School

Metanarrative and Me

I just finished my first paper for my Intro to Biblical Literature class. It is the first paper on my path towards becoming a pastor. 🙂

Every couple of weeks or so we have to do a “reading response” type of paper. It’s typically 800 words and a response to the readings we have to do in the textbooks and Bible. This first one was a two-parter on our “story” and how it relates to the “biblical story” and responding to a quote from one of the text books.

I find this one gives a little more insight into where I am spiritually, and was a real eye-opener for myself. I’d never really thought of the concepts of metanarratives in my life, nor of the Bible as one unified story. For only 800 words it sure took me a long time to write, but that’s because I was struggling with defining a core part of my belief system. So I spent more time trying to figure out things about myself than I did on the actual paper, and it’s a pretty good paper, if I do say so myself (and my wife agrees).

It is also wonderful having an amazing wife who is super intelligent and educated. She’s done years of this stuff, where as I’m just getting started, so she makes for a great editor. I’m sure I’ll learn almost as much from her over these next few years as I do from school. It also helps that I am studying subject matter that also interests her. When I talk about computer stuff, all she hears is, “nerd, nerd, nerd.” Where as I can have great theological discussions with her as she took a number of religious studies courses in university, and it interests her.

So here is my paper in case anyone is interested… (the book the quote comes from is The Drama of Scripture)

1. Growing up in a Christian home where I went to church on a weekly basis, the Bible has always been central to my faith journey. I learned the stories taught in Sunday school and in children’s Bible story books. Stories like Noah’s Ark, baby Moses in the basket, the crumbling walls of Jericho, Daniel in the lion’s den, David and Goliath, the birth of Jesus, the feeding of the 5000, and the crucifixion of Jesus; these were all taught to me as separate stories, each with a lesson to be learned. From them I learned about the glory and awesomeness of God. I learned about the forgiveness and grace brought to us through Jesus. I learned that we are to live like Jesus and that only through Him would we find forgiveness and salvation. I had never thought about the Bible as the framework on which I built my life, though it definitely influenced the way I think and act.

As I grew older I often found I was reading it with a sceptical, questioning eye, as opposed to one that is open to its love and forgiveness. Now, I often sit with more questions than I came with, and no idea how to answer them. Which stories in the bible are to be read literally, and which figuratively? And does it really matter? How does it affect my story if I don’t believe the Earth was created in six 24 hour days? What if I don’t believe the entire Earth was covered in the flood of Noah’s day? If I don’t believe things like that are true, then why do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and was resurrected on the third day?

The Bible has strongly affected my moral code, and while I use it for much of the framework I have built my life upon, I wonder how I can only accept parts of it as True if it is the authoritative source for Christians. How can I believe something to be Truth when there are so many things I disagree with and so many conflicting interpretations? I disagree with the subjugation of women. I disagree with the idea that homosexuality is a sin. How do I use something that I don’t really understand, as the very basis for my existence?

2. I am responding to the following quote,

“We can have no more than one fundamental story as the basis for what we think and how we act. … The whole point of a basic story or grand narrative is to make sense of life as a whole, and such grand narratives cannot easily be mixed up with each other.” (20)

Bartholomew and Goheen state that we can only have one metanarrative on which we base our lives. The metanarrative that we choose influences how we think, act, and relate to others. This story cannot be mixed with others as it is the very framework from which we learn where and how we fit into this world. (20) In fact, they go so far as to say mixing in a new narrative “destroys” the very nature of the first narrative that makes it foundational. I agree that we can only have a single metanarrative at the core of our lives, as trying to make sense of the world using more than one story gets confusing, at best. For example, a Jew cannot make sense of the world through the New Testament story that the Messiah has already arrived as Jesus, because the Jewish metanarrative does not believe in Jesus as Messiah. These kinds of conflicts are common between the major world religions, making it difficult to believe in more than one religion. Hence, those who choose to be religious must choose to believe in only one faith, one metanarrative.

However, I am interested to see how Bartholomew and Goheen address the impact of individual interpretation on the metanarrative. While we can only have a single metanarrative as the foundation for our lives, everyone interprets this metanarrative differently based on their personal experiences. As all of our experiences are unique, the same metanarrative will look different to each person. I subscribe to the foundational story of the Bible as the overarching story that Christians use as the basis for their lives. However, I don’t agree with everything the Bible has to say. Its narrative has a different effect on my life as a Christian who also accepts the biblical narrative as the foundation for their life, including the parts I disagree with.

For example, because I don’t view the creation story as a literal historical recounting of events, my thoughts and ideas about the myth (the literal genre) of creation will differ greatly from another person that believes the world was created as explicitly told in Genesis 1. Because of this, my viewpoint interacts differently with the findings of evolutionary theory, which are rejected by a more literal reading of the creation account. So even though I subscribe to the basic tenet that, “The Bible narrates the story of God’s journey on that long road of redemption,” (12) it is how I interpret that story that affects its impact on my life. Even with the same biblical narrative as the fundamental story, personal interpretation colours the metanarrative lens, making its impact on my thoughts and actions different from every other person.

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2 thoughts on “Metanarrative and Me

  1. Great stuff Storage! (By the way, is “Storage” a french name? That’s the way it comes across in my head at least).
    Really interesting to read this paper of yours as it’s exactly what we’re preaching through here at church at the moment. We’re using McLaren’s outline of: Creation, Crisis, Calling, Conversation, Christ, Church, Consummation. It really is a key concept to grasp though – apart from a metanarrative, Christianity just doesn’t make sense – it’s not worth participating in.
    Man, I’m excited you’re back at school!

    One thing I’d like to challenge you in though. You said, “I don’t agree with everything the Bible has to say.”
    I’d encourage you by saying, don’t let the fundamentalists define what your commitment to the Scriptures looks like. Personally, I like to claim that I agree with everything the Bible says… and my belief system is far from fundamentalist. I agree with everything the Bible says… when it’s properly interpreted. And properly interpreted doesn’t equate itself with Fundamentally interpreted. Personally, I don’t ever like to conclude that I disagree with Scripture. I just like to think that I haven’t found a way to properly interpret it yet! (A great read on this is McKnight’s “Blue Parakeet”)
    Be honest with yourself – and humble and diligent in your search.

  2. Thanks jonkramer! I can get on board with that concept. I have a problem with calling myself Christian, and not agreeing with everything the Bible says, but I think you have the right idea. It’s not that I don’t agree, it’s that I don’t understand. I haven’t studied it in a critical manner and don’t know the context in which it was written. So then how am I able to accurately interpret the scripture? I can’t. And thanks for the Blue Parakeet recommendation. You are actually the third person in the last couple of weeks to recommend it to me. 🙂 I’ve requested it from the library and when it’s in I’ll be reading it.

    I think it’s really cool that you guys are preaching McLaren. He has some pretty interesting things to say, and I know a lot of people aren’t big fans.

    I am also very excited to be back at school. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s such a blast!

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