Monday, August 15, 2011

An Arrow in Flight

When was the last time you sat down to read a good novel? For me it was last night. I picked up Pride and Prejudice to read for 'a little bit' and found myself still reading it two hours later. When was the last time you sat down to read Scripture like a novel? When was the last time you were astonished to find an hour or two had elapsed when you were reading the Bible?

A story draws us in, brings the reader in to the character's thoughts and observations, and often teaches by delighting*. Many Christians tend to think of the Bible as an instruction manual, a textbook, or a collection of sayings, stories, parables, and rules. The Bible becomes bits and pieces 'suitable' for reading in 10 or 15 minutes before dashing out the door for our busy and 'important' lives. However, the Bible is actually a story.

Now, I'm not Dawkins or some emergent church advocate calling the Bible a sham; but what if I told you the Bible is a myth, a fairytale, a metanarrative, and the like? You see, the Bible is a myth, a tale, a metanarrative (over arching story). It just happens to be a true myth, a real tale, and THE big story. (If you have heard metanarratives slandered and dismissed, or if you think they are bad, see Goheen's very readable explanation.)

If you are like me, you secretly harbour the desire to walk through a wardrobe and find yourself in a snowy land of always winter and never Christmas. Deep down you wish that dwarves, elves, talking beasts, and Hobbits really lived in a land you could sail to. We want myths and fairytales to be true. We want to step into the world of Jane Austin's or Charles Dickens' novels. We want a story-line, a hero, a victorious, happy, or peaceful ending.

Though the Bible contains various genres of writing (poetry, parables, prophecy, principles, proverbs, and past events) it is all one story. When you aim an arrow, you know from the beginning where you want it to go. If someone else sees the arrow in flight he can tell by the trajectory (at least generally) where the arrow came from and where it is going. The same is true of Scripture, we see where everything began and the track of the story. We can also see that it isn't over yet, but we have been told that the ending is victorious, joyful, and beyond restorative.

How can we see this big picture in Scripture if we only read a few verses, maybe a chapter at a time? We need to begin reading Scripture as holistically as possible. Read a complete gospel in one sitting. Read a few of Paul's letters all together. Read through all of Genesis, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah, etc. Yes, it takes time. Just remember that it is a story; it is supposed to be read as such. Remember, too, that it is a true story. Not all of it is "applicable" to life, but it does show the character of God and sets the stage for the New Testament, or the chapter of the story in which we find ourselves here and now.

* As Philip Sidney says in his Defence of Poetry: "Poesy therefore is an art of imitation...that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth - to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture - with this end, to teach and delight."
(A Defence of Poetry Oxford University Press ©1966 - page 25)


  1. Scripture like a novel... wardrobes and snowy fauns with flutes...

    Somehow you make me want to dance in firefly fields.

  2. If you dance in firefly fields may I come too? I'll bring the bug spray for the skeeters.

    Yes, Scripture like a story... Novel idea, hm? ;)