God's Grand Story
by James Wakefield, PhD

Telling God's Grand Story

You are invited. Please join me in a conversation. We didn’t start it. It has been going on for many thousands of years. It circles around some big ideas, posed here as questions: Is there any good news? What is it? How do we gospel people faithfully? Let’s focus this: How do we tell God’s Grand Story to our families, friends, neighbors, and even to those who care nothing for us at all or for God?
One goal of this website is to further this conversation. Let’s be respectful. But let’s also keep it real. A second goal is to ask for help. I’m moving forward in keeping my promise to write a book about telling God’s Grand Story. How can you help? I don’t want to do something this awesome alone. I need company, friends and critics who can speak the truth in love. Help me make this useful. Keep me from too many errors and idiosyncrasies. Join me in sharing good news with our world.

Returning to Story (Part 4)

One of the interesting challenges of blogging is keeping people on the same page. Based on how few people have tried to wade through my last post, I’m guessing this returning to story stuff isn’t all that gripping to you? Maybe a brief explanation will help?

 These posts will eventually be edited together to form Chapter 3 in the book. The history I’m sketching here is a way of helping us understand why we need to return to story. Of course a return means I think we have wandered off somewhere. I’m not the only one who thinks this, but I don’t think you want to wade through something as dense as Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of the Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (Yale, 1974). I’m arguing a little differently from Frei, because I think the drift away from the right story began much, much earlier. You’ll have to let me know if I succeed in convincing you. I’ll keep today’s post shorter.

We’re back in the late second century and thinking for a couple of minutes with Irenaeus again. When Irenaeus saw the possibility of getting the wrong story, he tried to give Christians a fatter version of the story in his Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. Realizing that this was too long to be practical for most people, he also provided “rules of faith” that could be used (like a ruler) to measure other stories and sermons. Here is one of his shorter “rulers,” made all the more interesting by his claim that the Holy Spirit writes this story even in the hearts of barbarians, so that they — and hopefully we — are:

believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. (Against Heresies 3.4.2)

Here is what I want you to see: As compressed as this is, there is still a story-structure to it. There is a beginning, a middle that develops the plot line, and a promised ending. Over the next several decades, these rules of faith took a more recognizable form in the Apostolic Creed. So look at the creed and you will see a beginning, middle and an end. Yes, it is compressed. But it tells a story that allows us to measure the other stories competing for our attention. Are we listening? And again, what story are we living?



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