The Bible as the true story of the world

Under this heading in their book, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Books, 2008), Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew make some important points about the reality that is rendered in the Bible. This is a reality with profoundly important missional implications. This is a lengthy quote, but it will take you less time to read it than it took me to type it 🙂

When Jesus came, he announced that he was himself the goal of this redemptive story, the climax of God’s dramatic activity. Such a claim was completely astonishing. Jesus was not simply another rabbi offering some new religious or ethical teaching by which to enrich one’s own life. He claimed that in his person and work the meaning of history and of the world itself was being made known and accomplished. He warned that all people must find their place and meaning within his story, and no other.

When we speak, therefore of the Bible as a story, we are making a normative claim about the story told in the Bible: it is public truth. It is a claim that this is the way God created the world; the story of the Bible tells us the way the world really is. Thus, the biblical story is not to be understood simply as a local tale about the Jewish people. It begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things. In between, it offers an interpretation of the meaning of cosmic history. Christopher Wright puts it this way: “The Old Testament tells its story as the story or, rather, as part of that ultimate and universal story that will ultimately embrace the whole of creation, time, and humanity within its scope. In other words, in reading these texts we are invited to embrace a metanarrative, a grand narrative.”

Thus our stories, our reality-indeed, all of human and non-human reality-must find their place in this story. In Mimesis, Erich Auerbach makes this point in a striking contrast between Homer’s Odyssey and the biblical story: “Far from seeking, like Homer, merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, [the Old Testament] seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history…. Everything else that happens in the world can only be conceived as an element in this sequence; into it everything that is known about the world… must be fitted as an ingredient of the divine plan.” Normally, when we read myths and novels, or when we watch movies, television, or plays, we are meant at least in part to gorget about our own world and to enter and live in the fictional world for a time. When the story ends, we emerge on the other side , return to our own world, and resume our own lives. We have indulged in a kind of escape from reality into fiction, perhaps hoping to be informed, enriched, or at least entertained while we have been “away.” Some of us will seek to carry back some nuggets of truth or wisdom or beauty as souvenirs from the world of artifice, giving us perhaps some new (but admittedly limited) insight into an aspect of our lives in the “real” world. But it is not that way with the biblical story. The Bible claims to be the real world. The story, among all stories, claims to tell the whole truth about the way our won world really is. Here, inside this story, we are meant to find the meaning of our lives. Here we must find a place in which our own experience was meant to fit. Here we are offered insight into the ultimate significance of human life itself.

Thus, the gospel is public truth, universally valid, true for all people and all of human life. It is not merely for the private sphere of “religious” experience. It is not about some otherworldly salvation postponed to an indefinite future. It is God’s message about how he is at work to restore his world and all of human life. It tells us about the goal of all history and thus claims to be the true story of the world. (pp.3-4, their italics)