Thursday, September 01, 2005


I am currently reading Theology For The Community of God by Stan Grenz for my Systematic Theology class in Grad School. This book is simply brilliant. In it, Grenz says:

"Narrative theologians rightly point out that the revealed truth of God, which comes to us fundamentally in the narrative of God's actions in the world, forms the "basic grammar" that creates Christian identity. Truth establishes who we are--Christians, God's children. Rather than merely being a product of our experience, as certain strands of liberalism tend to argue, in an important sense this truth of God, this retold narrative, creates our experience. The identity-creative experience, however, is not ours as individuals in isolation. Instead our identity arises within a community, with in the fellowship of God's people in the church."

I believe that the church must recapture the sweeping story that begins in Genesis and ends with God declaring that He is "making all things new". This story must saturate our gatherings. It must comprise our worldview. Our teaching must constantly connect all things back to it.
Additionally, we must elevate our focus on the telling of individual stories and how they merge with the big story. I caught something on T.V. the other day about teen suicide (or I may have actually read it in a book). They theorized that people consider (and commit) suicide when they lose their story--when they don't think their story is going anywhere anymore. Could the same be true of the church? Is it possible that in our quest to make Christianity be all about "propositional truth" we have lost our story? The ramifications of that are staggering. Sometimes when I am asked to speak I do a little thing where I tell the story of scripture in about 15-20 minutes, connecting the major events into a single narrative. The reaction always amazes me. Dozens of people always come up to me afterwards saying "I never thought of it that way." What are we teaching in our churches? Steps? Unconnected historical facts? Timeless Truths? Good advice? God forgive us...and help us to claim and recapure our Story and thereby the church's life.


Phil said...

Of course we're teaching things as unrelated facts. Our entire existence is around the idea that the Christian life is a puzzle given to us by God. All we have to is open it and put the pieces together right.

It is a story and what we have in the NT is a story, not a law book. God knows how to write laws. He did a bang up job in the first 5 books of the OT. We exist in the continuance of God's story. It's our job to find our place in the story and the community that exists in that story.

bigsip said...

The "story" has no beginning and no end, as God himself is infinite, so too is His Word. If you follow this line of thought to it's logical conclusion, in that Jesus is the Word and is God, then it's easy to see the living Word as God's constantly growing, living, unfolding story in our lives. God creates and we live the story through His living, Spirit-filled Word who is Jesus. God creates and we discover. What a comfort and blessing to know that God's story will never end.

The Metzes said...

Grenz's book has been the most formative influence on my mode of thinking. His strongly trinitarian and community focus is something our churches would do well to recapture.

I have also found the narrative approach to be very much a breath of fresh air to people who are not familiar with reading the Bible in such a way.

I preached a sermon with some of my teens helping out about a year ago on the topic of baptism. Rather than the typcical out-of-context prooftexting I am so sick of hearing, we took a narrative approach.

We began in creation with the Spirit hovering over the water (water is important there) . . . then Moses leading Israel through the waters of the Red Sea . . . the role of water in levitical, ceremonial washing . . . Jesus' baptism with water.

[This idea comes from John Mark Hicks' and Greg Taylor's book Don in the River to Pray. Dr. Hicks' impressed upon me a narrative approach to theology that has helped me grow so much. His blog reflects this understanding (see my blog for link).]

A year after we did this sermon, a lady mentioned how much she appreciated it and how it gave her a new and fuller appreciation for baptism.

I try to use this approach in whatever study I am involved in. All of our stories find meaning in the story.

jazztheo said...

3 cheers to Grenz, I have much enjoyed his work. The Story is powerful in creating community. Interesting question concerning suicide and churches.
Hmm...I'm thinking of the slave church in America that seemed to survive and thrive even though the dominate culture sought to keep the whole story from them. And when the story was given it produced an audacious hope and perhaps even the first Emergent Church this country has seen.

c said...

Dude, Hicks class is great. I took this course this summer and really soaked up Grenz's theology. Cottrell was a bit of a challenge to dialogue with, but important to the story and conversation. Not a bad class to kick of your graduate studies.