Saturday, August 30, 2008

Story pt. 1

In Christian circles there has been an increased emphasis on story in the past few years. Biblical theologians like NT Wright and Joel Green have discussed the nature of the Biblical story within the text. Popular Christian authors like John Eldridge and Donald Miller have written books about joining the story. But what really does this mean?

Let's diverge for a second. There are many traditions when it comes to Communion, Eucharist, Common Table, the Great Thanksgiving. Some traditions believe that during this time, the elements (aka bread and juice or wine) literally become the body and blood of Jesus. Other traditions believe that the elements are just reminders of Jesus' great work. Still others believe that something mysterious happens during this time, but the elements do not change. For centuries there have been wars and conflicts over this topic (the original worship wars if you will). Some would say words like: This is the Body of Christ...the Blood of Christ, others would be sure to emphasize this was just a representation.

England was especially afflicted with these wars (literally). One king or queen would hold a particular view, and would kill everybody who held the opposite view. As you can imagine this was a very unstable time; churches and communities were divided. Finally, the church realized that the point of the time at the table was not about the nature elements as much as it was about the time at the table. Now when they passed the elements they simply would say, "The Body of Christ was broken for you." as opposed to saying, "This is the Body of Christ!"

This shift allowed people from different view points on the topic to come together in peace. It moved the people from a dogmatic understanding of the elements and freed the people to focus on what they were doing. Christians (especially those of the Wesleyan, Angelical, Methodist tradition) believe that it is through the act of the Communion that God is present. That this Sacrament (translation: mystery) is speaking to us the Gospel message. We believe that the bread and the cup are the physical embodiment of the lyrics sung and the words spoken. When a believer takes part in this act, he is actually ingesting the Gospel message! You see the Table is not about the table.

In the same way there has been many centuries of conflict on the nature of the Biblical text. Some have emphasized that Text is just an inspired story, told to teach us about God. Some of emphasized the fact that it is (capital T) True; and if its not true its not inspired. Just like before, many people argue back and forth about the nature of the text instead of asking what is the point of the inspiration was.

This is where the Biblical theologians, popular authors, and many other Christian leaders are coming into the conversation. Just like the people of England were broken apart, the Church Universal has been broken apart by this divisive topic, and these Fathers in the Church have come along and said you're missing the point! Stop, the point of Christianity is not about the Biblical text, its where the Biblical text is trying to take us! Let's not focus on the minutia, let's agree its from God and move on.