Francis Watson on the Biblical Story

. . . a book that begins with the assertion that ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ establishes, through the comprehensiveness of its scope, the expectation that the narrative will lead eventually to an equally comprehensive goal – as indeed it does, in the creation of new heavens and a new earth at the close of the book of Revelation. The universal horizons of this narrative do not permit the extraction of ‘the story of Jesus’ to serve as the legitimation-myth of a small community in its self-imposed exile from the world. Over against the apolitical parochialism of some postmodern narrative theology, the story of Jesus must instead be interpreted as the midpoint of time, deriving from the universal horizon of the creation of the world and of humankind in the likeness of God, and pointing towards the universal horizon of an eschaton in which the human and non-human creation together reach their appointed goal.

Francis Watson, Text, Church and World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 153.

Narrative Method

The fourth aspect of a Christian theological method is that it ought to be narrative, meaning that

it frames interpretation of particular passages within the broader framework of the biblical storyline – Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation. This aspect also recognizes that Christ stands as the goal of that story and that our lives need to be re-oriented within it.

As noted previously, each of these foundations relates to the others, so notice here that this narrative aspect focuses on the Christotelic sense of the biblical story, giving interpretation an eschatological flavor; recognizes and relies on the Scripture’s canonical shape and interconnectedness, imbued by the Spirit’s illumination and inspiration; and expects the narrative to confront readers and transform them through the power of the Spirit.

The biblical story has an endpoint, the new creation of Revelation 21-22, and it is towards this climax that everything moves. Further, this climax actually begins with Christ’s incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Spirit at Pentecost, but the cosmic scope of his restorative, atoning, and ruling work is finally realized at his second coming. To read the Bible as literature, and to read it as its authors intended, is to read it as an interconnected, telos-oriented narrative.

This narrative is Christ-centered, as it is through Christ that the act, redemption, and goal of creation are accomplished, but it also points readers to the missiological, cosmic, and global character of Christ’s redemptive work. Moreover, remembering that the Bible is narrative in character helps us to remember that the Old Testament is Israel’s story, instead of a deposit to be mined for theological proof-texts and instead of cutting it off as no longer historically relevant to primarily Gentile Christians. Additionally, it in my opinion assists us in reading books like Ecclesiastes or Songs from an explicitly Christian perspective, as it helps us to place the material in these books in the larger context of both Israel’s story and the story of God’s redemption.

Finally, a narrative approach will call those who don’t know Christ to re-orient the narrative of their lives into the narrative of the Bible. Narratives are powerful, both for worldview formation and confrontation, and thus relatedly for evangelism and apologetics. “Come follow me” is a command from the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe who became man, suffered, died, was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead to restore creation, defeat the powers of evil, and atone for sin. We are presented with alternative viewpoint on reality; in the words of a recent book published on empire – “Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.” That claim is particularly narrative in nature. Re-orient your life to live under the rule and reign of Jesus, not Caesar. Of course this transformational narrative also applies to and confronts Christians; the structure of the New Testament puts the epistles, often assumed to be more propositional and logical, in this narrative context. Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude also seem to assume this larger narrative context as they call Christians to live in light of both Christ’s first and second coming. Structuring our theology and interpretation around this story ought to be foundational for our theological method.

Pastoral Psychology Article Accepted

I received exciting news this afternoon that an article I co-authored with my colleague Dr. Joshua Knabb has been accepted in Pastoral Psychology. Josh occupies the office next to me, and, when not banging on my wall to turn the music down, is Assistant Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Master of Science in Counseling Psychology for OPS. The article, “‘I Will Be Your God and You Will Be My People’: Attachment Theory and the Grand Biblical Narrative” explores the relationship between attachment theory and the metanarrative of Scripture. This one was definitely interesting to write, since I hadn’t attempted a cross-disciplinary essay before.

Here’s the abstract:

In this article, we apply the grand biblical narrative to attachment theory. Utilizing four key features of attachment theory—secure base, exploration, attachment behaviors, and safe haven—we attempt to integrate the empirical base of attachment theory with the biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. By focusing on the relationship between God and humankind found within the Old and New Testaments, we seek to expand the theological underpinnings of the attachment to God literature, and conclude by offering suggestions for therapists and pastoral counselors working with Christians exhibiting disordered attachment patterns.