Engaging Unbelief: a Captivating Strategy from Augustine & Aquinas

by Curtis Chang

"How do you know that your logic is just all made up? Who's to say what the truth is?" Contemporary culture denies traditional norms and truths, and feels suspicious of literature. How can today's believer engage unbelievers and point them to the universal truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Based on the belief that God has sustained all of history as well as the Christian church for 2000 years, Curtis Chang maintains that the wisdom of past ages can help us understand how to present the gospel today. Engaging Unbelief by Curtis Chang, the InterVarsity staff member who oversees work at Tufts, MIT, and Harvard, says that we need a new strategy.

To find such a strategy, it would be well to analyze how Christians in the past met the challenges of radical change. Curtis Chang outlines the approach of Augustine and Aquinas. Augustine, in the fifth century, wrote to counter arguments of pagan critics who accused Christians of causing the fall of Rome. Aquinas, in the thirteenth century, wrote to counter the influx of the Muslim worldview.

Both Augustine and Aquinas demonstrated respect for the challenger's worldview and wrote lucidly about it. For us, this means that we need to know the language of the listener and understand his point of view. We will not simply out shout the non-believer. Nor should we hide from the unbeliever.

After demonstrating understanding of those challenging the Christian perspective, both classic writers retold the challenger's story to show its weaknesses. As a parallel, we see the twenty-first century post-modernist, who declares his autonomy and then depends on drugs or seeks a person "who really understands me." In these examples, the post-modernist demonstrates a need for love or a need to escape from pain. Autonomy is not realistic.

Finally, the classic writers show how the gospel meets the needs raised in the challenger's story and provide a better ending. Similarly, the contemporary Christian should show how the desires and unmet goals of the listener could be met by the gospel.

The book includes an intense study of two classic Christian works by Augustine and Aquinas. A lucid, thought-provoking concluding chapter helps the reader encounter ideas that will stimulate Christian ministry to our post-modern culture.