Narrative Theology: "Discourse about God in the setting of story" —Gabriel Fackre.
It was because of a story that I became a Spirit-filled Christian. I was a student at Roberts Wesleyan College, having been saved in an ultra-conservative Baptist church. My theology was staunchly anti-tongues and anti-healing. Then a lovely lady invited Patti and me to her home for some great meals. She told us a story of how her family used to have to go to the hospital several times a year with illnesses, and since she started praying for healing for them, no one had gone to the hospital for the last couple of years.
Wow! That didn't line up with my theology, but it was an amazing story by a person extending friendship and a meal to us. I listened to the story, honored it, and by the time I was done researching Scriptures with an open heart and mind, my systematic theology that said healing wasn't for today had changed, and I became a charismatic Christian.
There is no way she could have convinced me with theological arguments, but her story broke through my doctrinal fortress. I am just glad I honored the story and was not like the Pharisees who wanted to remove the evidence that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead by putting Lazarus to death again (John 12:9-11). Wow, how is that for a closed-minded theological box that repels evidence right before your eyes by simply calling it "of Satan"! Lord, don't ever let me become closed off to ongoing revelation from Your Holy Spirit (John 16:12).
I loved theology. I believed correct theology was the goal of Christian maturity. I still like theology, but God has dethroned theology as the god I worship and the thing I believe will keep me safe from error. He has replaced theology with a celebration of the unfolding story that is revealed as we walk and live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
I remember complaining to God that the Bible was written the wrong way. It was a book of stories; it was not a book of systematic theology. I always needed to rewrite it and turn it into theology so I could preach it properly.
When I finally discovered how to hear God's voice, He spoke to me and said, "Mark, I wrote it right the first time. Yes, My book is a book of stories. You do not need to rewrite it. You are to make "story" the center of your teaching style. I want you to note that life itself is a story, not a theology. Since life itself is a story, your teaching will resonate with power and authenticity when you teach using stories. Tell your story. Tell others' stories. I told stories as I walked upon earth. Without a parable, I taught them not (Matt. 13:34). Wouldn't you agree that the teachers you have loved most were great storytellers?
The natural outgrowth of living life as a story rather than living a system of ideas is that one will eventually teach life, rather than teaching a system of ideas. You are learning to live out of My voice, rather than living out of a system of ideas. Therefore your teaching style continues to be altered by your lifestyle. The freer you are to live life, the freer you are to teach life—real life, full life, continuous life, at all times and in all situations."
This completely shifted my focus. I began telling stories, especially my story, since I knew it best. I discovered my story was similar to the life stories of those I was teaching. People resonated with my story, with my battles, with my defeats and with my victories. People latched onto these stories and used them to take steps forward in their own life's story.
God Moved Me From a Greek to a Hebrew Learning Style
"While the Greeks were concerned with detached knowledge and a speculative interest in the metaphysical nature of things, the Old Testament regards knowledge as something which continually arises from personal encounter." —The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. II, by Collin Brown (390-406).
Yada (Old Testament) and ginosko (New Testament) are biblical words translated "know." Both of these words are used to describe the intimacy of a love relationship between a man and his wife and the consequential bearing of children. Thus they are words that go beyond simple objective knowledge to an intimacy and a personal acquaintance with that which one knows.
So Is Truth a 'What,' or Is It a 'Who'?
Pilate, having a Greek mentality, asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:37, 38)
Jesus, having a Hebrew mentality, declared, "I am the truth." (John 14:6)
Truth is not a what. It is embodied in a person. Perhaps it is actually embodied in the Spirit who indwells that person, for Jesus called the indwelling Holy Spirit "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17). Jesus said that this indwelling Holy Spirit would "guide us into all truth" (John 16:13b), His anointing would teach us all things (see 1 John 2:27).
These verses clearly teach that truth is something which arises out of the voice of the Holy Spirit within. Truth is not so much an intellectual activity as it is a heart experience. It is arrived at through a subjective inner experience as we walk and live in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).
- Lord, what do You want to say to me concerning the role of story?
- Lord, is your view of "knowing" different than my view of knowing? If so, how?
- Lord, where does wisdom come from? Read and journal about these verses: Psalm 111:10, James 1:5, Isaiah 11:2, Daniel 1:17, Exodus 31:3, Exodus 35:35, Genesis 2:9,17.
Mark Virkler, Ph.D., has authored more than 50 books in the areas of hearing God's voice and spiritual growth. He is the founder of Communion With God Ministries and Christian Leadership University (cluonline.com), where the voice of God is at the center of every learning experience. Mark has taught on developing intimacy with God and spiritual healing for 30-plus years on six continents. The message has been translated into over 40 languages, and he has helped to establish more than 250 church-centered Bible schools around the world.
This article originally appeared at cwgministries.org.
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