Post Author: Bill Pratt
Any serious student of the Bible knows that the biblical authors employed a large variety of written literary genres. The Bible contains poetry, historical narrative, wisdom literature, personal letters, parables, theological and philosophical arguments, and much more.
As an apologist, I have always been drawn to the theological and philosophical argumentation found in the Bible and in later Christian authors. When I present Christianity, I usually use logical and rational arguments from the fields of history, theology, philosophy, and science. Rational argumentation can be very effective with certain kinds of people, but completely ineffective with others.
Jesus certainly presented a rational case for believing he was the Son of God (see Geisler and Zukeran, The Apologetics of Jesus). However, one of his favorite communication techniques was the parable. Parables were fictional stories that Jesus used to teach powerful lessons about the Kingdom of God. Why did Jesus speak in parables instead of just using his unparalleled knowledge and wisdom to slay opponents with irrefutable, logical arguments?
Several years ago I was speaking to a skeptic about Christianity and he said that if God really wanted to reveal himself, then the Bible should read like a textbook. It should be expository, non-literary, and full of lists and facts.
As an engineer, I could relate to this skeptic. But as I’ve learned over the years, story is the absolute supreme way that human beings communicate to each other. Think about it. We love to read stories, see stories played out in movie theaters, and hear stories from our friends. Our conversations are often built around story-telling. Our free time is spent listening to and watching stories. There is nothing more intriguing to human beings than stories.
The Bible, it turns out, is a sweeping narrative about God’s interaction with the human race. God, through the human authors of the Bible, has woven together the world’s greatest story, and with multiple literary genres throughout. Jesus’ use of the parable is a reflection of the power of story-telling. Why tell parables? Because they are effective!
God used the primary vehicle, story, to reveal himself to mankind, but he made sure that within The Story there was poetry, wisdom literature, rational argumentation, and all kinds of other literary forms to capture readers. These other literary forms are there to support the overarching narrative.
Christians need to communicate the truths of Christianity employing all means of communication. All of our methods, however, must always point back to The Story. The arguments, the sermons, everything we say and do, always have to lead back there.