Article by Gareth Clegg
“I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”i
The purpose of this series of articles has been to show that all of us embrace a basic story through which we understand our world. Hopefully, it should be clear now that depending on what story we live out, it can radically affect how we understand ourselves, interpret the events of our lives, and act out into the world. More particularly, when we live out false stories that we take to be foundational (even unconsciously), they can lead to dangerous and tragic affects. As an example, we discussed the two most powerful stories of our time in Modernity and Postmodernity.
These stories have so strongly asserted themselves that we often use one or the other not only to understand our world, but to interpret the grand narrative of Scripture. However, we can have no more than one foundational story and once you make one part of another, you subjugate the first and quell its power.
Choosing A Story
Biblical Christianity claims that the Bible alone tells the true story of our world, on its own terms. Accordingly, we can either hand over our explanation of the world to the approaches of other worldviews—relegating faith to a private world of religion—or let the biblical story, with faith in Jesus at the centre, explain the universal and public history that it claims to.
For example, think about the question of what it means to be human. Again and again the story of modern science tells us that “we are no more than a random product of time and chance.” The more postmodern answer says that “we create and define an identity for ourselves.” In both cases, we place huge existential pressure on each individual person to generate meaning out of nothing!
In the biblical story, we find a radically different answer. Humans are the handiwork of God and the highpoint of his creation. We are made in his image, each of us with inherent dignity and value, to mediate his good rule over the earth.ii Already, on the issue of human being, we may say the biblical story offers us a more comprehensive answer.
Enduring And True
And yet, it must be more than purely comprehensive for us to establish our lives upon. We must take the biblical story seriously because it is true. Christians make the story of the Bible basic in their lives because it is the way the world is, and tells us truthfully the story of the whole of history.
The biblical writers, radically departing from their ancient counterparts (in their unfashionable monotheism, for example) sought to tell this story as clearly as it was revealed to them, trusting that its innately able truth would surpass any other competing story. And surpass all others it did. As scholar Hermann Gunkel remarks, the absorbing truth of the God’s story saw the “hearts of the heathen turned to the God of Little Judah.” And as the Chapters of this narrative were formed and unfolded through time it is apparent now, as we look to the past, that it has been this biblical epic “under whose influence the whole of subsequent world history stands.”iii
This unfolding story, as Gunkel again remarks, “must have had a most mighty cause. And what is this cause? What else can it be other than the decisive superiority of this religion over the others?”iv The biblical story, then, is not only comprehensive, but enduring and true—shaping history as we know it. A superior story to all others.
Embracing A Story
We do not have the time here to recount the details here of the story of Scripture, or of its obvious history-forming power. Instead, I have recommended some books below that may help you in your putting together of the pieces.v
Nevertheless, it is a story that centres around faith in Jesus; the one who “is before all things” and in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). It is a story that lays claim to universal history, upheld and moving forward through Jesus Christ and climaxing in his death and resurrection. We are bombarded by alternative stories every day, but if we believe Scripture to be the most true, enduring, and comprehensive story there is, we need to allow ourselves to be compelled by it—and by the God who wrote us into it—every day.
So, here is my appeal to you as we conclude this series. Remind yourself, your family, and your brothers and sisters of the true story of reality and of the Lord of history who has called you his own. Read your Bible, profess Jesus as Lord, and repent of your sin. Participate in the life of the Church (which together lives out the story of God in real time): take communion, sing praise, and confess the creeds.
Where you need it, seek biblical counsel from your Pastor or elders. Where your brothers and sisters need it, instruct and encourage them in the ways of the Lord.
It is my prayer that as you pursue Jesus in these ways your habits and imagination are shaped by the Spirit of God and your life conformed to his will, and that you understand more and more God’s work in this storied world and your place of flourishing within it. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, “as long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.”vi
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily held by everyone at Christ City Church.
i Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue, 216.
ii Example adapted from The Drama of Scripture, 20.
iii Hermann Gunkel, Israel and Babylon: The Babylonian Influence on Israelite Religion, 55.
iv Gunkel, Israel and Babylon, 55.
v The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen; Exiles on Mission by Peter Williams; Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland.
vi C. S. Lewis, “Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,” in On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature, 90.