Which story is ours?
“Instead of allowing the Bible to shape us, we may in fact be allowing our culture to shape the Bible for us.”
“The church of the first century [as described in the book of Acts] is almost two thousand years removed in time and (for most of us) half a world away in distance. Jesus lived in Palestine, died, and rose again there a little before most of the events recorded in the book of Acts. The ancient nation of Israel sought to walk with God while conquering and settling a homeland in Canaan more than a thousand years before that. The biblical accounts of how all these different people struggled to live faithfully in their distant times and places may seem to have little to do with you and me. Yet it is not so. The world of the Bible is our world, and its story of redemption is also our story. This story is waiting for an ending—in part because we ourselves have a role to play before all is concluded. We must therefore pay attention to the continuing biblical story of redemption. We must resist the temptation to read the Scriptures as if they were a religious flea market, with a basket of history and old doctrines here, a shelf full of pious stories there, promises and commands scattered from one end to the other. Some readers of the Bible turn it into little more than an anthology of proof texts assembled to support a system of theology. Others seek only ethical guidance, ransacking the Old Testament for stories of moral instruction. Still others look just for inspirational or devotional messages, for comforting promises and lessons for daily living. The result may be that we lose sight of the Bible’s essential unity and instead find only those theological, moral, devotional, or historical fragments we are looking for.
“But all human communities, including our own, live out of some comprehensive story that suggests the meaning and goal of history and that gives shape and direction to human life. We may neglect the biblical story, God’s comprehensive account, of the shape and direction of cosmic history and the meaning of all that he has done in our world. If we do so, the fragments of the Bible that we do preserve are in danger of being absorbed piecemeal into the dominant cultural story of our modern European and North American democracies. And the dominant story of modern culture is rooted in idolatry: an ultimate confidence in humanity to achieve its own salvation. Thus, instead of allowing the Bible to shape us, we may in fact be allowing our culture to shape the Bible for us. Our view of the world and even our faith will be molded by one or the other: either the biblical story is our foundation, or the Bible itself becomes subsumed within the modern story of the secular Western world. If our lives are to be shaped and formed by Scripture, we need to know the biblical story well, to feel it in our bones. To do this, we must also know our own place within—where we are in the story.”
—from Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004)
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