Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Bible Is...A Story
The answer is simple, but it may make you slightly uncomfortable. It is simply because the Bible is a story.
The Bible is a story, or better termed a narrative. When I was first told this, I was furious. How could you say that God's Word was nothing more than a story?
I would like to give a word of encouragement. Just because the Bible is written primarily (not exclusively) as a story does not make it untrue. History is often shaped in the form of story. However, when we read the Bible as a story we are free to see the same story in different accounts having significantly different meaning (more on this later).
In reality, though, reading the Bible as a story is the only way to fully appreciate what God has created. God has created a story that fulfills perfectly God's purpose: to reveal himself. I do not believe that God's primary purpose in creating Scripture is to provide scientific or historical records of past events; God is primarily concerned with peeling back heaven and revealing himself to us.
He did this most fully through Jesus Christ.
He does this still through the Spirit, through the Church, and through the poor. He also does this through his written Word.
Reading the Bible as a Story frees us to read the Bible as it was intended. Let me share a couple examples:
Reading the Bible as a narrative allows us to see the same story take on different meaning in different sections.
Think about the good confession of Peter. We tend to read this in Matthew 16, but it is also present in Luke 9 and Mark 8. If we were to read each gospel as independant stories with their own plot, we can see that this same story was significant in each gospel for different reasons. In Matthew, this is the pinnacle of Jesus entrusting his disciples with building his church. Matthew focuses on the truth that they are to build the church on the truth that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of the Living God.
In Mark, however, the term "Son of God" is not used by a human until after Jesus died on the cross. In Mark, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, but stops there. Mark's point is that though Peter and the other's believed the truth of Jesus, they did not fully understand what that truth was until after he was crucified and rose again.
The story is the same story, the event really happened. However, just like many people can listen to one sermon and come out with many different understandings of it--so too the Bible shows the same events from different perspectives on a number of occasions.
Another example would be that in John's gospel the death of Jesus occurs one day earlier than in the other three gospels. Is this a problem? Not to me. I see it fitting into the story that God is telling through John and the other gospels writers.
Or what about Genesis? Genesis 1 has God creating the heavens and the earth, with humans being the final piece of that creation. Jump to chapter 2, you will find that God creates humanity (Adam) before he creates the plants. The earth was completely barren of plant life when God created humanity. If we are reading this as science, or even history, we should be concerned. However, I think it is safe to say that reading it this way is to miss the point.
Genesis 1 is written to show that God created the world orderly and good because he is a good, orderly, and loving God. Genesis 2 is written to display the special place within creation that humanity holds, to explain how God designed human relationships, and to ultimately show how this good world turned so terribly bad.
The examples could go on and on. The bottom line is that the Bible is written in story form. It is the inspired story. And in the end, isn't that amazing? God's written story displays how God breaks into human stories. God still writes stories in the lives of those who trust him.
I love reading, and being part of, the great story God continues to write.