Christopher Wright in his magnum opus, ‘The Mission of God’, writes, “we live in a storied universe”.
Stories have a profound effect on us.
From the oral stories told in traditional cultures to the bed time stories our parents told us at night when we were young and the plethora of ancient, classical and modern fiction available to us via Amazon.
These stories shape how we think about life. They tell us how we should view the world and the people we meet in it. They inform our values.
Stories exert a subtle yet powerful influence on the most important aspects of our lives.
When we tune in to the newest season of our favourite television show or pick up the latest novel we are entering into a story.
Someone else’s story.
Someone else’s world.
A world they have created and over which they are the Creator but a world with rules, nevertheless. When we enter someone else’s world, or story (narrative), we allow them to set the agenda and the rules. They govern what can and will happen. These rules shape the way the characters think and act. As we follow the heroes stories we come to care about them (if the author has done their job well!) and so we become sympathetic to their worldview and in doing so we open ourselves to adopting their worldview (or parts of it) into our own.
Their narrative begins to define our own.
This is because the best way to persuade someone of a particular worldview or belief is to tell a story about someone who holds that particular worldview or belief.
We can have the best arguments for what we believe but facts will only convince a certain minority. The majority of us won’t be persuaded by articulate arguments (on their own). What most of us need is to have our story reshaped and redefined by the gospel story.
An excellent example of this happening occurred on the Nolan Show several weeks ago when they discussed abortion. At no point in the discussion did they talk about the real issue: When is a foetus a human being? Instead they focused exclusively on one woman’s story of having to go to England to obtain an abortion and the effect the whole experience had on her, the anxiety, stress and cost of travel and accommodation. What happened was one person’s story being told at the expense of the other, namely her unborn child. A person unable to speak for themselves. Their story was not told so of course the audience was sympathetic to the woman’s plight (I think only 2 out of 200 people thought what she did was wrong).
Our world is brimming with stories, overflowing even. All of them offering a different perspective on what’s gone wrong in our world (conflict) and how we can make it better (resolution). As Christians we are a part of, and possess, the greatest story: the gospel.
The best stories in our world are those which reflect, though imperfectly, the gospel story.
This means we cannot and should not immediately dismiss these clashing narratives straight out of hand because they often possess some measure of truth and in so doing they reflect some of the truth of the gospel story. We should take the time to critically assess the various stories that are competing with the gospel story and in understanding the good, as well as the bad, we can use them as ways of telling the greatest and truest of all stories.
So let’s engage with the other stories, other narrative and other worldviews. Let’s consider them critically and use them as opportunities to tell the greatest story of all: the gospel story.
The gospel story of how God stepped out of heaven. Who in taking on flesh, entered into the dirt and dust of this world. The world he made. The world we ruined. In a world of violence and cruelty he not only showed compassion and concern to the downtrodden but absorbed that violence and cruelty into himself in order to forgive it. Who died to kill death forever. Who rose from the dead to prove it and who has promised to come again and make all things new, to right all the wrongs, to undo injustice and establish eternal justice under his everlasting reign.
Wright, C.J.H. (2008) The mission of God : unlocking the Bible’s grand narrative. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press. (p56).