Jimmy's Reviews > Who Gets to Narrate the World?: Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals

Who Gets to Narrate the World? by Robert Webber
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Jun 28, 12

bookshelves: presuppositional-apologetics
Read from June 20 to 28, 2012

It is my opinion that practical application of apologetic in the contemporary setting would benefit from a lot of use of illustrations and narratives alongside sharp analysis and reasoning, and that those on the fore-front of modeling this in apologetics should be Presuppositionalists. If the consistent presuppositionalists were to let the Scriptures dictate one’s apologetic methodology (among other things that gives Presuppositionalism it’s distinctive) and how to do apologetics practically, Jesus’ use of narratives in His apologetic is a compelling example for Christians to do so as well (a topic that became a chapter in my ThM. thesis). Furthermore, the apologist conscious of worldview would understand that the different components that make up a worldview is often tied together by the common folk in the form of an overarching story, or a meta-narrative. Here is where Robert E. Webber’s book, Who Gets to Narrate the World, is important, in which the author discusses the issue of contending for the Christian story in an age of rivals. I believe one gets the most out of this book if they were to operate from the vantage point of Presuppositional apologetics as advocated by Cornelius Van Til (and Greg Bahnsen and John Frame), which at times throughout the book I felt there was a presuppositionalist’s flavor in the mix. However, the book does not make any acknowledgement of Van Til. Webber does mention a “presuppositionalist” of sort, the famous Francis Schaeffer, seventy three pages into the book, in which the author revealed how Schaeffer has influenced the author’s intellectual thought life, particularly with intellectual history and being conscious of “paradigms” (worldviews). In seven chapters, Webber was able to summarize the Christian narrative, examine historically how the Christian meta-narrative was able to emerge in a pagan Roman world to such an extent as even influencing the foundation of the Western world, how that narrative was lost in the West, and the need to narrate the Christian story in today’s post-Christian world. I’ve enjoyed the summary of the intellectual history of the West found in this work. The author had an interesting way of understanding humanists and rationalists that I found particularly helpful, deeming them as artists and scientists respectfully, and seeing humanists as dreamers and rationalists as those who saw the fulfillment of humanist’s dreams (79). Of course, the realization of those dreams were not beautifully historically. The author does a good job discussing how the early centuries of Christianity is much like our post-Christian era, which gives Christians a lot of hope in confidence in God’s power to share the Christian narrative and live out the implications of that narrative before an unbelieving world. In his analysis, Webber sees the threat today as coming from Christians accommodating the Christian story to the contemporary culture, and the current secularism which has sunken to a quagmire of relativism, consumerism, materialism and decadence. On the other hand, there is the looming threat of Radical Islam with their tryannical absolutes. The issue of Radical Islam is a big theme from beginning to end in the book, as he sees that Secular Humanism’s story is self-imploding while radical Islam’s absolutes would seem initially more attractive (though it ends up being oppressive). This work is one that Europe should seriously read and consider. The solution for the author is not political nor military, but for Christians to share the Christian narrative. Webber does not stress so much of doing apologetics in the traditional sense of laying down evidences, proving God’s existence, etc., but find the importance of Christian narrative itself as an apologetic. Readers might want to read pages 86-87 carefully, and he sounds very much like a Presuppositionalist here. Despite the glowing review here I have of this work, there are some things Evangelical readers would be cautious about with what he has to say. Webber is a lot more liturgical than the average Evangelical. He’s also more ecumenical. On page 117, we do see that he’s willing to see Roman Catholics as part of a different tradition but still within the fold enough “that we come together.” On page 119 of the same book, the point was made again. In closing this review, I still appreciate what Webber has to say in this book. If I am correct, this book was the last work that the author published–shortly after it’s publication, he passed away after battling cancer. It seems that his message in this work was serious enough for him that he broke away from writing in his usual area of historical theology of worship, which is what he’s known for. I wonder if history will reveal that this book will be the work that will be his lasting legacy.
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