Glen Scrivener delivered a message in a workshop at the Gospel Coalition’s 2019 National Conference titled “How to Captivate the Imagination in Evangelism.” He discussed the role of the heart—and its imaginations—in shaping the decisive outcome of a person’s life, including the decision to respond to an evangelistic invitation. Scrivener discussed the biblical underpinnings of the idea and offered examples of creative evangelism, such as storytelling, with this idea at its core.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Glen Scrivener: I am Glen Scrivener. I am married to Emma. We have a daughter Ruby and we live on the south coast of England. It’s called the sunshine coast. My Australian family thinks it’s hilarious that Eastbourne is called the sunshine coast. In Australia, we have a sunshine coast and it’s located about five miles from the center of the sun. You can hear your skin audibly crackling on the sunshine coast in Australia, not so in England. But they cruelly call it the unshine coast in England, which is very cruel, but true. And so my job is really to go around and introduce people to Jesus. And I want to talk to you today about the vital importance of captivating the imagination when you’re sharing Jesus with people. Captivating the imagination. And I wonder as I talk about captivating the imagination, whether that sounds all warm and fuzzy like a nice bubble bath. It’s the nice guy option, right?
Some people are the hard nosed evangelists and they’re the pugilistic, combative, adversarial types. And then there are the creatives and they live in Seattle or something and they drink boutique coffee and they’re just in to see S Louis and just the imagination. And that’s nice guy evangelism, right? Well, if you think that, you haven’t been reading 2 Corinthians 10. 2 Corinthians 10, here is the apostle Paul, he says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” We do war. We do do battle. We just don’t do it in a carnal way. We don’t do it with a physical sword and physical aggression and physical violence. For verse four, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Nevertheless, they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Well, how do you pull down people’s strongholds? That would be nice. Be nice to know how to pull, hold, pull down spiritual strongholds. Wouldn’t it?
Verse five, casting down imaginations. Logismos in the Greek, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing it into captivity, bringing into captivity, every thought to the obedience of Christ. So captivating the imagination. Just think of the word captivating right there. Okay. What is captivating the imagination? It’s not just taking the high ground, is it? If I tell you a story, if I bring you into a world in which there is a boyfriend trying to make it with his girlfriend’s family and yet failing utterly, and yet he meets the first century nativity and it transforms him. I’ve immersed you in a world to captivate your imagination and you are not in charge of anything. I’ve immersed you in a world that is not yours.
I have not just taken the high ground, I’ve taken every ground. I’ve taken the entire terrain, right? And you are just sitting there listening, watching, absorbing it all. Okay. It’s doing warfare. When we say tell stories and when we immerse people in an alternative imaginary, when we immerse people in the story of the scriptures, we are doing battle. We’re doing warfare. That’s what it’s like. A lot of people think of evangelism as though it is building stepping stones from the non-Christian house to your house. And in my book 3 2 1, I kind of adapt an analogy that’s Alma Sera use. Alma Sera are a great outreach to Muslims in the Muslim world. There’s a 13 session video program that you can take your Muslim friends through. And their whole paradigm is that Christianity is a house and it’s a house that looks really weird from the outside and you will never understand the house.
You will never understand how this bit fits with that bit. You will never understand why the kids are fighting in the backyard. You will never understand anything about the house until you throw up in the doors and invite them in to give them the grand tour. And so Alma Sera use this as their analogy. I use it as my analogy as well. I don’t think evangelism is so much about stepping stones from the non-Christian worlds to your world. I think it’s far more about hospitality, flinging open the doors and bringing people into this strange new worlds, this biblical world in which everything is right side up, but for them it’s upside down. And we captivate their imagination by immersing them in an alternative universe that turns out to be the actual universe. They just don’t know that yet. So captivating the imagination is about inviting people into a new kind of world. And the imagination is the key.
The imagination is the structure, the framework, the plausibility structure, in which everything else you say in evangelism actually makes sense. The first time we encounter imagination in the scriptures is in Genesis chapter six. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Do you notice what it is that’s having the thoughts in that verse? What is it that’s actually having the thoughts? Is the mind having the thoughts? Is the brain having the thoughts? Perish the thought the brain, gosh, what a modern concept, right? But it’s not the brain that’s having the thoughts. It’s not the mind that’s having the thoughts. It’s the heart that is having the thoughts. The heart is the cockpit of the human person.
Proverbs chapter four verse 23, Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life. Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs four verse 23, or notice what Jesus says in Mark chapter seven. Jesus is telling people about this kind of flow of evil that comes out from the human person. It’s not what’s outside a person that defiles them. It is what is inside that defiles a person. So Jesus says Mark chapter seven verse 21, For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts.” It’s the very first cab off the rank. It’s the very first thing that he says in this flow of evil that is spewing forth from the human hearts, what’s the very first thing? It’s thoughts actually, evil thoughts. The heart thinks. Did you know that?
In fact, the first thing that the heart does is think, but it does not think, well, they are evil thoughts that come out of the human heart. So Blaise Pascal famously said that the heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. And there he is in the teeth of enlightenment thinking that it’s just kind of getting going in Europe and Pascal is pushing against that notion that we are homo sapiens, right? Homo sapiens, wise men, thinking people, intellectuals. That’s what we are, right? And Pascal and Agustin and others would call us no wait, we’re Homo Adorans. Okay. We’re people who love, right?
It is the hearts that leads the thinking. Thomas Cranmer, writing a century before Blaise Pascal, he brought the prayer for purity out of Latin and into English. I’m an Anglican. So let me give you a prayer that would always be said in Anglican services of communion. Just notice the anthropology that Thomas Cranmer has as he’s thinking about the human person. Almighty God under whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom those secrets are hid. That’s amazing. Isn’t it? Just the heart, the desire that we keep a lid on in our secret life, that the prayer rips off the lid and says cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy spirit, that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify the Holy name through Christ our Lord. That’s a good prayer, isn’t it?
And what is the anthropology? What is the doctrine of man that it is assuming, it is assuming that we are heart led creatures, all of us. So Ashley Noel, a great scholar of Thomas Cranmer. He summarized Thomas Cranmer’s reformed anthropology in this pithy saying. He said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.” Do you think that’s how people tick? I think that’s certainly how Thomas Cranmer thought people tick, it’s how Blaise Pascal thought people tick. I would say it’s how Paul and how Moses thought people tick. What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies. What comes first? It’s what you love. It’s what has captivated you that then moves you to act. And then where does reasoning come? Post hoc, right? Where does the reasoning come? After the facts.
Reasoning comes as a rationalization of what you have already wanted. So someone like Jonathan Heights in the righteous mind, he will tell you that a confirmation bias is we are riddled with it. Confirmation bias. Aren’t we? If I want something to be true, then I will set the bar of evidence for that claim very low. And if you share some Facebook meme, that’s good enough for me. All right. I believe it. Amen. I click. Right? If I do not want that thing to be true, I set the bar very high, right? And I’m going to be fact checking you for the next month. I will not believe what you present to me as evidence. I am not the rational creature that I think of myself as. I really am not. What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies. If that is true, then what is evangelism? What is evangelism?
Captivating the heart, captivating the imagination of the thoughts of the hearts as Genesis put it. Did you notice there are the thoughts of the heart there, but then there’s the imagination of the thoughts of the heart. And the word there in Hebrew for the imagination of the thoughts of the heart. It’s the same word as the word for frame. So in Psalm 103 where the Psalmist says, “Oh Lord, the Lord knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” So there is a frame around the thoughts of our hearts. There is a structure. There is a prefabricated frame, which is the scaffolding of the thoughts of our hearts. There is if you like a plausibility structure, which makes sense of our heartfelt heart led view of the world. And according to Genesis chapter six verse five, it is always evil all the time.
That’s why captivating the imagination is war. It is war because your friends and my friends live within this scaffolding, live within this frame, this plausibility structure that only confirms the thoughts of their hearts. So to give you some examples. To many, it is obvious beyond argumentation that freedom is the paramount value, freedom defined as individual autonomy with absolutely no interference from the outside. That’s obvious. That’s obviously true, right? To many, it is obvious beyond argumentation that ethics be they sexual ethics or any other kind of ethics are founded on the care versus harm principle. If it’s not harming anybody, it cannot be wrong, right? That’s obvious. That is the frame in which we live. That is the imagination of a thought of our hearts
To many it is obvious beyond argumentation that science and faith are sworn enemies and you must choose one or the other. That is obvious to everybody or to many anyway. To many it is obvious beyond argumentation that I look within to discover my identity and I should never accept external or authorities telling me who I am or what I should do. That’s obvious. We know that. That’s the imagination of the thought of the heart that has captured us. To many it is obvious beyond argumentation that suffering is an unmitigated evil. There can be no good reasons for suffering in the world, such that suffering is itself a defeater for a belief and a good God. Obviously, it’s obvious to so many people. That is the frame in which people live. Those are the imagination of the thoughts of the heart.
So what is evangelism? Evangelism is warfare. It is bringing to bear a very different world, immersing someone in a different story. Think of Isaiah chapter 55 from verse seven, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,” same word as back in Genesis six, “neither are your ways my ways sayeth the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So we go to war with the thoughts of God, against the thoughts of man and it is a battle of ideas.
But when I say ideas, you might sort of hear that through the enlightenment prism. It’s not a purely logical battle at all. It’s a battle for the hearts. It’s a battle to immerse people in the true story, in God’s story. So how do we do battle? Well, we’ve already seen from 2 Corinthians chapter 10, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” We invite people into the Christian house, which turns out to be an incredibly fascinating and compelling cathedral that you can get lost in. But I think so often in evangelism, what we do rather than give people the grand tour of the cathedral, what we want to do is run out onto so-called neutral grounds with a leaflet of a low resolution thumbnail sketch of the cathedrals floor plan, just to give them the minimal content necessary for them to understand the gist of what the cathedral is all about. That’s what we want to do.
We want to run out with a tiny little thumbnail sketch of the cathedral floor plan, because we want them to understand in a simply logical fashion, the Roman road, the steps to salvation, but is that the way that human beings tick? Do you ever watch those Netflix dramas where you’re spending the first three episodes thinking I’m going to have to Google this. Who is that and how are they related to this person and what is that accent? Why are they doing this thing? And I don’t remember this person, have we met this person before? And you just want that to be a Wiki page at some point, but you resist looking at the Wiki page because what they have wanted to do is immerse you in a story. And as you hang on in there with the story, it all starts to make sense.
They immerse you in the story. They don’t start episode one with a character list and here’s the plot developments, and this is where we’re going, right? We should fling open the doors and show them the cathedral and people don’t understand, what’s that got to do with that? Ah, you’ll see. And what’s going on down in the crypt? Nevermind, but have a look at this stain glass window. Can you have a look at this? We beg their indulgence, try to give them the grand tour. Now in my book 3 2 1, I start with that sort of tour analogy and then having gone through God’s threeness and the world’s twoness and your oneness, then I deal with Q&A. Then I deal with the questions that people may have. And I say, “After you’ve had the tour of the house, let’s sit down with a cup of tea because I’m Australian and I live in England. So we have a cup of tea.” If I was in America, I don’t know what you would have. You would have, I don’t know, three gallons of Gatorade or something. I don’t know. I don’t know what …
Am I contextualizing well there? I don’t know. Just about. Yeah. Okay. So we’d sit down, we’d have a drink and you can ask all your questions about sex and science and suffering and all the things you don’t understand about, but I’m not going to deal with those questions first because you don’t understand those questions yet. You certainly don’t understand how Christianity relates to those questions. Can I at least go to 30,000 feet and give you the Christian story? Show it to you a little bit and then we’ll see how that question fits into the Christian story. I understand that it means you have to beg your friends’ indulgence quite a lot, but if they are seeking and if they do want to know, then I do think that’s the way around. We give them the grand tour and then we sit down and answer the questions because we’ve got to figure out our anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.
And it’s often been said, the mind is not a debating chamber. The mind is like an IMAX theater. And we spend that time imagining that evangelism is about the debating chamber when really it is about the IMAX theater. And I don’t just mean about playing pretty videos for your friends. I do mean speaking in compelling, pictorial, fascinating imagery that immerses them in a different kind of a world. I read a tweet recently, someone came through the national gallery in London and they said, “I can now summarize the history of Western art in seven words.” He said, “Having gone through for the entire afternoon, they said the history of Western art in seven words, it’s a thousand years of crucifixions then stripes.”
That’s a gross bit of reductionism there obviously, dismissing all modern art as stripes. How dare they? And it skipped over a few little stages along the way, but if you were given seven words to summarize the history of Western art, I don’t think that’s terrible. I don’t think that’s terrible. A thousand years of crucifixions and then stripes. And what do I take from that? Well, for those thousand years, the church was telling its own story on its own terms, no matter how nuts it sounded. Think of a thousand years of crucifixions in the context of the Greco Roman world, where everyone was going around saying like in gladiator, “Strengthen on us, strengthen on us, strengthen on us.”
And that’s our God strung up on a piece of wood, but still we tell the story and we tell the story and we tell the story. They were unashamed to tell God’s story again and again and again. Jews look for miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. Second thing I take from that is that Christian storytelling runs from God’s story to the world. It’s not about jumping on the bandwagon of whatever the world is doing and then trying to do a Christian version of it. It’s not like, oh, what’s popular today? Remember fidget spinners. Remember that? That’s like the Trinity. Let me do a video about fidget spinners and the Trinity Let’s jump onto the world story and do a bit of Jesus’ smuggling. Crowbar the gospel into what the world is doing.
No, Christian storytelling historically has run from God’s story out into the world. And then the world starts telling Christian shaped stories. Do we have confidence that our story is good enough to do that? We should have confidence that our story is good enough to do that because number three, without God’s story, it’s just stripes. It really is. Christopher Brooker did a kind of a history of Western literature, big fat book, it was all about the seven stories that we tell. I’m not going to be able to remember all the seven, but it was things like a rags to riches, overcoming the monster, comedy, tragedy, romance, quest and voyage and return. Those are the seven, right? And you just think, oh, isn’t that interesting that those are the stories that we tell in the West? I wonder why that is.
Maybe it’s because the great romantic hero has come to slay the monster and get the girl and bring comedy out of our tragedy by going on a great quest and voyaging to earth and returning to heaven. Maybe it’s because of that, because it’s the Bible that has shaped our world and the Bible does continue to shape our world. Do we have confidence that telling our story will continue to shape the world? I think we need to have far more confidence in just telling our own story. So one of the things that we do at Speak Life is just try to tell the gospel story in slightly updated language.
We started doing that with a five minute, actually that was a six minute video of 3 2 1. And then we did a three minute video of 3 2 1, and then somebody said, “Can you summarize the gospel story in 90 seconds?” And I had to go at summarizing the gospel story in 90 seconds and then somebody animated it. So let’s have a look at the gospel story in 90 seconds and I hope you’ll see it’s a compelling story. It’s a good story. God’s story. It’s a good one. I think we should have more confidence in it.
In the beginning, there was light and life and love. A father loving his son in the joy of the Holy spirits and everything has come from light and life and love. But we look today at the world and we see, it’s not like that. We see a world full of darkness and death and disconnection. Where’s that come from? Well, we’ve turned from the light. And when you turn from the light, where else do you go but darkness? When you turn from love, where else do you go but disconnection? When you turn from life, where else do you go but death? But then what does love do when love sees the beloved in trouble? Love says your pit will be my pit. Your debts will be my debts, your darkness will be my darkness. Your death will be my death.
So who is Jesus? He’s the son of the father who came as our brother to be with us in the darkness, to take that darkness on himself, that death, that disconnection that we all deserve for turning from God. He took it on himself on the cross. He plunged it down to the hell that it deserves and many rose up against a light and life and love. And he says, “You in the darkness, do you want my light? You in death, do you want my life? You in disconnection, do you want my love?” And anyone who turns and says yes to Jesus, we now belong to him. We get his father as our father. We get his spirit as our spirit. We get his future as our future. It’s for free and it’s forever. So do you want Jesus?
Yeah, I was quite gratified by the reaction that that got when we released it. It was a little bit galling because at the same time we released that at the same time as the Christmas video that I showed at the very beginning meeting the nativity, which cost a heck of a lot more money than that there and that got far more views. But I was thrilled that actually people actually like the good news. People actually liked the gospel. It’s good to know, especially in a social media culture where what you like you share, and maybe this is one way for the gospel to go viral. People just telling the gospel story again and again, we’ve got good news. And when you move away from this good news, it’s just stripes. It really is. Let’s think about some other examples of captivating the imagination.
Let me give you some examples that you can use when you don’t have a tablet on you to show people videos just in conversation. What are some of the ways that we can captivate imagination? I’ll give you one overall kind of paradigm, one overall story that you can tell that sets the scene. And then let’s have a go at three of the more contentious thorny questions that people ask. And let me give you just a few little analogies, illustrations, ways of immersing your friends in a different way of thinking in order to answer those questions. In order to set the scene, here’s something I do in talks often. If I’m opening up a talk, I want to grab their attention instantly. So I say, “Okay, everybody imagine that coming in through those doors are masked gunmen in balaclavas, and they’ve got assault rifles, and they are herding us out of this room and into unmarked white vans out there in the streets.”
And as they heard us into these vans and drive off at high speed, they inject you with a drug that knocks you out and it wipes your memory banks, wipes every thought you’ve ever had about who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve done. You come to very groggy in this gigantic room. There are no windows, no doors, no entrances, no exits. It’s just you and the room. And at some point, people start to come up with ideas of how you got there. What is the meaning of the room? And is there anything beyond this room? So imagine one person sort of groggily gets to his feet and says, let’s call him hopeful Harry. Okay. Hopeful Harry gets on his feet and he says, “Guys, I’ve just got a good feeling about this. I don’t know why, but something in me is just telling me that somebody out there likes me. I think it’s going to be okay.”
And you can meet hopeful Harrys in the world. There are hopeful Harries who think there’s somebody out there who likes me. They think it’s all going to be okay. You ask them why, they don’t particularly know why. They’ve just got a feeling in their guts and hopeful Harrys are brilliant, okay. We need more hopeful Harrys in the world. They’re great at parties, but it’s not the only kind of person in the world, is there? There are hopeful Harrys and next to Harry stands up in the room, scientific Sally. Okay. And scientific Sally says, “Harry, you’re nice, but I can’t just go with my guts. I want to do some good science.” And so she gets out a measuring tape and she starts to figure out the measurements and the dimensions of the room and how it’s been put together.
And she starts to figure, you know this room has been put together by a great intelligence. There’s been a great architect. Look at all these signs of architecture. How could you deny it? My science is leading me to believe in some kind of higher intelligence. And in the world, there are those sorts of people. There are scientific Sallys and they look at the fine tuning of the cosmos and things like that. And they tend to believe in a higher intelligence because they’ve done good science on this world, but then that’s not the only kind of person there is. Next to hopeful Harry, there’s scientific Sally. Next to scientific Sally, there’s skeptical Steven. Skeptical Stephen gets to his feet and he says, “Harry, I love you, but I can’t go with my gut. Sally, I love you, but you tell me about this room being well-designed and I think, well, well-designed compared to what? This room is the only room we’ve got.
I don’t know what to do with all those arguments you gave me about the fine tuning of the room. I don’t know what to do with those things. All we know is that we’ve got this room, right? So can we shut up about what’s outside the room and can we just try to make this as good as we can possibly make it, please?” And there are skeptical Stevens in the world who say, “Can we just shut up about this religious speculation? Can we try to make this world a better place, please?” Now, who are you with? Who are you with in that room? Are you a hopeful Harry, scientific Sally, skeptical Steven? If those are the only three options, I am with Steven every day of the week. I am with Steven totally. If those are the only three options then yeah, all we know about is this room.
He’s absolutely right, but I have not yet, given you the Christian option. None of those three people represent the Christian option. They might do temperamentally. There are hopeful Christians and there are scientific Christians and there are skeptical Christians. Temperamentally that’s true, but none of those people represent the Christian position. Here’s the Christian position. As we’re all arguing about the room and what’s beyond the room, bits of ceiling start to flake down and then a man appears in the middle of the room and he says, “I’m from beyond and I’m here to rescue you.” Does that change the conversation in the room? Do you think just a little bit? You might not believe that guy. You might think this is just cabin fever. You might think he’s got cabin fever. You might think you’ve got cabin fever. You might go through a million explanations of why this guy might be making such claims, but his entrance into the room and his claims about himself change the conversation in the room.
And a Christian is just someone who listens to that guy. That’s what a Christian is. And of course, Jesus is that man who came into the middle of human history, who says, “I’m from beyond and I’m here to rescue you.” What do you do with that guy? And I don’t care if temperamentally you’re hopeful or scientific or skeptical. I don’t care about any of those things. I’m temperamentally skeptical. That’s why I want to ply that man in the middle of the room with questions, great, ply Jesus with questions, keep asking. But a Christian is someone who ends up trusting that this guy is who he says he is. That’s what a Christian is. Right? And as I give that illustration, what I’m trying to do is kind of loosen my friends’ conviction that a Christian has just a hopeful Harry or a scientific Sally.
Actually, I’m very skeptical. I describe myself as I’m a bit like a woman who throughout her entire life has been dead against marriage. She’s dead against marriage. This patriarchal institution called marriage. You won’t find me dead with a husband, blah, blah, blah. And then she meets a guy and she falls in love. And maybe she even marries the guy, right? Against all her better judgment. She even marries the guy. Why? Does she marry the guy because she loves marriage? No, she marries him because she loves him and he’s converted her. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I met a guy. I’ve fallen in love. He’s kind of converted me. Do you think it might happen to you, look out, right? It might happen to you. Faith is not this thing like Midi-chlorians in Jedi blood that some people have and some people don’t.
Faith is meeting a guy and falling in love. There’s an imaginative scene that you can immerse people in. Let’s go to some of the hot button issues that people ask. I go around university campuses in the UK and these three are always coming up when I speak, science, sex and suffering. Okay. And with all of them, there are great arguments that you can make and they’re logical and they cohere. But I think what we first need to do is immerse people in a story. We need to discombobulate them, turn them right side up, and then we can maybe go to work on the mind. So with science, here’s the image that I want to captivate people with.
Imagine this, Betty the botanist, there’s Betty the botanist in her sort of white coat. And she’s been up all night because she’s been doing all these tests on a botanical specimen. And Tuesday morning in comes Gareth the lab assistant. And she says to Gareth, “Gareth, I just can’t thank you enough for the botanical specimen you gave me yesterday. It’s been incredible. I’ve spent all night doing a spectral analysis of this plant. I’ve discovered whole ecosystems on the leaves. I’ve discovered pharmacological properties of this botanical specimen that are going to help us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve mapped its genome, a first for this species. Thank you Gareth so much for that botanical specimen.” And Gareth says, “Betty, you idiot. It was February the 14th, Valentine’s day. It was a long stem rose Betty. Do you understand what I gave to you?”
And that’s the question, right? Does Betty understand what Gareth gave to her? On one level, Betty understands that rose better than anyone else on planet earth. Betty really understands that Rose on a scientific level. On another level, Betty is a moron, isn’t she? And if you met Betty in life, you would want to shake her. What’s the matter with you woman? Here’s a man trying to communicate love to you, sending you a gift. And if at that point she says, “Oh, how was I to know that this was a love gift? It wasn’t written in the genome.” No, it could never be written in the genome and she could never do better science in order to understand that rose as a love gift. She’d have to leave her science at the door and use different tools of analysis to figure out what that Rose meant. And then you just say, “What if the world is like that long stem rose?” Do you think it might be? Do you think the whole world might be like that long stem rose and you can study it.
You absolutely can go into the laboratory and you can do all the tests in the world and that’s great. And it will further our understanding and it will make life on planet earth so much better. Please do science, please go into the lab. But that does not exhaust the meaning of this world. Does it? Unless you want to be like Betty. Do you want to be like Betty? No one wants to be like Betty, do they? Do you see how the imagination, and do you see how storytelling is warfare? Do you see? Storytelling is warfare because you can’t do anything now except view scientific reductionism as moronic. You can’t do it now. Now that you’re inside the story, now that you’ve seen the world in this way to reduce this world purely to psychology boiling down to biology, biology boiling down to chemistry, chemistry boiling down to physics, to reduce the entire meaning of this world down to that makes you a moron.
And you know it makes you a more on now because you’ve seen yourself in the face of Betty, right? Immersing people in a story is really, really important. And then you can start talking about how Kepler said this and Einstein said this and Newton said that. And did you know that the human genome project was headed up by this guy? And you can do all that, but let’s immerse them in a story first because the other imaginary that people live in is really strong. Okay. It is a paradigm. It is a plausibility structure that people have. And all the information that you give to people will just be remassaged into a different form. You need to immerse people in stories. So science, talk about Betty. Okay. With sex, I mean, there are so many illustrations that I use when the issue of sex and sexuality comes up.
I mean, one thing I often do is just talk about, look, if I was a Buddhist and I was from one of the majority of Buddhists schools that believe that meat is murder and you invite me to a steakhouse and I say, “Actually, sorry. Yeah, no, no, I don’t really do that.” And you say, “Why?” And I say, “Well, I’ve just got this grand vision of life and I just don’t believe in killing life. So yeah. Thanks. But no, thanks.” And then your friend says, “Are you saying that meat is murder?” And you say, “Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s a very inflammatory way of putting it. But if you pin me down, yeah, I kind of do think that meat is murder.” Your friend says, “How dare you? How dare … my brother is a butcher and he is one of the most Buddhisty guys you’ve ever met in your life. Are you one of those carnival haters? Are you a kind of carnophobe? You meat bigot.”
And at that stage, you’d want to say, “Well, no, I just have a bigger vision, a different vision from your vision about life and the meaning of life and what is sacred. And so for me, I just think food is placed into a different context and a setting. And you have a different view, but we can still love each other. Can’t we?” And actually we can still love each other. Vegans and carnivores and omnivores, we can all get on together, can’t we? We can, can’t we? Is there a way of getting on together on the issue of sex? Because it’s the same thing with Christianity and sex. We’ve just got a bigger vision. And if you’ve got time, I’d love to tell you about the bigger vision for God and the universe. The Christians have a vision of sex that is in connection with the stars.
It is this cosmic vision of a great love story. I’d love to tell it to you someday, but can we get beyond the epithets? Can we get beyond the homophobe insults? Because it’s not like that. It’s like a Buddhist who doesn’t eat meat or another illustration I bring out and lots of people do this. Don’t they? The Holy fire illustration. Sex is Holy fire. It is powerful. It is sacred. It is wonderful. It is community building. And actually in my house, there’s actually a place where you can light a fire. Isn’t that amazing to think about? There’s a place in my house you can actually light a fire. And when you light it in that one place, it gives light and warmth to the rest of the house. It builds community. It’s wonderful when you light the fire in that place. But you might think, oh, if it’s good in that place, it must be good everywhere. Let’s start lighting fires everywhere. It’s like bye bye house, right?
For the Christian, sex is holy fire and there is a wonderful place for it in which it can give life and community and light and warmth. But there is that one place for it. Or sometimes I’ll talk to people and I’ll talk about what do you think your body is like? Is your body more like a playground or is it more like a temple? Think about that. Enter into that world. All right. Think about that. Is your body more like a playground or is your body more like a temple? People who know where I’m heading with this say a playground. And at that stage I say, “Has the Me Too movement taught you nothing? Because the entire me too movement is screaming out at you that our bodies are far more like temples than they are like playgrounds.” When things go wrong in the area of sex, it does not feel like a grazed knee in the playground. It feels like desecration. It feels like an invasion of Holy space. Wouldn’t you say?
You know the body is a temple. All your experiences with sex will tell you your body is a temple. But again, we’re using these imaginative kind of concepts, playground, temple, holy fire. What about Buddhism and meat-eating? Let’s go to one other one on suffering and then we’ll throw it open for questions. But of course, the ultimate story to immerse people in, in your evangelism is the Bible. And so if I ever get a chance of more than three minutes to speak on the subject of suffering, then I’ll always want to go to John chapter 11. And I just lay out the story and let me lay out the story in a long sentence, in which every single phrase should shock you. But here’s the story. Here’s how Christians think about suffering. God shows up at a funeral. Ah, it’s interesting. Isn’t it? God shows up at a funeral. That’s how John 11 kind of begins. He shows up at a funeral of a man he loved.
He shows up at a funeral of a man he loved and he’s late according to everyone else there. The family are full of faith and accusation together. Isn’t that interesting? Mary and Martha, they both come. If you had been here, my brother would not have died. How did that come out of their mouth? Did it come differently out of Mary’s mouth and differently out of Martha’s mouth? Because I can say it different ways. Oh Lord, if you’d been here, my brother would not have died. Full of faith, right? Or I can say, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Do you see? Is it a statement of faith? Is it an accusation? It’s both. And because they believe in him, they can address their complaints to the manager, right?
That’s interesting about suffering, isn’t it? There they are full of faith and full of complaints. Christians can do that. And then in the story in chapter 11, God cries. In fact, he outcries every other first century mourner at the funeral. Do you know what you’ve got to do to outcry every other first century, middle Eastern mourner? There might’ve been professional mourners there. God shows up and he outcries everybody. It becomes so remarkable. Look at how he loved him. God shows up late to a funeral of someone he loves and he cries. He cries more than everyone else. And then he raises the man from the dead.
And the first thing that Lazarus sees after being raised from the dead is the tear stained face of God and the funeral turns to a homecoming. I don’t have answers to the question of suffering. In fact, that just complicates things. Doesn’t it? But that’s okay. It’s really okay to complicate things because we’re not going out to people with a leaflet of the cathedral, thumbnail sketch plan. Are we? I was asked on stage last week, two weeks ago, somebody said, “How on earth can Christians respond to the Christ church massacre? Man goes in and shoots 50 Muslims dead in two mosques in New Zealand. How can Christians respond to that?” And I’d never thought about it in these terms, but God was helping me to process things. And what came out of my mouth was, “This is not going to help you. This is not going to clarify anything. It’s only going to complicate things, but think of this, the God I believe in does not just care for the victims of religious violence, he became one.”
And then I didn’t say anything else because I didn’t know what else to say. And I don’t want to give trite answers. I don’t want to give 50 cent answers to million dollar questions, but I don’t think we’re meant to do that. I just think that we’re meant to immerse them in a different story, a story in which Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true and there is a happily ever after. Those are just some thoughts of how we captivate the imagination. It’s figuring out ways of telling the old story in new clothes. It’s ways of immersing people in a grander narrative because the mind is not a debating chamber. It is an IMAX cinema. So let us go to war by the spirit and captivate imaginations. Thanks. Just got a few minutes for a question or two. Anybody want to come back? Question, comment, query, please.
Book recommendations. Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness would be a great one. I mean, yeah, that’ll do for now, but-
3 2 1.
3 2 1. Thank you brother. Thank you. Available at all good book stops just downstairs. Yeah. 3 2 1 kind of goes into that. And in fact, Love Story is another book of mine. I haven’t checked whether they’ve got it down there. They probably do, but it starts with a conversation between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien about all this stuff actually. And Louis’s kind of conversion was really JRR Tolkien’s saying, “Look, the reason why you love all the myths and the fairytales is because you are living in one.” And that was really what set Lewis on that path. So I’d say even more love story in that regard. Yes, please. I think the first thing I’d say is we we don’t need to create stories to begin with. I try to and lots of people try to. We’ve already got some great ones.
So John 11 would be, so that’s a favorite story of mine that I try to take people to, or I’ll say to people, “I love Luke chapter five where Jesus is at a party with a whole bunch of sinners and tax collectors and the religious policemen gatecrash the party and then complain about the guest list, which is an odd thing for gatecrashers to do. But Jesus says, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor. It’s the sick. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And so I might take people to that story and say, “Isn’t it interesting Jesus is a spiritual doctor. He’s not a spiritual policeman.” And just in that, the Bible has already given you just so much conceptual framework.
So I identify one or two like really favorite, precious stories to you and a huge thing in evangelism is just saying, have you ever sat down and read one of the eyewitness biographies of Jesus since becoming an adult? Have you ever done that? And the majority of your friends probably won’t have done and say, “Would you like to? Let’s get a drink together and do that.” And that way you are immersing them in another story and you don’t have to think of it. That’s dark arts. You’re asking about dark arts there.
I love so Stephen King, he wrote a book on writing called On Writing. And he says that actually storytelling is not like architecture. It’s like archeology. If it was like architecture, then I could answer that question a lot more straightforwardly. I could just say, this brick on that brick on that brick, job done. It’s more like archeology. There are these things, there are stories that are waiting to be discovered. And actually storytelling is about brushing off the detritus around it to try and discover that thing. I have a whole other seminar on how to come up with creative ideas. But one thing I’ll just say is that Luke 15, when Jesus says to abide in the vine, you will be fruitful, I think one of the fruits will be creativity in these kinds of ways.
So it’s not about going out into the culture and finding what’s popular and retooling it. It is about going deeper with our own story until it bubbles out of us in new and creative ways, lots of more to say on it. But probably time for one more go. We have a lot of resources. We have a lot of videos. You can check them out at our website. So that’s the Foundry website if you want to do the internship, but you can find your way to our website from there. Yah, lots of different ways. At Easter last year, it fell on April fool’s day and we did a whole thing on comedy and divine comedy. So there’s another book downstairs called What Is Life? Tragedy or Comedy. And of course the shape of a tragedy is like a frowny face. You travel up in the world and tumble down.
The comedy is shaped like a smile. You go down into pain and suffering, but you end on a high, what is life? Is it tragedy? Is it comedy? With Jesus, he takes our tragedy and gives us his comedy. That could be one way in. This year, yeah, look out for some videos that we’ve got on a computer game actually called That Dragon Cancer about a devastating journey. Yeah. Amazing, devastating game about a young boy who could not defeat the dragon of cancer, but was in fact carried through it. And in the computer game, you come to another level. Is it possible? There’s another level beyond death, beyond that dragon cancer. So go to the website, speaklife.org.uk and you’ll find more of those. Great. You are probably all very hungry. Thank you so much for listening and you are dismissed. Thank you.