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Using Stories to Communicate Truth

Using Stories to Communicate Truth

Sean McDowell


How can we best defend the Christian faith to non-believers? How can we persuasively and effectively share the truth of Christianity to those on the outside? These are questions all Christians must genuinely wrestle with.


Last night I had the privilege of hearing three great Christian leaders address this very topic (J.P. Moreland, Greg Koukl, and Tim Muehlhoff). While they all shared powerful insights, I want to focus on the thoughts of Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, a communications professor at Biola (and former member of Campus Crusade for Christ). He made a few powerful points about communicating truth that really stuck with me.


·        We forget 50% of what we have heard in a lecture the moment we walk out the door.

·        We only remember 20% eight hours later


Which 20% do we remember? Studies reveal that it's the stories that stick with us. Facts, figures, and arguments often fade, but we remember powerful stories. The first time I spoke at a youth retreat my father said, "Son, I've got three words of advice for use: stories, stories, stories." We remember stories, enjoy stories, and relate to stories. While Jean Paul Sartre told wrote many philosophical treatises to defend his views of existentialism, his novel No Exit was probably the most persuasive tactic he developed. It's no coincidence that Jesus, the most effective communicator of all time, told stories to teach about the kingdom of God.


For instance, Jesus could have discussed love in propositional form, but rather he told three stories in Luke 15 to make the point (the most famous of which is the Prodigal Son). Dr. Muehlhoff gave one example of teaching truth through stories that was particularly helpful to me. It dealt with the difficult question: Why does God allow such horrific evil in the world, such as terrorism?


Part of the answer, of course, deals with free will. But rather than merely stating this point propositionally, he gave the example of the Mr. Wonderful doll, which says words such as, "Honey, let me do the dishes this time," or "Let's just cuddle tonight." In other words, if you push a button on the doll it says exactly what every woman wants to hear. God certainly could have created a world in which only Mr. Wonderful dolls exist. So, why didn't God create humans who simply parroted, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" 24/7? Why not program humans to always do right?


Like any parent knows, God realizes that there is something beautiful, good and wonderful about someone freely choosing to do good. And God understood that when he opened the door to choice, he allowed the possibility of evil. God wanted a world where people choose compassion rather than simply act according to their predetermined programming. Yet when you give people the option of compassion, you must also give them the option of evil. People cannot freely choose compassion unless they can freely choose not to act compassionately. While this is not an argument, sharing stories such as these are some of the most powerful means we have available to us to communicate the Christian worldview.


This is why I recently wrote (and edited) Apologetics for a New Generation (Harvest House, 2009). In fact, it includes an entire chapter by Brian Godawa (author of Hollywood Worldviews) on how to use stories to persuade culture of the Christian worldview. We need a new generation of apologists who can creatively proclaim the Christian message through stories and other creative means. Will you be one of them?