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 6)

I have really enjoyed getting your comments and critique on Chapter Two. I hope to have a second draft posted by March 2. Allow me to return to my story about telling the story?

The political and economic realities closing in around Augustine changed the way he heard and told the story. He still told the story, and he believed telling the grand story was the best way to encourage new believers. (Google his Catechising of the Uninstructed, from 406). But with his new focus on individuals, and in a restricted political and economic context, he came to believe that only a small proportion of humanity would be saved. According to his new way of seeing things, Jesus died only for a few elect or chosen ones. The rest of humanity was justly condemned to Hell before they were even born. Could it be that their torment in an eternal Hell showed God’s justice, holiness, and glory?

Augustine’s (mis)reading has had a profound impact on almost all subsequent teachers, including Thomas Aquinas, the most influential teacher of the Middle Ages, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Sometimes the debate about predestination became about when God condemned the unchosen to Hell. At its worst, they discussed when God chose the mass of fallen humanity to go to Hell as a demonstration of God’s justice. (You can find a useful summary of much of this discussion in Peter J. Thuesen, Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, 14-43).

Can I make this very practical for you? John 3:16-18 tells us: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Under Augustine’s reading, Jesus came to save only a few specially chosen ones. God gave them their belief in Jesus. And the rest? God didn’t chose them, didn’t give them faith, and so Jesus’ life, ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection only increased their condemnation. Ouch! Which Gospel are we preaching? What story are you telling? Who does God love?


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