Is Christianity the Best Possible Story?

imagesI’m currently reading Alvin Plantinga’s excellent book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism, when in offering a possible reason for sin and suffering, Plantinga suggests that Christianity is not only the greatest story ever told, but the greatest possible story ever told.

This is a step beyond Anselm. Anselm argued that God is not only the greatest being (a theme I’ve discussed here and here), but God is the greatest possible being. So, God is the greatest possible being, and He has created a world in which we can enter into the greatest possible story (note: I’ve not committed myself here to the Leibnizian claim that this is the best possible world, but more modestly—the claim that of all of the best possible worlds that God could create, no other great-making property can match the Christian story). As Plantinga puts it:[1]

. . . perhaps all the best possible worlds contain incarnation and atonement, or at any rate atonement. But any world that contains atonement will contain sin and evil and consequent suffering and pain.

Thus, we have a reason why God allows sin and suffering—for in allowing the human freedom that is a precondition for self-determination and genuine relationship with God and fellow man, we also find the possibility of sin, of evil—and the need for atonement. In the atonement we see God’s overwhelming love and mercy on display as He enters into His own Creation and pursues us—what an unmatchable story!

I think Plantinga is right—not only is Christianity the greatest story ever told, but it is the greatest possible story ever told. If true, then all of the best stories we find in our western canon—Homer’s Illiad, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and many, many more are good stories because they point to THE STORY: all good stories point to an underlying reality that is the gospel—and that is why they are so compelling to us, they are all variations of the ONE STORY that is alive and that understands you and me.

Contrast this with the story that we are told on atheism, according to Alex Rosenberg is his book The Atheist’s Guide to Reality (and make ready your prozac!):[2]

Scientism requires that we be able to see through the superficial charms of narrative . . . . Real science is much more a matter of blueprints, recipes, formulas, wiring diagrams, systems of equations, and geometrical proofs. . . . That means that when it comes to science’s understanding of reality, stories have to give way to equations, models, laws, and theories. . . .By the time we get to the end of this book, we’ll see that science beats stories.

Really?! This is the story we are supposed to believe—that there is no overarching narrative and that science is to give us “meaning” (there is none) and “purpose” (there is none) in a godless universe? Don’t be misled! This smug atheism/scientism is as much a story as any—it’s a false story—and worse, it’s not even a good story.

My challenge: Ask, is there a story that is alive and understands you? I say, yes: the gospel understands you, and in it you meet the divine word (LOGOS)—the person of Jesus—He whom all good stories point. Next time, I’ll continue unpacking this idea of story by explaining in more depth the gospel story as a three act play: Tragedy—Comedy—Fairy Story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 59.

[2] Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), 9, 14, 15, 17.

9 Responses to Is Christianity the Best Possible Story?

  1. John says:

    Excellent blog post. I’m looking forward to the next post in the series!

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