Reimagining Apologetics: The Beauty of Faith in a Secular Age

How should one proclaim of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a secular age?

For many Christians, the traditional approach of apologetics has grown stale. In light of the current secular climate, as described by Charles Taylor and others, rhetorical strategies that previously served the church and apologists well are no longer effective.

This book seeks to address this dilemma by infusing apologetics with an appeal to the imagination, the aesthetic, and the affective. Demonstrating that this is possible, it engages with two examples of those who have done apologetics through the imagination: George MacDonald and Marilynne Robinson. By beginning with the imaginative and the aesthetic dimensions of faith before expounding proofs, hearers of the good news will find both their hearts and their minds engaged.

Introduction – Searching for Stronger Spells: The Apologetics of Hope

"This important book not only builds a case for an apologetics that takes ‘the imaginative content of belief seriously,’ but it is itself a marvelous exercise of the theological imagination. Drawing on poetry, novels, and our experiences of sunsets, Justin Bailey makes a convincing case for ‘reimagining apologetics’ that also speaks to our souls!"

Richard J. MouwPresident emeritus and professor of faith and public life, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Justin Ariel Bailey offers a significant and engaging contribution to theological studies of the imagination. Through both describing and demonstrating the imagination’s integral relationship to the field of apologetics, he brings new vision, hope, and vitality to that field. Modeling the empathy he so aptly connects with the work of the inspired imagination, Bailey engages contemporary esteem for authenticity and reveals what a ‘thick’ view of authenticity entails. In this way he builds bridges of understanding and love toward neighbors who have yet to see the relevance of Christian faith in making their lives more authentic. This is a well-researched and carefully nuanced book that will be a gift to both academic and ecclesial contexts where people yearn to extend God’s love in ways that are inviting and compelling."

Kerry DearbornProfessor emerita of theology at Seattle Pacific University and author of Baptized Imagination: The Theology of George MacDonald

This is the latest horse to be added to the small but important new stable of works on the importance of the imagination for Christian apologetics. Instead of trying to fight our secular age on its own turf, Bailey shakes its modernist foundations and challenges its underlying social imaginary. It takes up the unfinished task of George MacDonald, Marilynne Robinson, and other culture creatives to draw upon the resources of the imagination in order to help doubters gain a sense of what authentic Christian faith looks and feels like when it is embodied both in fictional characters (literature) and local communities (church). This is a vision-casting book about apologetic vision casting.

Kevin J. VanhoozerResearch professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Justin Bailey makes a valuable contribution to the development of apologetics as an endeavor that does justice to the complexity of the human experience. Both his theoretical exploration of the functioning of imagination in the work of apologetics and his consideration of the work of George MacDonald and Marilynne Robinson show that there is much of value to be gained from an approach that takes seriously the role of literary and imaginative engagement in the presentation of the Christian faith."

Holly OrdwayFellow of Faith and Culture at the Word on Fire Institute

"Imagine that apologetics wasn’t so gladiatorial; it isn’t hard to do. Through elegant, luminous readings of the novels of George MacDonald and Marilynne Robinson, Justin Ariel Bailey offers a Christian witness for a secular age that is infused with blessing, hope, and grace. Everyone who teaches a course on apologetics should consider assigning this welcome, timely, and thoughtful book."

Timothy LarsenMcManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, author of George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles

"In these pages Justin Bailey extends readers an enticing invitation to an expansive epistemology, one that weaves together truth, goodness, and beauty for a fresh vision of the gospel. Bailey locates this apologetic method at the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture, shaping his innovative evangelistic approach through careful engagement with the work of Charles Taylor, George MacDonald, and Marilynne Robinson. What emerges is a volume as engaging as it is accessible, as historically informed as it is relevant, and as scholarly as it is practical. Reimagining Apologetics would be a fine fit for both college classroom and layperson’s library alike."

Marybeth BaggettProfessor of English at Houston Baptist University and coauthor of The Morals of the Story: Good News about a Good God

"Justin Bailey asks what apologetics would look like if the human creative imagination was in fact a response to the self-giving revelation of God. His answer involves a rich mixture of philosophical reflection, literary and aesthetic analysis, and biblical thinking. This important book should change not only the way apologetics is taught and practiced but also how worship and spirituality may be more deeply imagined. This is a book not only for the student or pastor but for any thoughtful Christian concerned about their secular neighbors."

William DyrnessSenior professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of The Origin of Protestant Aesthetics in Early Modern Europe
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