Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"Story Authority" and the Bible

Detroit Metro Airport

Does the Bible have great authority in my life? Yes. The Bible is my Text. It is the Narrative I look to for guidance in life, for greater purpose of my life, and for the meaning of my existence.

Don't be shocked by this. Everyone, including atheists, have a Narrative. If asked, most atheists would not have a clue about this.

Likewise, most Jesus-followers could not answer the question, "Why is the Bible authoritative for you?"

N.T. Wright's book on biblical authority, entitled The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture, is helpful here. Wright also has an essay on biblical authority here, much of which is in the book.

Most will be unfamiliar with the "Bible wars" of forty years ago (Harold Lindell's The Battle for the Bible, Jack Rogers' response, and so on). I studied these wars while in seminary. These were the "inerrant" vs. "errant" debates. Wright has a good handle on this and shows, among other things, how the whole debate was miscast and, in relation to the actual Bible, anachronistic.

Wright's work provides good reading for any Christian interested in the question, "Why should the Bible be considered authorititative as the Word of God?"
Wright is especially good in claiming that evangelical inerrantist views actually have a low view of the Bible. Wright's work, as well as that of Craig Keener and Ben Witherington, warns us how to avoid making "the Bible into something which basically it is not," and gives a perspective and a hermeneutic that is far more authentic to the Bible itself.

I like what Wright has to say about "story authority." Consider, e.g.:

"Story authority, as Jesus knew only too well, is the authority that really works. Throw a rule book at people’s head, or offer them a list of doctrines, and they can duck or avoid it, or simply disagree and go away. Tell them a story, though, and you invite them to come into a different world; you invite them to share a world-view or better still a ‘God-view’. That, actually, is what the parables are all about. They offer, as all genuine Christian story-telling the does, a world-view which, as someone comes into it and finds how compelling it is, quietly shatters the world-view that they were in already. Stories determine how people see themselves and how they see the world. Stories determine how they experience God, and the world, and themselves, and others. Great revolutionary movements have told stories about the past and present and future. They have invited people to see themselves in that light, and people’s lives have been changed. If that happens at a merely human level, how much more when it is God himself, the creator, breathing through his word."

The Koran, for example, is a set of commands. (Eide Alawan of the Islamic Center of America told me this. And, of course, you can see for yourself by reading the Koran.) While the Bible contains commands, they are situated in what scholars call "salvation history." The commands are part of the story. The story is compelling, with the Jesus-event being "the greatest story ever told."

How brilliant of God to give us a Story, and situate us within it. Our lives find meaning, purpose, and direction. This is the core of biblical authority.