Hermeneutics, History, Truth and Story (Narrative)

 

"What happened?" "Tell us a story " “That's only 1 story.”

 

"Is that story true?" "Is that the whole story?" (A. H. Wilder)

 

The Bible as Literature:

 

"It is not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite, it excludes or repels, the merely aesthetic- approach',."  CC.S. Lewis, The Literary Impact of The Authorized Version (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), pp. 32-33.)

 

John Livingston Lowes says that— "The Biblical vocabulary is compact of the primal stuff of our common humanity— of its universal emotional, sensory experiences." (from "The Noblest Monument of English Prose," in Literary Style of the Old Bible and the New, ed. G. G. Kehl (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), p. 9.)

 

Northrop Frye outlines the Bible story into seven phases of revelation:

 

Creation                       Law                             Prophecy                      Apocalypse

Revolution                    Wisdom                       Gospel

(The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (NY: Harcourt-Brace Jovanovich, 1982.)

 

As Mr. Frye calls it, the Bible is therefore a vast collection of concentrated moments of epiphany, "a series of ecstatic apprehension." (Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), p. 326.)

 

"The simplicity of the Bible," writes Northrop Frye, "is the simplicity of majesty. . .; its simplicity expresses the voice of authority." (The Great Code, p. 211)

 

The Literary Form of Scripture: Truth, Inspiration and Understanding

 

The Bible is literature. Literature expresses our vision of our basic self-others-God relationship. Almost one-half of the biblical content is narrative-story.  Narrative is story! Stories have a beginning, middle, and an ending.  God chose story as one of the vehicles of His self-revelation; therefore, the Bible is a true story about God, creation, history and man's nature and destiny.

 

One area of Hermeneutics (literary criticism) which does not often receive the attention it deserves is the hermeneutic of narrative-story-listening and telling.  (It is the content of scripture that is inspired, not the form.} All leaders (story tellers) are symbolizers of profoundly felt values for their followers. ('See my Hermeneutics and Metaphors: Every assertion cannot be metaphorical; Hermeneutics Under the Spell of Freud and Jung, Hermeneutical Paradigms: Literary Criticism. Formsgeschichte, and Redactiongeschichte).

 

God created man to be insatiably a story-listener and a story-teller. The Scriptures are filled with stories like Abraham, David, Joseph, Ruth, etc. Listening to stories no less than telling them is an art. Ultimately, one cannot learn an art or skill from a book, but is largely learned by imitating the masters.  All stories have; a beginning, a middle, and an ending or goal.  There is no true story without an attainable consummation.

 

Needed: A Theology of Storytelling

 

Stories, both biblical and non-biblical, manifest the intentionality of life's experiences.  Any biblically oriented hermeneutic of storytelling will reveal the intentionality analysis of the religious experience in the context of stories of both God and man.

 

One cannot learn\without: wanting to learn.  Some of the critical' questions with regard to understanding a ‘life story’ are:  (l) What is the person's vision of the ideal state of the world?  (2) What is the person's vision of the ideal conditions of life? (3) What role would a person play in the projected ideal world?  (Cf. Positive needs/ defenses—happiness, power, praise, fun, joy, excitement, etc.; Negative—boredom, anonymity, fear, frustration, bitterness, grudges, anxiety, pain, loneliness, etc.). (4) What battles is a given person fighting?  (5) Does the person know what he or she is in favor of? (Awareness of the relationship of belief system and behavior system}. (6) What does a given person assume their rights to be?  (7) What does he or she assume their responsibilities to be? (8) Out of what history of development (context) do the answers to the above questions come?  E.g.: Isaiah, Paul, Peter, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Bach, Beethoven, Sartre, Einstein, A. Lincoln, T/A. Campbell)  (9) What hope does he/she bear for others?  (10) What does the 'hope' cost in terms of personal suffering? Most great people seem to have in common the capacity to creatively engage in suffering and at the same time manage to affirm a word (vision) of hope for all mankind.  The individual is a bearer of a larger hope, not the source of the hope.

 

People can be happy only by doing something.  What that something fulfills is needs or values; but people cannot just 'be happy.'  What do they desire and choose and commit themselves to? They define themselves by their choices and attitudes and expectations.  A sense of identity in the original meaning of ‘identity’ (sameness) means a constancy, stability, and  therefore consistency in one's choices, attitudes, and expectations.  If we say that we don't know who we are, we really seem to mean that we don't know what we want to do with our lives. (B. M. Kiely, S.J. professor psychopathology at the Institute of Psychology of Gregorian University, Rome)

 

Storytelling in Biblical Context

 

How does the Bible tell its stories? Is there a unified structure of storytelling in the Bible? Imperative studies for resolution of this inquiry are—Benjamin Hrushovski's synoptic article on Hebrew prosody in the 1971 edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica; J.P. Fokkelman's. Narrative Art in Genesis (Assen/Amsterdam, 19.75; Jacob Licht, Storytelling in The Bible (Jerusalem, 1978); cf. Note facile separation of "historical aspects" and "aesthetic aspects" of biblical narrative; Sheraaryahu Talmon's "The Comparative Method in Biblical Interpretation—Principles and Problems," Gottingen Congress Volume (Leiden, 19701; Shimon Rar-Efrat, The Art of The Biblical Story (Hebrew) (Jerusalem, 1979); Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (NY: Basic Books, 1981); Edwin M. Good's, Irony in The Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1965); Michael Fishbane's, Text, and Texture (NY. 1979.); R. Scholes and R. Kellog, The Nature of Narrative, 1966.

 

Contemporary specialists in hermeneutics by in large repudiate the literary unity of the scriptures.  How, if at all, does the lack, of literary unity impact the possibility of a unified biblical theology (not necessarily equal to any given systematic theology paradigm; cf. exegesis, presuppositions and theological paradigms)?? Alter's judgments are widely heeded.  He affirms that:

The one obvious- reason for the absence of scholarly literary interest in the x Bible for so long is that, in contrast to Greek and Latin literature, the Bible was regarded for so many centuries by both. Christians and Jews as the primary, unitary source of divinely revealed truth.  This belief still makes itself profoundly felt, in both reactions against and perpetuations of it. The first several waves of modern biblical criticism, Beginning in the nineteenth century, were from one point of view a sustained assault on the supposedly unitary character of the Bible, an attempt to break it up into as many pieces as possible, often to link those pieces to their original life contexts, thus rescuing for history a body of texts that religious tradition had enshrined in timelessness, beyond precise historical considerations.  The momentum of this enterprise continues unabated, so that it still seems to most scholars in the field much more urgent to inquire, say, how a particular psalm might have been used in a hypothetically reconstructed temple ritual than how it works as an achieved piece of poetry. At the same time, the potent residue of the older belief in the Bible as the revelation of ultimate truth is perceptible in the tendency of scholars to ask questions about the biblical view of man, the biblical notion of the soul, the biblical vision of eschatology, while for the most part neglecting phenomena like character, motive, and narrative design as unbefitting for the study of an essentially religious document. The fact that such a substantial proportion of academic biblical studies goes on in theological seminaries, both here and in Europe, institutionally reinforces this double-edged pursuit of analyzed fragments and larger views, with scarcely any literary middle ground.  (The Art of Biblical Narrative, pp. 16 and 17, Robert Alter)

 

For balance, compare Hrushovski article above and Erich Auerback's justly celebrated Mimesis, E.T. Princeton, 1953; Doubleday, Anchor, 1957).  The Scriptures present stories within the story.

 

A story, needless to say, must be about something, and the ablest craftsman is obviously handicapped by bad material.  One can hardly say that the overt subject matter of Old Testament prose is very exciting in itself.  There are no dragons, ogres or enchanted palaces in it, few great deeds of valor, no scorching love adventures, no richly embroidered plots.  The fights are not described in detail and the miracles are rather subdued.  The ultimate theme of these narratives is, of course, the mighty deeds of God, but these remain most of the time in the background. The actual, passage by passage, subject matter is the lesser deeds of men.  The narrators must have felt the majesty of God (and His presence in the background of their stories) in a manner that precluded hero-worship. They see men, with their petty affairs, politics and wars, as they are, idealizing very few (Abraham, Moses, Elijah) and showing no one without some weakness. They find storytelling potential in family matters and some very small deeds indeed; and they frequently tell us things with a smile. What they do is to reproduce reality, to create an image of it; in most cases it is ordinary human reality, and therefore eternally interesting. Many other works of literature do this; it is a basic aesthetic phenomenon technically called mimesis.

 

Looking over the Storyteller's Shoulder:

 

The Bible has for a long time had a captive, audience. Many of its readers have in fact escaped boredom by Being either simple, or clever enough to take its stories as stories. Modern readers, -unmoved by the authority of Holy Writ and finding some great works- of ancient literature heavy going, are nevertheless struck by the readability of Biblical narratives.  Their excellence is a matter of common experience, not of aesthetic theory: we feel that these stories succeed, and find it hard to pin down the secret of their success. Much is obviously due-to the art, technique and manner of the telling, for even the best story falls flat when badly told. That is why this study is mainly concerned with the craft of Biblical storytelling. To find out how it is done one has to read slowly and carefully, looking, so to speak, over the writer's shoulder as he practices his art. (p. 9)

 

Contents of the Bible are composed of 40% narrative (cf. Genesis, Judges, Ruth, I/II Samuel, I/II Kings, I/II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemlah, Daniel, much of Exodus, Numbers, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Job).  Scriptures contain more a narrative genre than they do any other literary type. Narratives are stories. Narrative hermeneutics does not preclude the historical truthfulness of the biblical accounts.  Technically, the word 'narrative' means 'story'; but, because in idiomatic- English ‘story’ often means something that is fictional, as in a "bed time story," the story of Alice in Wonderland, etc., we prefer the word 'narrative.'

 

“All narratives have a plot and characters (whether divine, human, animal, vegetable, or whatever).  The Old Testament narratives, however, have plots that are part of a special overall plot, and have a special cast of characters, the most special of whom is God Himself.”  (Fee/Stuart, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth (Zondervan, 1982). Ultimately, the immanence of God in our space/time world, i.e. the providence of God is at stake.  How does God relate to creation, history, social structures, individuals within given structures?

 

Basically, there are three levels of biblical narratives:  (1) First level, God's purpose for creation, i.e. cosmic teleology (creation, redemption); (2) Middle level, God's purpose as expressed in the call/covenant of both Israel and specific individuals; and (3) Third level, the hundreds of individual narratives that make up the other two levels, e.g.: call of Abraham, Joseph's narrative, Gideon's doubting God, etc.

The hierarchy of narratives is unified by 'The Promise' of God (cf. Die Mitte of Scriptures, see my Word of Promise: The Ordering Intention of The Word of God). Biblical narratives are not just stories about people; they are first and foremost stories about what God did to and through those people.  God is the hero of all biblical narratives (see my Heroes Are Back: Values and Heroes).

 

Principles for Perceiving/Understanding Narratives

 

The following ten principles for interpreting narratives will provide at least tentative hermeneutical direction:

 

1.  An Old Testament narrative usually does not directly teach a doctrine.

2.  An Old Testament narrative usually illustrates a doctrine or doctrines taught propositionally

     elsewhere.

3.  Narratives record what happened—not necessarily what should have happened or what ought

     to happen every time. Therefore, not every narrative has an individual identifiable moral of-

     the story.

4.  What people do in narrative's is not necessarily a good example for us.  Frequently, it is just

     the opposite.

5.  Most of the characters in Old Testament narratives are far from perfect and their actions are

     also.

6.  We are not always told at the end of a narrative whether what happened was good or bad. We

     are expected to be able to judge that on the basis of what God has taught us directly and

     categorically already in the Scripture.

7.  All narratives are selective and incomplete.  Not all the relevant details are always given (cf.

     John 21:251. What does appear in the narrative is everything that life inspired author thought

     important for us to know.

8.  Narratives -re not written to answer all our theological questions.  They have particular,

     specific limited purposes and deal with certain issues, leaving out others to be dealt with

     elsewhere, in other ways.

9.  Narratives teach either explicitly; they clearly stating something) or implicitly (by clearly

     implying something without actually stating it).

10. In the final analysis, God is the hero of all biblical narratives.

      (Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth (Zondervan,

      1982) p. 78)

 

These literary devices are not arbitrary instruments for literary criticism.  They have a solid basis in the history of the discipline.

 

"The narrative mode is uniquely important in Christianity." (Amos Wilder, Early Christian Rhetoric (Cambridge: Harvard, 19711, p. 56. . Narrative-mode can be (a) prose fiction or (b) prose-non-fiction, i.e. true-truth: (1) Existential integrity, (2) True predicate, (3) True metaphor, (A) True analogy. Though the Scriptures contain "prose fiction," e.g. Nathan's parable, Jesus' stories in Luke 10 and 15, there must be independent criteria to judge that Ruth, Jonah, Genesis 1-11 (narrative hermeneutics) Luke 1-2; Matthew 1, etc. are in fact "prose fiction," as many contemporary scholars assume (see my Hermeneutics Under The Spell of Freud and Jung; and David E. Stannard, Shrinking History-on Freud and The Failure of Psycho-history (NY: Oxford, 1980); Redactiongeschichte is enslaved to Psychoanalytic assumptions.

 

The basic ingredients of the narrative mode are: (1) setting (structural unity), (2) characters, and (3) plot (action).  Biblical stories are always an invitation to share the experiences, as concretely as possible, with the story characters.  Many biblical stories leave so much unstated, they are "fraught with background and mysterious, … greatly in need of interpretation." (see Erich Auerbach's classic study of the plain style of biblical narrative - Mimesis: The Representation- of Reality in Western Literature, esp. chp. 1).

 

Yet, "the Bible's highly laconic mode of narration captures. . .an abiding mystery in character as the biblical writers conceive it, which they embody in their typical methods of presentation." (Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (NY: Basic Books, 1981), pp. 126, 184). The plot of a story is the arrangement of the events in conflict resolution; too often contemporary scholars rearrange "biblical order' of details and events (cf. Redaction criticism; Aristotle's Poetics, chps. 7-11, 17 and 23 for classic starting point for 'plot analysis').

 

The dominant merit of any narrative, biblical or otherwise, is "… that of making the audience want to know what happens next, and conversely it can have only one fault:  that of making the audience not want to know what happens next." (E.M. Forster, Aspects of The Novel (Penguin, 1962), p. 35)  The power of Biblical narratives is their perennial capacity to generate interest, curiosity or suspense.  Herein lies the difference between a literary approach to the Bible and a historical approach.

 

Biblical narrative assumes that what happens to the characters of the story is somehow "a model of the enduring human situation. (Ryken, How To Read The Bible As Literature (Zondervan, 19841, p. 441).  The. unified wholes of the biblical narratives cannot be appreciated as disjointed and isolated fragments as in much, contemporary biblical criticism.  Often students of biblical literature do not examine the Scriptures as literary specialists evaluate other story/ narratives.

 

The Bible vs. Aristotle

 

Aristotle's classic theory maintains that the unifying element in a narrative is a "…unity of plot … not as some persons think… -unity of hero."  We have only to recall the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Esther, and Jesus to appreciate the limitations; of Aristotle's literary theory.  The hero organizes the stories, the plots reflect the events in their world changing lives. It is true for most individuals the plot overpowers the person, but for the world changers the person orders the plots.

 

If the Bible is the Word of God, it must reveal an exegetically available coherence, versus one arbitrarily Imposed from outside, i.e., by way of the critics' presuppositions.

 

 

 

Typologies of Plots

 

The Bible has a unity of stories with, multiple plots (see Gerald Prince, A Grammar of Stories (Hague/Mouton, 1973; C.S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (Oxford, 1942). In Scriptures we find tragic plots, punitive plots, pathetic plots, comic plots, admiration plots, degeneration plots, revelational plots, etc.

 

Biblical narratives, both singly and as a whole, make implied assertions about the three great issues of life:  (1) Reality: What really exists? (2) Morality:  What constitutes good and bad behavior? and (3) Values: What really matters and what matters most? Though it must be acknowledged that the reader does not (cannot), know what a given narrative (story) means, the most reliable guide to the meaning of any given story is the principle of repetition, both within a given story and all the biblical stories (see John D. Crossan, The Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story (Niles, IL: Argus Communications, 1975; K.R.R. Gros Louis, (ed) Literary Interpretations of  Biblical Narratives, vols.1 and 2 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1974, 1982); A.N. Wilder, "Story and Story-World" Interpretation 37 (1983): 353-64; and Jacob Licht, Story Telling in The Bible, Jerusalem, 1978, esp. chps 3-4, pp. 51-95).

 

Guidelines for Storytellers

 

No one speaks who has not first heard.  But what stories should we listen to, since we cannot hear them all? Always select stories by being (1) attentive, (2) intelligent, and (3) responsible.  Some critical guidelines for telling and listening are: (1) listen to stories, (2) listen to all stories—non-Christian as well as Christian, (3) listen to newspapers, magazines, television, cinema, theater, (4) listen to stories told by literature and history of all the ethnics, (5) listen to stories told by the opposite sex, children, all age levels, (6) listen to body language, (7) listen to stories told to those you love, like, hate, etc., (8) listen to explicit telling of the Jesus story, (9) listen with your imagination —'insight cannot be forced,' (10) listen as you imagine yourself to be different characters of the story, (11) listen with all available tools—e.g.s. psychology,  economic and political history, exegesis, etc., (12) listen to stories ‘above your head’, only then can growth occur, (13) do not confuse storytelling with technical hermeneutical exegesis delivered by lecture, (14) choose a master storyteller as model, (15) note which stories are not told by your local church, family, community, nation, particular area of the country, (16) compare the same story told by different storytellers, (17) be responsible for your own life story, (18) without each story, the universal story is incomplete, (19) do not dilute the Gospel story, (20) images and symbols can start to attract before they can be conceptually grasped, (21) tell the Jesus story where people are culturally (cf. cross-cultural storytelling), (22) tell the Gospel story for its own sake, not as a means to another end, (23) note the areas of resistance/hindrance to the Gospel story, (24) constantly check, the relationship of the Gospel story to all areas/ranges of human experiences, (25) note the Gospel story in relationship to baptism and the Lord's Supper liturgy, (26) constantly guard the true-truth of the Gospel story contra Freud and Jung’s influence, (see J. Havone and T. Copper, Tellers of The Word  chXIV: Le Jaco Pub., 1981, 3rd printing)., pp. 300-302.

 

Though Fulton Pursier's The Greatest Story Ever Told trivialized its magnificent content, it correctly affirmed that the Jesus Story could not be destroyed even by Hollywood media experts.  If theology is only words or talk about God, the center of attention is a conceptual system of affirmations about God.  If theology is addressed to man, then it is about much more than the activity of talking.  Theology is God's self-disclosure to man in order to reveal His saving grace. God-talk is the revelation of His redemptive love. (see B.J.F. Lonergan, Philosophy of God and Theology: The Relationship Between Philosophy of God and The Functional Speciality Systematics (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973).

 

Phenomenology of Storytelling: Theses for The Theology of Story

 

Phenomenology is a descriptive method which, in principle is committed to describe whatever comes before the knowing subject.  (see BocBenski, Contemporary Methods of Philosophy; and Havone/Cooper, Theses for the Theology of Storytelling, pp. xx-xxv).  This work is heavily influenced by Lonergan's view of conversion; compare Piaget and especially Kung's Christian Existence. Even before the New Testament scriptures were written, The Jesus Story was told and heard.  The authentic witness of those first disciples who heard and believed is alive and well in the decade of the '80's'.

 

Stories and World-Views

 

The art of storytelling expresses the art of living.  But the conditions of living entail a belief and a behavior system.  The true meaning and value of human stories are determined by their context.  There is no human story without limits (see Hesselgrave1 Communicating Christ Cross-Culturally).  The human action that defines a story is a declaration of a basic faith (world-view).  The meaning of human stories posits a comprehensive universe with a permanent meaning at the heart of things.  Human stories are implicit answers to the fundamental questions that arise concerning life and death.

 

The Jesus Story is the universal story of man. In this story of stories sin, evil, guilt, and social/personal disorder are addressed, i.e. confronted with an ultimate decision. Whose story shall we live by? God's or man's? All stories do not cause listeners to be Surprised by Joy, only the Gospel story does. Because the heart of the Gospel story is the nature and purpose of God in His undivided unity; He is the beginning, the middle, and the consummation of The Story and storytelling and listening.

 

The story is man's stories about his history.  In fact, the history of historiography is man's search for truth and meaning.  All living is historical living, i.e. living in an ever-changing context.  From the Reformation to the first scientific revolution, the central theme of historians was—the Church.  Protestant historians' main preoccupation was the degeneration of the early Church.  They had to tell the Christian story in a new way.  Enlightenment historians wrote  enslaved  to  the new story  of nature,  reason, progress, and autonomous man. Enlightenment historiography  set forth. the new story of a self-authenticating rationalistic world-view which, averred  that "all  reasonable men" would agree.

 

Giovanni Battista Vico  (.1668-1744 scienza nuoval countered  the Enlightenment historical rationalism story with- a new story. Man created his own history; therefore, he can understand it. Vico studied all the classical symbolizers of civilization. He influenced Herder, Marx, Croce, Hichelet, and de Maistre, et.al. Herder's Outlines of a Philosophy of The History of Man portrayed all life as an organic unity and history as a continuous education of humankind.

 

The new historiography of the 19th.century was created chiefly by the Germans. In contrast to the Enlightenment story, Herder affirmed that all periods of history were equally deserving of study (cf. Historicism, Positivism, and cultural/conceptual relativism). No  one period was more  important than any other. Ranke began modern historical study. The Ranke   school prided itself in being scientific, dealing only with the facts. Ranke's positivistic theory of history precluded any “universal story”. Positivism was challenged by Historicism, which in  turn collapsed under the weight of thought from Hegel to Darwin (1809-1882; A.T. Buckles  1821-1862). Every generation must write history (its story) afresh in light of its own experience and interests. Our  life stories, no less than our historiography and other forms of narrative,   "tell" our response and reveal our basic faith (world-view; presuppositions). Our life stories,   together with the various forms of stories that we choose to tell, symbolize our basic faith and hope. Contemporary man's problem is fundamentally that we tell different stories. How can we discern which stories to listen to and to retell?  The Phenomenological method is no match for  this problem. Phenomenology generates and sustains pluralism, i.e. there are as many ways of  perceiving the world as there  are perceivers.

 

Our Lord, the Supreme Story-teller, commissions the Church  to cross-culturally communicate  the Gospel story. The future of the Church is promising because it remembers a past of promises (Lk. 22.19; I Cor. 11.24-26; John  6.54). Memories make the future. The future shapes the present.  Stories order the past-present-future (origin, middle, end). When we  lose  our memory we lose our identity. Psychiatry powerfully illustrates Heidegger's insights into time   (cf. Being and Time).  The existential analyst notes that a sign of mental deterioration is the patient's inability to organize the past. An aimless life is not a human life; it cannot be (note implications of biomedical ethics). Conversion also illustrates Heidegger's insight into historical  time.Conversion to the Gospel Story suddenly coalesces all the disordered circumstances and events and stiffens into a unity based in faith in the "content" of the Jesus Story (compare also with Rahner, Lonergan, and Kuhn). Christian existence under  the Lordship of Christ gives meaning and direction to our past. (See chairos/chronos/anamesis in TDTN/DNTT; importance of  the future in eschatology of hope - see N. Cohen, The Pursuit of the Millennium  (Harper,   1961). Christian existence gives expression to a  theology of remembering  (cf.  Gen. 8.1; 19.29;   30.22; Ex. 32.13; I Sam. 1.11,19; 25.31; Dt. 5.15;  7.18; 8.2, 18; 9.7; 15.15; 16.3; 12.24; 24.   18, 20; 32:7. God  remembers  so that man can remember; M. Eliade's  "Great Time"; C. Jung,  "the bridge from dogma to the inner experience of the individual has broken down";  "I Love  to Tell   the Story"; "Tell Me the Old, Old  Story", etc.

 

A merely repetitive, sentimental telling of the story ensures that the old rugged cross  stays securely upon its historic hill, rather than being made a reality in our daily  lives. Our own  experiences broadly confirms the stages of development through which we live in our earthly  pilgrimage. Developmental psychology proposes something like nine stages/moments of growth.

 

 

 

Noting these stages are essential for a theology of Story (Telling/Listening). Generally speaking these stages are:

 

     1.  Human Beings as the subjects of their stories (biblically God is the subject of the Gospel

          Story}.

2.  The craft of telling stories is as extensive as human culture.

3.  Each human story has a meaning that is "context specific."

     4.  God reveals Himself and His will and purpose through human stories (narrative

          hermeneutics).

     5.  God/s gift of love and grace grounds the story of Christian conversion.

6.  Jesus Christ is the Gospel Story-- who transforms human life stories (cross-cultural

     communication).

7.  The Jesus Story is the foundation of the Church's story.

8.  The Jesus Story reveals that it is God's will that those redeemed by Jesus will be "Surprised

     by Joy."

9.  The Jesus Story affirms the undivided unity of God in the beginning, the middle, and the

     end of all Storytelling, and listening (see Havone and Cooper, Tellers of The Word (NY:

     1981);  J. Licht, Storytelling in The Bible (Jerusalem, 1978) R. Alter, The Art of Biblical

     Narrative (NY: Basic Books, 1981); see the excellent study The Limits to Story, 1985).

 

Form and Content

 

The Bible is not only literature, it is a magnificent model of such. The Bible's claim to truth is not only far more urgent than Homer's, it is tyrannical—it excludes all other claims. The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be historically true reality— it insists that it is the only real world. (Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, E.T. 1953, 1968), p. 14-15).

 

Dr. James D. Strauss, Theology/Philosophy, Lincoln Christian Seminary