Narrative Theology: Understanding the Big Picture

The Bible has a big picture story that is tantamount when trying to understand the small tidbits.  I remember reading a rabbi who said that you could understand the whole of the Bible by reading the first 3 chapters of Genesis.  There’s creation, fall/sin, redemption, and a new thing (renewal, consummation).  These are really big themes and they help when we’re trying to understand the small things.

I’ve needed help trying to wrap my mind around who Jesus is and why He matters.  Some say to keep it simple and maybe it is.  But it doesn’t seem simple to me to ask the questions and seek answers.

I still struggle to understand why Jesus died for our sins; meaning why it took death.  I know all the scriptures and have heard all the statements regarding the topic.  But I still wrestle with why it had to be this way.

NT Wright, a historian and theologian from England, has helped me understand some of the big pictures themes.  I’m currently reading “Simply Jesus:  A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters”.

He’s asking questions like who did Jesus think He was when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?  Or that in some ways, the current culture is asking, “Who do YOU say that you are, Jesus?”

I grew up in church and I’m still asking, “Are you who they (gospel writers) say you really you are?”  If He is, there are deep implications for this.  For one, the Bible says that sin and death are defeated.  This implies that is some sense, sin and death don’t have the last words in our life.  That implies that you and I are immortal!  Think about that one for a moment.  What this looks like, I’m not completely sure.  But NT Wright keeps saying to look at the resurrected life of Jesus for hints.  It seems Jesus’ body is glorified and He then must ascend to the Father.  I often tell people who are grieving that in my faith tradition, we say that death doesn’t have the final say; that while it hurts to lose our loved ones and that death seems to be winning, it doesn’t have the final say.

As I discern next steps in my calling and ministry work, I’m faced with the question of who Jesus really is.  My calling and ministry work are in some ways forcing me to ask.  If I’m going to continue to devote the rest of my life to following Jesus and helping others follow him (and in some instances, trying to persuade others to follow Jesus), I need to keep digging into this question of who Jesus thought he was.  My life, career, way of being is at stake.

These next few weeks, you’ll see some posts related to the book I’m reading and how it’s impacting my thinking and living.

Engaging Culture and Common Good

I had to save this short post by Dr. Richard Mouw. His work on public theology and common good has helped me engage the world and see God’s goodness rather than pick sides or create “insider-outsider” dynamics.

Several good folks are offering excellent responses to the recent declaration by John MacArthur and company condemning those of us who advocate for “social justice.” No need for me to add to the well-stated critiques (such as Mike Gerson’s latest in the Washington Post). But I am a bit concerned about those who defend social justice advocacy as long as it draws only on “the Bible itself.” This ties in with those who accuse some of us for being too “accommodating” to “secular culture” on some justice issues–such as gender concerns and the anti-racism cause.

One of the memorable sermons I have heard was from a Grand Rapids preacher, Clarence Boomsma, back in the 1970s, on Jonah on the ship threatened by a storm. He said there was a dispute there between two parties: a prophet of the true God and a bunch of pagan sailors. If that is all the information we had, he said, and we had to choose sides, we would obviously put our money on the prophet. But in this case, he noted, the pagan sailors were speaking truth when they told the prophet he was putting them in danger by his own disobedience. Boomsma’s memorable punchline: sometimes the world preaches important messages to the church. I am happy, then, not simply to reject out of hand what secular activists have to say to us on gender and race matters. It is important to listen carefully lest we miss some good sermons.

– Richard Mouw

We must have a Catholic view of sin which, “produces a more systematic program for advancement in the spiritual life” and a Reformation view which views, “the conception of sin as a radical evil that fundamentally alters our relationship with God.

We must have a Catholic view of sin which, “produces a more systematic program for advancement in the spiritual life” and a Reformation view which views, “the conception of sin as a radical evil that fundamentally alters our relationship with God.
Simon Chan

With God’s grace we train to become like Jesus and grow in him so we can be his expression of love here and now. We become the kind of good we want to see in the world…the gospel should include a call to transformation in the present. (pg. 196)

With God’s grace we train to become like Jesus and grow in him so we can be his expression of love here and now. We become the kind of good we want to see in the world…the gospel should include a call to transformation in the present. (pg. 196)
True Story, James Choung

Oneness Pentecostals, who today comprise roughly one-fourth of all Pentecostals and are also known as “Jesus’ Name” Pentecostals, represent the most radical theological departure of any Pentecostal group. Essentially, these churches teach a unitarianism of the Son that denies the traditional doctrine of the Trinity and claims that Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They (re)baptize in Jesus’ name and are also the only major grouping of Pentecostals who teach (or at least imply) that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation.

Oneness Pentecostals, who today comprise roughly one-fourth of all Pentecostals and are also known as “Jesus’ Name” Pentecostals, represent the most radical theological departure of any Pentecostal group. Essentially, these churches teach a unitarianism of the Son that denies the traditional doctrine of the Trinity and claims that Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They (re)baptize in Jesus’ name and are also the only major grouping of Pentecostals who teach (or at least imply) that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation.
Pneumatology, Veli-Matti Karkkainen