Sunday, March 06, 2005

Interpreting Stories

I am a fan of Narrative Theology. That is, I am a fan of discerning theological truth by looking at the Bible stories. Interpreting a narrative is different than it is for interpreting a letter. Letters a re pretty straightforward really; you just need to expound and expand on the author's own argument, which the author has self-consciously made.

For narrative theology it is different. It is not often that there is only one argument being made in a story, though sometimes you can get a sense that the author has an axe to grind. Most often you can get several lessons form the same story.

To my mind this makes the gospels, Acts, and much of the Old Testament vital for sharing Christ in the world today. After all, the world today seems to learn best from story, which is narrative.

That isn't to say that there are no pitfalls. One that comes immediately to mind is that narrative theology is inherently more subjective than others. Because there is not often a particular point the author is trying to make, it is possible for an interpreter to decide individually what the point or points should be.

The corrective to this is to not disassociate narrative truth, the truth that God wants to communicate through stories, from propositional truth, that which God relates through direct statements.

Another pitfall is that we can be tempted to start applying the method of narrative theology to nay narrative. A story is a story is a story, so why not get narrative truth from any and every story?

The corrective is to maintain a strong understanding of inspiration and revelation. Only the Bible is God's story told clearly enough to lead a person to a saving relationship with Him. Other stories are not sufficient. They can be sufficient to the extent that the point a person back to the Bible.

There are other pitfalls, but for the time being I have taken enough space.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

While I do recognize the possible downfalls in using narrative I am very intrigued by it these days. I have been reading much of the Desert fathers writings, these men and women spoke in narrative and I gain much wisdom from them.

I was curious; do you think it is possible to teach or preach on a letter using narrative? I ask this because I agree that the post-modern audience learns more from a story than from a bullet list. Is it dangerous to take story telling to far? are bullet lists a neccesary thing?