Posted by: rogermitchell | September 5, 2010

Restorying

I was going to head this post “restoring the story” when “restorying” emerged instead which I thought was a good word in the context. I finished another chapter of the thesis yesterday, so now there’s only one to go and a couple of others to rejig somewhat! The end really is in sight at last. The discovery in the course of working on it that it is generally accepted that the Pentecostal-charismatic movement marked a shift from systematic to narrative theology was very important for me. For years some of us have been configuring theology around the gospel story and suggesting that event and story proceeds explanation and exegesis. That we need a gospel hermeneutic that reads the rest of scripture, creation, life and the universe through a narrative Jesus, incarnational lens. But I had not realised how thoroughly Pentecostal-charismatic this was, especially considering how systematic and non-incarnational so many of them/us are! But at root I can now see more clearly how narrative orientated the core understanding of Pentecostal-charismatic visitation and renewal really is. This helps us to see what aspects to strengthen and what to redirect or correct I think. And of course one of the biggest issues is who the restored narrative is for, and as Billy Queen’s comment on the last post makes clear, it is emphatically not for us but for the world. This is what the ecclesia is all about, preserving and restoring the full gospel narrative for the world.

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Responses

  1. Roger, I like the new word ‘restorying’ that you are coining!

    I also happen to think that if God wanted us to have a systematic theology manual, as our primary document for the faith, he would not have inspired the writing of the scriptures!

    Furthermore, it does seem to me that there is overwhelming evidence to support the fact that Jesus’s primary method of teaching, at least outside the synagogue, was through story-telling – most notably the parables. However, as most of us are aware there is a wide variety of types of literature in scripture.

    Undoubtedly, the necessity for narrative theology needs to continue to be emphasised at this time particularly when currently there is such a drive to have all knowledge categorised systematically and to know the correct answer to every question – perhaps so that it can be stored in a computer database somewhere!

    However perhaps it is wise, for example, to note that even in the [systematic] discipline of mathematical logic – which underpin the foundations of maths and computing – the truth or falsity of some propositions just cannot be decided! One might expect in this area that everything can be decided and that there is a single correct answer without and dubiety attached to it, but it is just not the case!

    I therefore believe that God is much happier than we are about some things being left unclear! Perhaps because this invites us into a deeper level of dialogue and thus experiential knowledge of Him.

    Roger you also rightly remind us that the hermeneutical lense of the earthly life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification and physical return of Jesus has to be at the centre of understanding what the scriptures mean. The truth is a person and His name is Jesus! But surely we also have to remember that the application of the true meaning of scripture is also contextual – scriptural, temporal, cultural …

    For instance would Jesus use a mobile phone and only travel on public transport if he was a carpenter’s son in Israel today? If he had a laptop what operating system would he use on it? I am not trying to be facetious here, or advocate/set up a WWJD type of formulaic argument – rather I am indicating that there are some every day type of questions that are embedded in current culture that have an empire context to them too! Perhaps they might only be answered through our personal dialogue with God and maybe quite a number that would not get asked or answered. Certainly systematic and narrative theology can only go so far. Our knowledge of God is to be intimate, experiential, relational knowledge isn’t it!

    Anyway, I also think that our failure to understand and hold both receiver context and subsequent reader context clearly in view has led to so many problems in interpretion. Look, say, at the controversey over the interpretations of the book of Revelation. After all a text out of context becomes a pre-text!

    However, in closing, I feel that I must pose the following questions: what is sound doctrine and who determines what is sound doctrine ? [see eg 1 Tim 1:9-11; 1 Tim 6:2-4; Titus 1:8-10; Titus 2:1-3] Also how does one extract sound doctrine from just narrative theology? Can one, and if so what is the process or what are the principles? Not necessarily looking for you to supply answers, rather just wished to pose the questions more publicly ….

    May the Lord continue to bless you – particularly at this time with all that you need to complete your thesis! I am sure a good number will be praying for you!

  2. It is a very appealing prospect to have a system that expains every aspect of God.It gives a certainty to our faith that can be very comforting but in the end it leaves us making up answers just to satisfy our need for certainty.
    I and many others have first hand expierence of this and what it does it steal from us the fact that God is in the end still a mystery to us.

    What we need is the ability to tell the story and enable others to relate to that story and be strong enough to say that God is a wonderfull mystery that we are discovering as we go along.


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