Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Utter Folly and Anti-Gospel of Bible as Story/Narrative: Christian Academia is Making Fools of the Laity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on September 30, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally posted February 3, 2013

All of the rage in our day is Bible as redemptive narrative. Yes, the story, or narrative that gives us the “big picture” of God’s redemptive story. This concept is packaged in feel-good truisms like “History is ‘His story.’” The Bible is about a person, Jesus Christ; so, would you make an instruction manual out of a person’s life story? Would you systematize a person’s life story? The idea is to be wowed by who God is personally, and He invites you into His story. “It’s a person—not a precept.”

This is all disingenuous because we are still dealing with hermeneutics. We are still dealing with exegesis verses eisegesis. The question of the day is still epistemology: how we know what we know. For you who want to romanticize our faith—it doesn’t work.

If the Bible is God’s revelation to man, and it is, be sure that he will also reveal how he wants his word to be interpreted. Fact is, the Bible has built-in rules for interpretation throughout. ANY rules of interpretation for a text must be validated by the Bible itself. So, what about Bible as story or narrative? After an exhaustive study on what the Bible would state about this interpretive model, it begs the question: where is it?

On that note, let’s start with a blog named “Istoria Ministries” by Reformed teacher/pastor Wade Burleson. The subtitle reads as follows:

Istoria is a Greek word that can be translated as both story and history. Istoria Ministries, led by Wade and Rachelle Burleson, helps people experience the life transforming power of Jesus Christ so that their story may become part of His story.

Burleson is right, it is a Greek word, but is it in the Greek New Testament? After hours of research, I cannot find it anywhere. In fact, Hebrew or Greek canon words that project the English idea of history, narrative, or story are either extremely scarce or nonexistent. The closest idea is the word “parable” which is a story that helps define truth. It’s a teaching tool. But in every case where a parable is implemented as a teaching method, the Bible plainly introduces it as such beforehand. It doesn’t appear that parables in the Bible are meant to be stories that explain the story.

The Greek word historia came about around 500 BC and means, “Inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation.” Prior to that, mythology ruled the day. Mythology is “Ideology in narrative form.” The word, “historia” was introduced into the English language as “story” in 1390 AD and had the same meaning as its Greek origin. But prior to that between 180 AD and 553 AD, particularly among European theologians, the concept of mythology as sacred narrative/novel was integrated into the concept of historia for the purposes of interpreting the Bible:

Melitios of Sardis who died in 180AD read the Old Testament as a typology – it is a preparation for the Messiah in a similar way that a sketch or a model is the preparation that an artist, sculpture or architect does before making the reality represented in the preliminary sketch or work. Theodore of Mopsuestia who died in 428AD gives us some sense about how Christians in the 5th Century approached the Scriptures.  For though Theodore was condemned for his teachings long after his death by the 5th Ecumenical Council in 553, his methods in interpreting Scriptures were shared by St. John Chrysostom and others in the Antiochian tradition of interpretation.

“In this work (Commentary on the Psalms) it is evident, first, that Theodore  is almost entirely concerned with the istoria of the biblical text rather than its theoria.  By istoria I mean the narrative meaning of the text, not its literal or historical meaning.  On the other hand, theoria refers to the spiritual meaning of the Scripture in Antiochene theological circles.  Thus the istoria of any given text may also provide the theoria, since the narrative meaning on occasion can and does supply the spiritual sense.” (Harry Pappas in SACRED TEXT AND INTERPRETATION, Ed. Theodore Stylianopoulos, p 59-60).

Later in history, istoria became a term that referred to story painting or history painting:

History paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, such as a portrait. The term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in Latin and Italian, and essentially means “story painting”, rather than the painting of scenes from history in its narrower sense in modern English, for which the term historical painting may be used, especially for 19th century art. Paintings almost always contain a number of figures, often a large number. The genre includes depictions of moments in religious narratives, above all the Life of Christ, as well as narrative scenes from mythology, and also allegorical scenes. These groups were for long the most frequently painted; works such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling are therefore history paintings, as are most very large paintings before the 19th century. The term covers large paintings in oil on canvas or fresco produced between the Renaissance and the late 19th century, after which the term is generally not used even for the many works that still meet the basic definition.

All in all, istoria is the integration of mythology and history as a way to interpret and communicate truth.

At the very least, to accept istoria in our day, one must assert that a Greek hermeneutic was accepted into an interpretive method grounded in Hebraic roots: this is extremely unlikely. But beyond that, the notion that the Bible should be interpreted in narrative form, even partially, eradicates the significance of the gospel. Throughout Scripture, the Bible is presented as LAW, and this is critical to the gospel. “Law,” “gospel,” “word,” “law and the prophets,” “Scripture,” “holy writ,” etc. are all used interchangeably to refer to the full counsel of God; ie., His full philosophical statement to man including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics.

The objective law of God is intrinsic to gospel and eternal life. This is because eternal life and death are defined by being under the law or under grace. The linchpin of this is obedience. In an Old Testament passage that Peter alludes to (1Peter1:1, 2 → Exodus 24:7, 8) we read the following:

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Based on a commitment to understand and obey God’s law, they were sprinkled (splattered) with blood. The apostle Paul then explains what the results of that are:

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Throughout the book of Romans, Paul describes two relationships to the law: under the law in regard to those who are hostile to it, but while under it see their need for Christ constantly. They see objectively where they fall short of the law. On the other hand, those who are under grace delight in the law and are able to please God by obeying it.

To take away from this construct by making the Bible a narrative rather than objective law is to drive a stake through the essence of the gospel. To put ourselves into a narrative rather than a seeking to understand God’s word for life application, and to beckon the lost to enter into a narrative rather than to repent and obey the gospel is antithetical to the true gospel.


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