18 Jul

Coming Soon: N. T. Wright on Volume 122

Category: Fresh Tracks
By: Ken Myers
Published: 07/18/14

The narrative of Scripture and the narrative of modernity


One of the guests on the soon-to-be-released issue of the Journal is N. T. Wright, in conversation with me about Paul and the Faithfulness of God, the final volume of his magnum opus, “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” During the interview, we discuss the idea of narrative, a concept that makes some people nervous. Narrative seems too fuzzy, too imprecise a tool to rely on in doing theology. Wright makes a strong defense of narrative, and also shares some ideas about why narrative may produce resistance:

“But I think an awful lot of people, without even realizing it, live in a narrative, which goes: that in the eighteenth century the world came of age; we now see everything differently; we’ve got science and technology; we’ve got modern democracy; we’ve got this, we’ve got that. We’ve now grown up. Everything beforehand, you know, too bad, apart from these religious moments of revelation, which we look back to with gratitude. But any idea that world history reached its climax in the first century when Jesus of Nazareth came out of the tomb on Easter morning is simply ruled out, because we know that world history reached its climax in the 1770s with Jefferson, Rousseau, and Voltaire and Co. And though people don’t always articulate it like that, that is an extremely powerful narrative in both British and North American culture. Every time somebody says, “But now that we live in the modern world,” dot, dot, dot. That’s what’s going on; they’re invoking that narrative. So I suspect that part of the problem is that that controlling narrative is so big that it has driven many Christians, preachers, pastors, etc. to de-narrate their own faith and to leave it as sort of chunky little clumps of dogma. Of course, the other thing is if you de-narrate the thing, you de-Israelise it, you know, you de-Judaise it, and that has always been a danger for the Church.”