"'The most fateful issue for Christian self-description,' [Hans] Frei wrote…, 'is that of regaining its autonomous vocation as a religion, after its defeat in its secondary vocation of providing ideological coherence, foundation, and stability to Western culture.' We no longer live in what Kierkegaard called Christendom. But old habits die hard, and Christian theologians had fallen into the habit of trying to delineate the religious dimension of our general culture. Some seem not to notice that our culture, by and large, isn’t much interested. Some grow angry at the lack of interest. Some try all the more desperately to make the appropriate connections.
In a post-Christian age, however, Christianity might instead try to regain 'its autonomous vocation as a religion.' We Christians still have stories to tell—distinctive stories. Stories about how God worked in the life of Israel, and God’s self-revelation in the life of Jesus Christ. Stories that define a community different from the world around us because of the way these stories shape our self-understanding, a community that may sometimes be wildly radical politically and on other issues seem conservative... Hans Frei called us to be tellers of such tales."
-- William Platcher quoting Hans Frei in Hans Frei and the Meaning of Biblical Narrative
I post this quote to explicitly contrast coherent apologetics to the telling of what Chesterton might call the strangest tale ever told. Jesus was most certainly a teller of tales, strange tales, rather than an apologist. The martyr Steven's last act before being rushed and stoned, as a man named Saul gathered the coats of onlookers, was to simply repeat Israel's story one last time.
As Andrew Perriman has pointed out, religion is a poor choice of words for Frei. But I know exactly what Frei is getting at and can look past that. His idea that Christianity has been defeated at its secondary vocation echoes Alisdair MacIntyre's famous quote at the end of After Virtue about the Benedictines turning aside from the task of "shoring up the Roman imperium."