Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Coercion or Invitation? (Narrative Gospel Part 4)

Coercion or Invitation?
But, one may ask, doesn’t the narrative I proposed earlier function in the same way as the myth of progress? Doesn’t the Christian (meta)narrative demand compliance? In truth, I don’t believe it does. In describing his “Critical Realist” approach to epistemology, Wright explains,

“This…theory of knowledge and verification, then, acknowledges the essentially ‘storied’ nature of human knowing, thinking and living, within the larger model of worldviews and their component parts. It acknowledges that all knowledge of realities external to oneself takes place within the framework of a worldview, of which stories form an essential part. And it sets up as hypotheses various stories about the world in general bits of it in particular and tests them by seeing what sort of ‘fit’ they have with the stories already in place.”

If knowledge and “the way we know things” is actually ‘storied’ in nature, then the Christian narrative offers itself as a hypothesis to be tested. It invites us into itself to participate as characters; to experience the world in the flow of its narrative; to view and interpret the world through its lens. Consequently, Smith’s point from the introduction about the nature of meta-narratives becomes relevant again. Smith argues that the postmodern mantra of “incredulity towards meta-narratives” should be affirmed by Christians because it encourages us to recover both “the narrative character of Christian faith, rather than understanding it as a collection of ideas” and “the confessional nature of our narrative and the way in which we find ourselves in a world of competing narratives.” Is it possible that the Christian narrative is not a meta-narrative at all? I’m not implying that it is not true, nor am I implying that it is simply one of many narratives that have equal rights to validity. However, I am suggesting that it does not function like a meta-narrative. As previously mentioned, I doubt that this difference in function is immediately obvious to the general public, but that’s part of the point. The Gospel narrative refuses to dominate. Is passes over every opportunity to coerce. The various meta-narratives that have been subscribed to by different people groups and cultures demand assent and compliance. In contrast, the Gospel invites. This “non-meta’, but “true” narrative bids us to “Come and see.” It also must be noted that the narrative of the Gospel offers us a choice. It allows for its own rejection. Though the God proclaimed by the Gospel weeps at its rejection, Scripture makes it clear that His love endures for even those who reject Him. Further, the Gospel as embodied by those who have accepted it, still serves to benefit those who have rejected it rather than demonizing or abandoning them. With characteristic eloquence, Brian McLaren explains:

“Many people think…that religions offer benefits to adherents and catastrophic threats for nonadherents. This offer/threat combination motivates people, they assume, to become adherents out of fear of catastrophe and desire for benefits. I think the missional way is better: the gospel brings blessings to all, adherents and nonadherents alike. For example, if Jesus sends people into the world to love and serve their neighbors, their neighbors benefit, and so do the people sent by Jesus, since it is better for them to give than to receive.”

In short, the Gospel narrative refuses its qualifier (meta) and its truth refuses the qualifier “absolute”. Bringing to mind, Jesus’ admonition to simply let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no”, rather than depending on qualifying oaths or promises, it offers itself up, to stand or fall, in the experience of the hearer. It claims no inherent superior intellectual, moral or spiritual status for its adherents. Rather, any benefit that adherents have is that which is granted freely to those who accept the invitation and/or the way they are formed by inhabiting and embodying the narrative. This Gospel refuses to dominate and resists any misguided efforts from its adherents to dominate nonadherents, even in the realm of intellectual certainty. Leslie Newbigin explains:

“…if the Biblical story is true, the kind of certainty proper to all human beings will be one that rests on the fidelity of God, not upon the competence of the human knower. It will be a kind of certainty that is inseparable from gratitude and trust.”

(To Be Continued)


preacherman said...

I want you to know that I really enjoyed reading this series. You have great thoughts and points. I have added your b log to my favs. I hope you have a blessed week.

Adam said...

Thanks for your kind words. I'll be posting more in this series next week.

Unknown said...

Hi, I came to your site because of our shared interest in being a Friend of Missional. I am glad to make your acquaintance and visit your blog. God bless!