Friday, July 01, 2005

The Drama of Scripture

One of my hobbies of late is reading up on scripture and story. I am excited by Tom Wright's notion of scripture and history as an unfolding drama. In the section "Theology, Narrative and Authority" in The New Testament and the People of God, Wright says the Biblical story consists of "five acts":
1-Creation; 2-Fall; 3-Israel; 4-Jesus. The writing of the New Testament-including the writing of the gospels-would then form the first scene in the fifth act, and would simultaneously give hints of how the play is supposed to end." (pp. 141-142)
Now two scholars have taken this approach, with minor alterations, and have told us the story of scripture and our place within this story. There book is a helpful introduction to the whole field of using the category of "STORY" to introduce people both to scripture and theology.
The Drama of Scripture has been written to tell the biblical story of redemption as a unified, coherent narrative of God's ongoing work within his kingdom. After God had created the world, and after human rebellion had marred it, God set out to restore what he had made: "God did not turn his back on a world bent on destruction; he turned his face toward it in love. He set out on the long road of redemption to restore the lost as his people and the world as his kingdom." The Bible narrates the story of God's journey on that long road of redemption. It is a unified and progressively unfolding drama of God's action in history for the salvation of the whole world. The Bible is not a mere jumble of history, poetry, lessons in morality and theology, comforting promises, guiding principles and commands; it is fundamentally coherent. Every part of the Bible-each event, book, character, command, prophecy and poem-must be understood in the context of the one storyline.
The authors have even put together a helpful website that accompanies the book. It has helpful articles and reading guides as well as powerpoint slides to help people understand both the story line of scripture, and our mission within that story. It is a must read for those interested in this field! One of the ways I believe that we are going to get mission into the church's DNA is to tell the story of YHWH, the King and their Spirit and how they have chosen to include us in their never ending story.
Once we realise who we are, where we are, what's wrong, what the solution is and what time it is in this unfolding Drama, then our identity, purpose & place where we belong will become abundantly clear. We will be compelled by his love into his mission with his people through his Spirit. Incidentally this is what I'll be lecturing on @NewDay 2005 in Nottingham in a few weeks. I hope to use the image of EXILE to tell the story, but it is so foreign to a biblically illiterate generation that I'm having a few doubts. I plan to use the Matrix trilogy as a backdrop to enlighten them as to the biblical imagery but this is quite hard to do in a one hour lecture that mush convey and cover so much material. But YHWH is faithful and we shall attempt the impossible in HIS strength!


Gareth Naude said...

I'm waiting in great anticipation for your Newday address. As one only recently emerged (emerging??) from the BTRJ (as Michael Bird would put it) hopefully I can make some useful comments to one immersed in biblical meta-narrative and trying to see where the rest of us plebs are coming from, based on what has been opening my eyes.

Firstly I think your approach is very much determined by your audience (duh, Gareth. Stick with me, I’m going somewhere). Assuming your audience is largely Christian, but also at least somewhat postmodern, to try diving straight into the concept of meta- narrative will almost certainly be met with suspicion. However, if your audience is largely Christian, they should at least be responsive to the person of Jesus. It would seem to me then that a starting point, a key touchstone for your audience, is Jesus and his mission. If you can get your audience to see how Jesus viewed his mission in the context of the overall God story, then they should without too much difficulty adopt this viewpoint themselves, and begin to look for their place within the story. This is the area that has been most helpful to me as someone who has not had the opportunity to engage in much NT studies, but is still interested in the field. Your recent comments on reconciliation and relationship (to tract or detract) also seem helpful to me in this context.

So I think a helpful line of thought would be to examine how Jesus viewed his mission (to restore the exiles by reconciling relationships to God), completing the mission Israel was not able to complete, and thereby forming a new community to be a light to all nations. From there you can show how history is one big story in which we need to find our role.

I don’t know if there is anything original in what I just said, but hopefully that helps clarify some of your own thoughts.

Sean du Toit said...

Good thinking Gareth, but does the mission and message of Jesus make any sense without the preceding narrative of Hebrew events, beliefs and hopes? To jump into the middle of the story is to assume that it can be then made coherent, whereas I'm struggling to see how that's possible... More thoughts required...

Gareth Naude said...

Mmm, I certainly see your point. I think the question you need to ask yourself though is, what am I doing here? Are you trying to retell the entire story, or are you trying to point out the existence of the story and the importance thereoff? I would think that in one hour you are going to struggle to do the former. However, based on an assumed Christian audience do you need to do the former? If someone has watched a movie you don't have to start at the beginning to discuss the content and implications in the characters lives. Case in point: Starwars I-III. You could discuss the movies with someone who has watched them starting with Anakin's final fall, and work your way back through the factors that previously brought them about. Or of you prefer, the matrix. Neo's final decissions in light of the prophecy. Only question: How much biblical knowledge can you assume?

Sean du Toit said...

How much biblical knowledge can anyone working with a postmodern generation assume? My estimate: ZERO. That's why telling the whole story becomes so nota bena! They haven't seen the movie, haven't read the book, and thus have bits and pieces of a story all floating around their various worldviews and so our job becomes sufficiently harder.

Welcome to the joys of ministry Gareth...