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how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

A parable of two sons

There was a man who had two sons. The older son loved to tell stories and would keep the relatives and servants that made up his father’s household enthralled for hours with his repertoire of tales—not all of them believable—from the family’s eventful history. The younger son was of a much more rational frame of mind and couldn’t tell a joke to save his life.

One day the younger son came to the father and said, “Father, we don’t need all these stories. What we need is truth. Clear and simple, systematically arranged, with proofs and certain conclusions. I suggest that we organize classes for all the members of your household so that they can be taught the truth. I will devise a syllabus.”

Quite what the father thought of this proposal is unclear, but the younger son was insistent, and so it came about.

When the firstborn son realized what had happened, he became despondent and quickly concluded that he was no longer wanted at home. He thought of asking for his share of the inheritance but decided in the end not to announce his intentions. He left quietly and travelled to a distant country.

Sadly, perhaps because of his gloomy state of mind, he fell into bad company. He told his stories to his new friends, but they laughed at him. “You are a capable story-teller,” they said, “but your stories are so dreary. We are not interested in your unbelievable family sagas. We want to hear about war and women. Mainly women. Bawdy stories about women.”

He did his best to learn some new stories to entertain them with, but his heart was not in it, and when at last he came to himself, he said, “This is ridiculous! I don’t belong here. I will go home and if necessary learn to keep my mouth shut.”

While he was still some distance from the house, his father saw him and ran out to meet him. The son began to speak: “Father, I am sorry. I want to come home. I promise I will not tell….”

But his father interrupted him. “My son! You are back! I am so glad to see you. We are sick and tired of all the lessons with their proofs and dubious conclusions. We want to hear stories again. We want life and death and pain and laughter. We want memories and hope.”

When they arrived back at the house, the younger son was standing in the doorway scowling.

Comments

A+, Andrew!

Andrew,

I like your story.  I agree and understand what your saying with it too.  I have come to find the years in the study of systematics tiresome, and mostly in error due to their futurist presuppositions they all start with, to say the least.  At the same time I’m not sure how to swing the other direction.  Even yourself just recently put out your new book “Heaven and Hell in Narrative Perspective”, which is a defense arguing against the traditional position of “hell”; I did purchase it and almost have it finished by-the-way.  While I agree with your overall conclusion concerning “hell”, I disagree with some of your positions (i.e. Babylon = Rome???) used to show Christendom’s failure in its understanding of certain passages.  But, that is neither here nor there.

Is your book not a “systematically arranged, with proofs and certain conclusions” exercise?  What I struggle with is how one comes to have a belief or position on any given subject (i.e. hell) without the tiresome exercise via the systematic approach? And does it even matter then if one holds certain beliefs about certain doctrines (deity of Christ), which come via systematic study?  Any thoughts or ideas?

It’s a very interesting point. The way I see it, the sort of argumentation that you find in my book on hell is aimed at dismantling the systematic structures so that a fresh sense of the historical narrative may emerge. The positive counterpart to that process would be to do the retelling of Israel’s story in a way that is more or less innocent of the hermeneutical and theological debates.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t say that systematic theology is flawed by futurist presuppositions. I don’t think that a historical reading of the New Testament needs to presuppose either a futurist or a preterist eschatology—in fact, a historical reading of New Testament prophecy must by definition be futurist. The problem with systematic theology is the transcendental, universalizing presupposition that is unable to accommodate the contingencies of history.

Andrew,

the sort of argumentation that you find in my book on hell is aimed at dismantling the sytematic structures so that a fresh sense of the historical narrative may emerge. The positive counterpart to that process would be to do the retelling of Israel’s story in a way that is more or less innocent of the hermeneutical and theological debates.”

Very well put.

I don’t think that a historical reading of the New Testament needs to presuppose either a futurist or a preterist eschatology—in fact, a historical reading of New Testament prophecy must by definition be futurist

yes, indeed, the writers future anyway.  Good point.  However, since all the systematics were development post (much later) AD 70, they all start with the error of the parousia’s timing; future to when they were written.  Thus, they all follow that error and have since built many doctrinal positions upon that error.  There are a few reasons for man misunderstanding the nature of the parousia (thus its timing); mainly man’s attachment to the material, so underneath man thinking lies the associatiin of the the ”end” with the end of the material.  And since the end of the material hasn’t ended, obvisouly the “end” must have not happened.  And on and on it goes.

Anyway, thanks for your input.

    That was really good!  Earlier today I was thinking of the way Jesus utilitzed  parables as a medium to convey notions of the  Kingdom of god.  He reliied on pictorailly rich stories and not dense lectures. Non-historical stories that functioned more along the lines of myth. 

    The Christ  used a myth-like tool to reveal god. It may be a stretch, but I think the  incarnate logos validated myth as a medium of revelation on the simple account that he used parables, Non-historical stories to reveal the kingdom of god.    

Any way I liked your parable!

 

this is ballin’

so ballin’ it bounces

Great story Andrew-the only part I would change is the fate of the eldest son. Was the distant country perhaps called Hollywood, and did he not find fame and fortune, telling stories to a world which loved drama, myth, and even spirituality as long as it wasn’t in a church? I doubt he would ever go home……