Facts Versus “Story”
More and more I am hearing about how the Bible is not so much a book of facts, as it is a story. And this is being said by people way smarter than me. It is, in part, a reaction against the concept arising out of the mid-twentieth century emphases in the churches of Christ on treating the gospel almost as a mathematical formula, A+B=C. When clearly that is not the case. Many of us often heard the idea that the Bible is a blueprint for our lives. We came away thinking it was an “exhaustive blueprint” for the Christian life when, also clearly, it is not. I believe we made some mistakes in the fifties and sixties (and I was a part of that), but I also believe the mistakes made were, for the most part, an honest attempt to lead people back to actual study of what the Bible said, rather than what their hearts moved them to.
But now, it seems to me, we are being set up for a ground swell of change in the church regarding women’s roles, homosexuality, marriage and other subjects, by an emphasis away from the idea that within the New Testament there are laws given for Christians to embrace and follow and toward the idea that what we are reading is really just how Paul saw Christianity in his world and among the cultures in which he traveled.
I think we, as Christians, and even we “older” Christians must keep learning. I think it’s possible that some of us feel like we learned what we needed to know forty or fifty years ago and have not entertained new thought since (I apologize if I just overstated that). We do need to see that much of the Bible is written in narrative form, which means that these sections are stories (true stories) being told. We have to be careful what inferences we draw from stories being told. All of the stories, the poetry, the history, and the laws fit beautifully into the great Master Story which our Father God devised before the worlds ever came into existence.
I just read an article on understanding Scripture which indicates that facts don’t convince people, but “stories” do. When it comes to the Word of God, I don’t think we are to choose one over the other. Yes, Jesus told plenty of stories in His teaching ministry. Yes, it is generally easier for us to grab hold of the tenets of a story than of a list of rules…easier to remember. But you cannot honestly read the New Testament and come away thinking, “Well, that reading had a bunch of story in it, but I guess it is up to me to decide how to become and live as a Christian, whether I should have a time to worship with anyone else and what should be a part of such worship, or, should there be a group of people called the church and, if so, how should that be organized and what should they be about.” Such teaching, laws, or rules, are clearly given in the New Testament. Jesus gave many “rules” or “laws” in the Sermon on the Mount, didn’t He? Or am I reading that wrong? Does the first church (Acts 2) and their behavior upon learning the gospel have anything to teach us? Does any of that become a “pattern” for us today? Yes, we do have to work with it. We are not them. We are not in the same culture as them. But shouldn’t we follow what is said of them in Acts 2:42? Not all of the Bible is narrative. Not all of it is laws. I recommend we hold on to all of it. Let’s keep listening to God! And, let’s keep living “informed-by-God” lives!