I posted a very quick blurb the other day about how I was going to start publishing some of my short stories on my blog. I didn’t elaborate much on it, but I used the word ‘metanarrative’ in the title. To my surprise, I received a fair amount of hits just from that brief mention. I have much to say about such issues in light of my interest in ‘literary apologetics’ but I was going to wait. I want people coming to this site in search of such themes to have some idea of where I’m coming from, so allow this post to be an introduction.
I have been debating Christianity for more than ten years. I entertained atheism for awhile while studying to be a pastor and after returning to Christianity became passionate about apologetics. I have encountered all sorts of objections to Christianity. It took some time for me to realize the full implications of postmodern attitudes towards Christianity. In particular, postmodern’s skepticism of any truth claim is often found right alongside modernistic demands for evidence.
As a case in point, consider this thread on my forum. The accusation is made that Christianity and all of religion are shown up by the scientific method and its fruits. Scientific evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity is the only kind of evidence allowed to be considered. Consider this post in particular from page two:
Arguing with religion is such an unfair battle. It is so easy to dispute or agree with physical evidence because it has a basis. But it is impossible for us to even make one argument against religion. If you feel religion can be tested then tell me what basis is used to test religion? I know I have asked this question already but I feel in reply 14 I proved sufficiently that religion cannot have basis (without physical evidence). If it does have a basis then you should be able to answer the question.
My biggest problem I have with Christianity and any other religion is that they do not provide a satisfying enough explanation. For how incredibly complex this world is, how incredibly complex humans and life is. How incredibly large and amazing our universe is. I feel the explanation to all of this must be just as incredible if not more so. I want an explanation that can explain and account for why dinosaurs lived, why our universe is so large and what purpose it serves, what lies outside of our universe. I want an explanation that is so consistent and true that everyone could easily agree with it because it leaves room for no doubt (the same way every truth we know does). For such a structured world, it only makes sense that the explanation holds as much structure as the world itself. The answers religions give are unfulfilling. [emphasis mine]
Here you see a clear juxtaposition between complaints about the metanarrative combined with accusations about the physical evidence. How can we be certain here that the physical evidence, as he puts it, is relevant at all? If this gentleman found the evidence he was looking for in religion but nonetheless found it ‘unfulfilling’ would that make any difference to him? Would he accept a religion supported by the ‘physical evidence’ but was nonetheless personally unsatisfying?
Look at the part I have bolded. Since science is by definition limited to the innards of our physical universe, just how is it that this gentlemen proposes to have ‘physical evidence’ for an answer purporting to account for the largeness of our universe, its purpose, or what is outside the universe? Ironically, he wants an explanation that science cannot offer by definition and then only insists on using science to get there. This is not rational, this is not logical, this is not reasonable. Nonetheless, this is essentially where many if not most skeptics are these days.
To answer my own question from above, no. No, I do not believe that if the ‘physical evidence’ was all in support of religion or Christianity in particular that people with such a mindset, if they found it nonetheless ‘unfulfilling,’ would accept Christianity. We have to wonder how much of the criticism of Christianity has to do with its metanarrative as opposed to its evidence, physical or otherwise. I have long suspected that for most it doesn’t matter at all.
Is it really the case that Christianity is as unfulfilling and as unsatisfying as many seem to think it is? I don’t think so at all. I certainly do not believe that evolution (which the gent referenced explicitly cites in this context) is satisfying in the slightest. I think, however, that we Christians have not adequately grasped the fact that what is being challenged is not the evidence but the adequacy of the Story. Now, I don’t blame us for it because it is rare to hear anyone admit that they don’t actually care about the evidence. Note how the person I’ve cited has modernistic expectations of evidence and science while seamlessly raising postmodernistic objections. It would be tempting and impulsive to leap into a discussion about evidence and the limits of science which ought to be self-evident to this person. Writ large, with skeptics across the board cloaking their objections to Christianity’s metanarrative in the guise of challenges of the evidence, it is natural that we’d want to respond to those challenges and not necessarily see what is for many (if not most, if not all) the real objections.
With themes such as this in mind I have taken to writing more stories. I don’t actually think that the skeptics really understand Christianity’s metanarrative, and this is in part because we have not spent time in fleshing this out for people- including ourselves. Having a grasp of the Grand Story will help reconcile for seekers many of the items in Christianity that don’t make sense, just as understanding the general plot of Hamlet will help make sense of certain scenes within it.
I assume of course, that these are honest and sincere seekers, and I am not so naive to think that all who claim to be really are.
To help contribute to the development of a more clear understanding of Christianity’s metanarrative, I wrote “Fidelis,” the first book of seven in my “Birth Pangs” series. The goal is to write an engaging story that people will enjoy (atheists, postmoderns, moderns, alike) and explore various themes common to humanity. Utilizing story, I mean to explore Story, and make the case that the Christian Worldview isn’t merely well-evidenced (for I think it is) but also deeply satisfying, as well. This is my first major undertaking in what is called ‘literary apologetics.’
I include in this category poetry, music, fiction… all of the intangibles which communicate truth to us in a way that we feel with our hearts and know to be real. Science is not the only way to know something, contrary to what the thread poster asserted. We know that this is not the case. Everyone knows that. Hollywood knows it, just as the entire entertainment industry knows it. It is my view that Christians have abandoned many of these venues, and that has contributed to the current crisis. It is my hope to encourage individuals in the Church and the Church as a whole to invest time, energy, and resources into ‘arguments’ that speak to our need for a satisfying Explanation.
The poster on my forum I’ve mentioned, though positively incoherent in his demands for scientific demonstration of that which is by definition outside the bounds of scientific exploration, is right to look for that which resonates in his being. It is not entirely his fault that he does not comprehend that Christianity will move him like no other world view will.