Mark DeVine on Narrative Theology ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mark DeVine on Narrative Theology

Mark DeVine, my historically astute, wise-cracking Theology professor has finally got around to updating his blog, DeVine Theology. His take on "narrative theology," the perspective on the Bible that looks for unifying "storylines," comes highly recommended. (That's assuming my recommendation counts for something.)

DeVine begins by noting that Narrative theology has successfully "retrieved" the Bible from those who would prefer to cut it up into small pieces and throw darts at the fragments in order to decide upon dates and authorship. He goes on to point out, however:

Narrative theology and preaching has gotten cocky in some quarters and has settled for “making an impression,” on listeners while drawing back from “making a point” or shall we say, from making a propositional truth point. Here is an example of a propositional truth point some narrative enamored preachers eschew—“the God who inspired the Old and New Testaments, because he is all wise and all loving, condemns homosexual behavior.”

"Impressions" don't generally result in changed lives and deliberately firing synapses. And the "propositional truth point" DeVine gives definitely thuds home in some quarters. (Are you listening, Brian McLaren?) DeVine goes on to point out that Narrative and Propositional forms of Theology are not really in tension:
But must serious, sermon-style-shaping adjustment to the various literary genres encountered in the Bible (many of which are NOT narrative by the way) pit appreciation for the community creating, emotion tapping power of story against the acknowledgement and celebration of propositional truth, whether explicitly stated or implicitly embedded within biblical texts? I doubt it. Indeed, the greatest preachers from Chrysostom (c.347-407) to Spurgeon (1834-1892) to Truett (1867-1944) to Criswell (1909-2002) have long combined powerful use of story with unashamed truth telling (propositions and all) not only without imagining that the two were really somehow enemies but recognizing that they are the best of friends.

DeVine closes with a point that should make some preachers, including many Baptists, blush.
Three-point proposition pushers who dare to insist that the Scriptures demand a particular sermon style for all ages or any age for that matter are going beyond what the Bible teaches. Narrative proponents who deny or otherwise side-step the propositional truth palpably present throughout the Bible fall short of what the Scriptures make clear.

I had intended to just mention that the piece was up, but I got carried away and walked through my favorite paragraphs. There's still more to be read, though. Go get it: Narrative Preaching: Promise and Pitfalls

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Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife