The teachings of the Bible are, for some, a repository of moral truths that provide a set of rules–do this, don’t do that. Some of these people go to church to get reminded of what is right and wrong, and when faced with problems they try to do what is right by relying on self-determination, wit, intelligence, beauty, power, money, success, anything in order to avoid the wrong and get by. They pluck certain lines from a very long, very rich, very diverse story in order make ethical decisions. For them there is very little story to the Bible at all.
There are millions of people that are familiar with the content of this Story, of God creating, man sinning, Jesus redeeming, the Spirit perfecting people, cultures, and creation. Many of those people even accept this Story as true without experiencing any kind of transformative life change. The story of the Bible is simply something they tell their children, but certainly not one they would discuss with friends. It’s just a story.
For others, the Biblical story is compelling, intriguing and worth reading and rereading. It offers an authoritative life system, a worldview that makes sense of the world. They tell it to others, insist on its truth, memorize it, and stake their lives on its reliability. But when it comes to being better citizens, locally and globally, all they can do is recite the story. They don’t change in character or contribute to the real world issues of homelessness, poverty, crime, etc. They just parrot the story.
Postmodern scholar, Jean Francios Lyotard advanced the idea of “incredulity towards metanarratives,” rejecting the idea that there is no single, overarching explanatory story for the way things are and should be. Christians and the Bible claim that there is one Story that makes sense of the world and how it should be–the Story of Redemption.
Is the Bible just an inert story, something to tell our children, or a grand story/worldview to stabilize our psyche and help us make sense of the world? For those that use the Bible as a moral guide, a bedtime story for children, they miss the fact that Jesus tells the little children to come to Him. The story is not about mythical creatures, but a historical person. A man-God who calls all attention to himself, who asks us to know him. Jesus demands that we not brush his miracles and parables off as night-time entertainment or embrace his commands as mere morality.
Jesus died for us to know him. He screams from the cross–-Look at me; I suffered for you. He insists that we not pay him back for suffering for our sin. Instead, he asks us to receive his forgiveness. He enters into the hardest part of our own stories and suffers for us and with us. He offers hope for a new life and a new world, free from injustice and filled with peace.
As Paul Tripp has written: “We forget that the Bible is not an encyclopedia, but a story of God’s plan to rescue hopeless and helpless humanity. Its a story about people who are rescued from their own self-sufficiency and wisdom and transported to a kingdom where Jesus is central and true hope is alive.” The Bible is not just a story. It is not mere encyclopedia for living; it is a life and heart-altering story about the person of God–Father, Son and Spirit–who are collaborating for the redemption and perfection of this creation project. It is an invitation to choose what part of the story you will experience both now and forever–everlasting joy or never-ending judgment–with or without our Creator-Redeemer.
As N.T. Wright has written: “The Bible is not just an authoritative description of God’s plan…it is part of the story itself.“ The Bible is more than a fable or moral compass; it is a complex, rich, historical, spiritual, personal announcement of God in action in our lives and the entire world. It is not an inert story but a lively reality, an ongoing divine documentary that calls us to know, enjoy, and worship God as Yahweh, Jesus, and the Helping Spirit as our years unfold. The Bible is no mere story.