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The Gospel Is More Than a Story: Rethinking Narrative and Testimony
Image: Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett
The Gospel Is More Than a Story: Rethinking Narrative and Testimony

I am halfway through a new version of the Bible, a much-hyped story version that's streamlined to highlight the overall plot: God's story of redemption. I'm so busy trying to follow the narrative, I hardly miss the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and all the non-narrative books that have been largely excised. But as a university teacher of narrative, I find the plot too slow and convoluted.

I'm disappointed until I remember: Oh yes! There are already novelized versions! Many of their narratives are better!

Just 18 years ago, Robert Weathers noted that most evangelicals were "baffled" by the growing literary interest in the Bible. The bafflement is over. Journals are abuzz with narrative theology. Church mission statements are increasingly presented as "narratives."

In the past ten years, especially in the past five, dozens of authors have called for readers to see the Scriptures as narrative and particularly to read the Bible as a single story. Their books include The Story, The Heart of the Story, The Bible in Brief: The Story from Adam to Armageddon, The True Story of the Whole World: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Drama, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative, and many others. A growing number of pastors and theologians attack doctrinal and propositional readings of Scripture. Derek Flood, in his 2011 Huffington Post article "Why Faith Is a Story, Not Doctrine," sums up for many the new slant on Christianity: "Christian faith is not primarily about arguing over right beliefs and doctrines, it is about letting the story of God's grace become our story and shape our lives."

How have we traveled so far and so fast into narrative, from ...

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July/August 2012

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