According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Why of Narrative Theology, Its Necessity, and Usefulness

A year and half ago I ran a piece titled, "An Unnecessary Division between Narrative and Literary Theology" which basically questioned Fields and CT's misuse of narrative theology. It's understanding of narrative theology was narrow, and selectively preferential towards systematic doctrinal expressions. It refused emergent, postmodern Christian interpretation (based upon sound biblical exegesis) as the more helpful activity in a plethora of traditional voices decrying this activity. My feeling since then has not changed and John Frye, in his article today, shares a more appropriate, conventional understanding of narrative theology when reflecting upon its helpfulness in doctrinal and theological thinking. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
November 25, 2013

Once Upon a Time in a Text Far, Far Away

by John Frye
November 8, 2013

I was raised and trained in a social network that prized doctrinal intelligence. A person’s ability to learn and repeat precise “biblical” ideas was rewarded with praise, affirmation and advancement. The particular lives of some of the people and a few of the communities who valued doctrinal intelligence were factious, argumentative, judgmental, petty, gossipy and blinkered. The world of these otherwise fine people was limited to those who accepted and affirmed the prevailing doctrinal expressions. It was a ghetto of Bible-based ideas.

I have been discovering another perception for reality: narrative intelligence. Narrative intelligence emphasizes the power of story. Narrative intelligence, from a Christian point of view, does not minimize doctrinal intelligence, as many evangelicals think who get real jumpy about “story.” Narrative intelligence gives doctrinal intelligence a home, a place where the energies of doctrine may flourish into actual life. No one lives a systematic life. Everyone lives in stories and connects to others who are living in stories. Reality is a story construct, not a technical, scientific or doctrinal construct. I think many believers have low narrative intelligence when it comes to the faith, and it is not their fault. They check their stories at the door when they walk into church. In that antiseptic evangelical environment they are treated to “principles,” “bullet points,” “definitions” (of this Greek or that Hebrew word), and the consequential “applications.” A high octane story of Jesus’ “the Good Samaritan” is simmered down to a few clear principles and convenient moralisms and is just another little piece of the puzzle labeled “the whole counsel of God.”

Think about it: Many films have been made about the life of Jesus, some mediocre and some compelling. To my knowledge no one has made a movie of Hendrik Berkhof’s or Wayne Grudem’s systematic theologies or Calvin’s Institutes. I wonder why. Even the Apostle Paul’s alleged “doctrinal” books (e.g., Romans) were created within the passionate context of his powerful, missional life and ministry. Paul’s writings are conversations with others about the Jesus he was serving and the Story he was living and gospelling.

Following Jesus is a way of life. His followers are attracted to and swept up into Jesus’ story. The last thing we need is to be smothered in words, words, words…more and more doctrinal words. Definition-making is not the essence of the faith. Life-making, story-making is.

Once upon a time in a text far, far away…

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