Every person has a worldview, a perception of reality, but beneath this intellectual framework lies an inarticulate desire for something more substantial. Picture a house: there needs to be a foundation and a framework for it to even exist, but something else makes it a home. The intellect frames our lives but our desires give us substance.
Christianity claims to satisfy the deepest of these desires. C.S. Lewis called it “Joy,” and it demands the attention of the whole person.
Although apologetics is often seen as an intellectual enterprise, it requires Joy. Art and apologetics both serve the Church’s enterprise of evangelism and discipleship. In our age of confused hearts, apologetics and creativity are desperately in need of integration.
Christian discipleship requires both truth and beauty, so here are 2 habits to create an “imaginary apologetic” (although my primary focus is narrative art, creators of other forms may still benefit):
1. Wrestle with the Darkness
Christian art cannot be pigeonholed into what is family-friendly (although the genre is necessary), aesthetically unambitious or, worst of all, thinly-disguised proselytization. It requires provocation with novelty and sound theology with beauty. It must engage with our world and be relevant.
In Art & The Bible, Francis Schaeffer says: “Christianity is not just involved with ‘salvation,’ but with the total man in the total world.” Let us, then, incarnate the Gospel in the totality of our present world. What we need are integrated works of art fueled by the conviction that there truly is no god but God, and that Christ is his Son.
But darkness reigns. There are hurting people, emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically, and art is often more therapeutic for them than intellectual arguments for Christianity. Art as an apologetic offers us an invitation to experience the Gospel as if it was more than a pile of statements–as if it was the “breath of God” itself sweeping over our chaotic waters (Gen. 1:2).
Intellectual solutions to the problem of evil exist, but they are insufficient by themselves. Relying on the intellect alone to navigate the problem of evil is like trying to live inside a house’s frame. No matter how crisp our rationality is, Joy is needed to build a soul’s home.
As artistic apologists, we must imagine how the Gospel speaks to dark experiences and scenarios, and then, using our unique artistic style, express it. We must wrestle with our own darkness and portray the conflicting desires inside. Spit them onto the page. Scream them into your songs. And don’t be afraid of incomplete conclusions (Heb. 11:39), knowing that Christ has only promised to free us from destruction (2 Tim. 2:1; Titus 1:2; Heb. 4:1). None of us are complete.
So wrestle, and communicate the longing it conjures. People want to hear that they’re not alone in the dark.
2. Experience Other Stories
How do we create art that resonates with those who don’t operate in the same “Christian dialect”?
We listen to the stories around us. We participate in them, involving ourselves in them as the old adage says: “get in their shoes.” The Biblical authors did this. They “inhabited” the genres and narratives of their day to subvert them in service to God (Isa. 27; Ezek. 29:3-4; 32:2; Acts 17:16-34).
The more we empathize with non-Christian (or anti-Christian) stories and art, the better we can imagine how the gospel satisfies what they strive for. And a great perk with this is that when we characterize non-Christian worldviews and lifestyles in our art, we won’t rely on stereotypes (such as the “angry atheist,” the “cynical liberal” or the “militant Muslim”). When we put forth respectful yet true-to-the-gospel narratives and art then the invitation Christ becomes clearer (and hopefully richer).