemption and restoration). It's a provocative argument, one best made by the book itself -- the story Young and Lucke constructed to share the foundational truths of the Christian worldview. Now, I believe that logic and reasoning are crucial to the Christian faith and to the defense of truth. Otherwise, every story is dismissed as simply one person's preference. That's the curse of postmodernism. But at the same time putting propositional truth into an accessible form, a story, for the postmodern ear can be a very wise strategy. Stories like the ones in Common Grounds can be great conversation starters for friends and family members who may have no idea what the Christian story is all about. For further reading and information: Ben Young and Glenn Lucke, Common Grounds: Conversations about the Things That Matter Most(Broadman & Holman, 2003). To order, call 1-877-322-5527. Read an excerpt from Common Grounds at the website of Second Baptist Church. Lizza Connor, review of Common GroundsCCM Magazine, 2003. Reprinted at
  1. Budziszewski also employs the Socratic (rhetorical) method in his "Office Hours" column on, soon to be included in book form, Ask Me Anything, to be published later this year by NavPress.
Register today for the Wilberforce Forum's worldview certificate program. Subscribe to BreakPoint WorldView magazine -- or buy a friend or family member a gift subscription! Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals (Baker Books, 2002). Colleen Carroll, The New Faithful (Loyola Press, 2002). Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War (InterVarsity, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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