Theologians take a new look at storytelling.

To many people today the Bible seems irrelevant. It was written in cultures that vanished many centuries ago. The customs and concepts that fill its pages are unfamiliar. How, then, can its message make sense today?

A recent movement called “narrative theology” sees “story” as the link between Scripture and modern times. The Bible, after all, is full of stories. Think, for instance, of the fairly brief stories of Gideon or Ruth or Jonah, or of longer ones such as the Exodus or the spread of the early church, or of the overarching historical drama from Creation to Consummation that encompasses them all. Clearly, when the Bible wants to tell us about God and humanity, about sin and salvation, if often recounts stories in which these realities come dramatically alive.

Narrative theologians also note that modern people strive for meaning and self-identity through trying to understand their own “stories.” To find themselves, many investigate their ethnic and historic “roots,” analyze significant episodes in their past, and then seek to accept or creatively redirect these influences.

For such people, the Bible can come alive if they are challenged to consider how biblical stories might interact with and alter their own. They might, for instance, investigate Paul’s letters and Acts to discover the religious and cultural roots of Saul the Pharisee and what it was that transformed him into Paul the apostle. In the process, they might find helpful parallels with their own pilgrimages.

Narrative theology offers much promise. In some modern theologies, social, psychological, or philosophical themes are very prominent. The Bible is seldom used, sometimes merely in occasional attempts to support ...

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