Reading the Bible as a Narrative

(Tabitha Gallman) #1

I am glad there is a category for Christian growth because it seems the more I read and research online, the more confused I get with everything that (in my opinion) seems to get added on to the gospel message. I would hope (and do believe) that the truth is more prevalent than what is not true.

As far as being classified as a modern or post-modern Christian in my thinking about the whole Bible, I would assume I’d fit into the modern Christian category. I would describe my “base line” theology as coming from Reverend Billy Graham.

(This is off-topic, but …) My husband and I were just discussing how verbalizing the gospel is hard if you don’t practice actually saying it aloud. It could come across as a message that the person I could be witnessing to may not think that I am firm in my own belief. I always remember listening to Rev. Graham and he never seemed hesitant nor wavering with his message to his audience. I would love to be able to verbalize the gospel that way, although I realize that it’s our actions or our way of living that trumps our verbalizing, but there are times when it is necessary to actually invite someone to Christ.

In my walk with Christ now I am trying to understand the Bible as a whole to better interpret it, but as I am researching online I do come across a lot of unfamiliar territory and notice a trend with understanding the Bible as a Narrative. @SeanO and many others have given me valuable resources and my favorite is the

I am hoping to discuss with others your thoughts on reading the Bible as systematic theology vs. reading the Bible as narrative theology (here is an article I came across that relates to what I am referring to:
Has anyone changed from systematic theology to narrative theology, or can you combine the two ways of reading the Bible. And also, maybe does one way of reading over the other constitute more awareness of morals than the other?

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

That pretty well would describe me and most of the church people I know. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with that as a baseline because Bill Graham preached the cross (Christ crucified) and it is the power of the cross (Christ glorified) that saves mankind.

The introduction to the narrative aspect of the Bible is a results of participating in the RZIM family. Over the years many books and thoughts have been shared and from my perspective they pointed to a narrative, the story of Israel and their God a story of creation, redemption and the love of God for his people that was ultimately displayed through the life death and resurrection of his son Jesus, Messiah.

NT Wright has greatly influenced my understanding of narrative because 2nd temple Jews lived their lives with the idea that they were part of this greater story of God and his people that they had an active role in bringing about the eschaton. This was Paul’s great dilemma, Messiah came early. The Bible tells us that it took 14 to17 years for Paul to sort through this.

My Thoughts.

(Tabitha Gallman) #3

Thank you @Jimmy_Sellers - Your response is affirming my thoughts on much of what has been on my heart and mind concerning the Bible. I think it shows how much of a “rut” we can sometimes get in when we don’t open and dig deeper into the word of God. I tend to keep my blinders on and get stubborn about certain aspects of the Bible, so I can see why there was a lot blindness to Jesus being the Messiah during Paul’s ministry. I have been a skeptic of NT Wright and (if no one has noticed already, lol) especially Andy Stanley. I haven’t read much yet of the book that Sean suggested called: “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth”, but I just noticed a section about Cultural Relativity that I probably should skip to.

Eschatology alone, is a whole other rabbit trail for me, but it helps seeing the Bible as a narrative and putting the gospel into context first and foremost, so that if/when I feel ready to tackle more of end times studies then I will feel more confident.

I think I get scared when I hear people (and I myself tend to do this) begin to speculate on how wicked this world is becoming. That is when I hear a lot of Systematic Theology being spoken and talked about in my inner circle of friends. When actually Satan has and is working just as hard in every generation to prevent the gospel from spreading and much of it is our own undoing when we argue and lash out when we should be able to share ideas at the “roundtable” the way we are able to do on this website. I try to tell all my family and friends about this group and hope this model of learning and sharing catches on in my neck of the woods :grinning:

I am probably getting a little overwhelmed at the present with too many studies at one time, but reading the Bible as a Narrative is helping me so much.

Thanks Jimmy!

(Tim Ramey) #4

Tabitha, so we meet again! I appreciate your point and though you probably tire from hearing my “voice” , I want to tell you something along this lines because I know you will take it right.

You know how I advocate memorization as it is a mediating on God’s Word for me. And to memorize a chapter, gives it contextualization. However, I read the Bible through, with a different version, every year. In fact, I read it through twice a year now. At nights, I read a number of chapters. My reason is that I think it necessary to read it like you would a book. I read it that way so that as I read numerous chapters together, I really get the key thrust of what is intended. So to read it the way that I do at night is not suggested as a means to meditate on it but to get it as a narrative - a story.

It also means that I have to read some of the books I might never read but there is always a gem in there.

So Tabitha, I am not answering your original post directly but I feel that reading the Bible as a prose is really necessary. And reading many chapters at once means that you read all of the gospels in a matter of days so you begin to get a sense of the book’s author. That applies to all of the books of the Bible for that matter.

I’m sorry if I’m saying things that were not at the heart of your post, but I feel, in a different sense, that it does speak to it. While I have you off the subject, keep reciting what you’ve memorized to your husband. It not only helps for learning purposes but it makes for some great conversation with someone who knows that you are not pontificating but speaking the Truth. Nancy, my wife, loves it when I practice on her.

(Tabitha Gallman) #5

No to the contrary Tim, your post is very relevant to the topic and I appreciate this because I was just thinking the other day along the same lines with memorizing scripture. I walk to and from my mailbox often (it’s only about 150 yes or so) daily for exercise while repeating my Bible verses, and it’s definitely easier remembering the words in context and your explaining/interpretation you give in your weekly posts have helped so much. (Admittedly, I have been distracted this week and I’m stuck on Colossians 1:5, but I will try to stay focused with more purposeful intent :slight_smile:

And I have been practicing on my husband and whomever happens to be in the kitchen at the time I’m there too :grin:

Thank you Tim for all you do!

(Tim Ramey) #6

Tabitha, just think how much more valuable are the thoughts and the words that you spend time thinking and saying as opposed to what you would be saying and thinking otherwise! I am ashamed as I think of how I wasted my thought life thinking about “nothings.” Of course I’m not suggesting that we always have to be in His Word, but what a way that He has redeemed a lot of our time.

(Tabitha Gallman) #7

Amen Tim, lol, funny thing…my husband is always telling me “It must be very tiring being you.” (he’s referring to my constant over-thinking, getting on rabbit trails and always thinking in cynical ways. One of my constant prayers is for God to clear my mind because that is the enemy’s strategy in my spiritual life.

(Billie Corbett) #8


Thank you.
The bible should be read straight through regularly. Only in knowing what is in all of the scriptures, can we understand the themes, the history, the integrated whole from beginning to end.
Then, we can truly understand, that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. That God doesn’t change.
Only then, can we see the nature and character of God, as He has chosen to reveal Himself.

Modern believers tend to stay out of the Old Testament too much.
The New Testament confirms the truth of the Old. It is build upon the firm foundation of the law and the prophets. Jesus said, he came not to destroy the law and prophets, but to fulfill them. Believers need to know what that means, to understand the person of Jesus.

(Jimmy Sellers) #9

What about Wright do you think might be wrong? Just curious.

(Tabitha Gallman) #10

I am ashamed to say that I have been a skeptic of N.T. Wright only out of ignorance. That ignorance was from an assumption that his eschatological views didn’t align with mine while I was reading his book “Simply Good News”. Honestly, I never finished reading it because of my systematic theological thinking (as I understand that to be the most reasonable explanation now that I know what that means):grinning:. My hermeneutical process (?) was not right. I am willing to read that book with a little more knowledge under my belt.

(Tim Ramey) #11

Tabitha, this could be never ending but the Lord got hold of me with Philippians 4:8&9. What I thought about became so important. You are wise seeing that the enemy uses your thought-life because, I really think, that’s where most sin begins. Your husband sounds like my wife as she feels the same way about me - that I’m always thinking.

Don’t you rejoice over this group that we share? I tell Nancy that I love you guys so much. I’m blessed to have gotten to know you. If we ever get your way, it’s be fun to meet you and your husband. I like to finally “see” who I’ve been talking to. I’ve scared people off that way so I’m not trying to come off too strong but hopefully you know what I’m talking about. You probably will never get our way because we are in such a remote area - a destination place.

(Tim Ramey) #12

Oops - my mind was in the memorization thread! Sorry Tabitha. Now I’ve not only gone off track but am out in left field. Sorry all - wrong thread!

(Tabitha Gallman) #13

Absolutely, if y’all are ever coming through N. GA, let us know. We would love to meet y’all too :grinning:

(Tim Ramey) #14

I heartily agree with all that you said. In fact, our church wanted to have a devotional for Lent that was written by 40 of us in the church. There was a choice of 2 NT Scriptures and 1 OT so I chose the OT for the very reason that you said - we aren’t in it enough.

The lodge that we run has international students and we have a Bible study for them in the summer but we start with Genesis and go over the Old Testament a bit because for the ones from China, etc, they don’t know about Jesus and He begins in the Old Testament.

(Billie Corbett) #15

Hi Tim,

To my way of thinking, if we believe that the scriptures are the WORD of GOD…then it would behoove us to know all of what God has said and revealed to us.

Communication is about knowing and understanding. GOD, the SOVEREIGN LORD has communicated Himself to us! He wants us to know HIM and to understand what we can know of HIM in this fallen broken world.

Imagine how you would feel if your wife had no interest in listening to you when you spoke to her. If she had no desire to know you intimately, as the unique person you are. If she didn’t want to understand the meaning of your words …or the intentions of your heart.

God has spoken…it behooves us to be all ears and listen.
Not listening to God’s word was what got us into this mess in the first place!

I know how it grieves me when those I love turn their backs on me, and don’t heed or take seriously anything I have to say.

Jesus, please help me (and all your children) to listen to your word, to your voice and to follow you.

John 17: 3 “Now this is life eternal, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

(Tim Ramey) #16

What super illustrations you gave Billie. Please don’t take my statement as a judgement on “those out there” but it does seem that many Christians see of value in the Old Testament are the Psalms. In fact, the last two movie that I saw both had someone giving their pocket Bible to another and in both cases, it was the Psalms and the New Testament.

Do you think Billie, that we often have a the Bible presenting two gods. There is the god who is hard, gnarly and judgmental in the Old Testament and a push-over, soft, loving god of the New Testament? I heard an RZIM speaker, I think Michael Ramsden, who said that the Trinity talks at the end of the Old Testament and says, “Look guys, we need a change of plans. What we are doing isn’t working. The condemning, unforgiving god has to go. Let’s start being the nice and loving.”

(Carson Weitnauer) #17

Hi @Tim_Ramey, can you provide some more context on this recollection of something Michael Ramsden said? I’m curious to better understand what was meant?

(Billie Corbett) #18

Hello Tim,

To my mind, there are a few reasons for the lopsided view of NT/OT scripture. Part of this has come about by late 20th century views on end times and evangelism.
During the Reformation, the whole of scripture was to be received in faith, as being the whole counsel of God. The scripture were viewed as God’s revelation of Himself throughout the history of humanity… into the transition of the New Covenant…God with us, in the person of his Son.
The book of Hebrews is so important to believers in setting forth the continuity of the Old Testament (Covenant) into the New Testament (Covenant.)

Mixed in with this subtle divorcing of the Old Testament from the New Testament within mainstream Christianity…is the secular view of “love”.
Throughout, the OLD testament…God’s consistently reveals His love…It is in the garden after the fall, it is revealed in Noah, it is revealed in the promise made to Abraham…”In thy seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed.” We have faith and confidence in Jesus…based on the promise made to Abraham. We see God’s love throughout His relationship with the nation of Israel. We see His love toward the ungodly, pagan nations, in that He did not destroy them, “until their iniquity was full”…meaning there was no longer any hope of them turning from the corruptness, the vileness of their ways.
I would like to park on this for a bit, to illustrate what I mean. I have been no different than anyone else in wondering about the whole sale slaughter of people groups in the Old Testament… It seemed incongruent with a God of Love. Then, in my walk as a believer, I began to experience the long term effects of the sins of my fathers…generational sin…Intense misery, bondage, grief, sorrow, inability to function “normally”. I pleaded with God to “take me out” and I came close to taking myself out because the mental/ emotional suffering and pain was beyond my ability to cope with. I wrestled and struggled with God. I earnestly questioned…in my agony…”why me?” “I haven’t done what my forefathers have done…and I am suffering the consequences…” Other believers could not relate to the hell I was going through. But, God is sooo faithful. I asked and he eventually answered all my questions. I could see from my own personal experience how very painful, (really quite impossible) it was for me to live “normally”, and that was with His saving grace. I began to look back on those Old Testament stories and see them in a different light.
God allowed things to go to a point…then, that was it! He knew without the power of Christ in the gospel…there was no recovering from the wickedness that children were growing up in…and that they could and would only become as vile and corrupt…There wouldn’t be any other option for them.

Take for instance the increasing sexual abuse and exploitation of children in our present time. I am one of those…and I know…it is a living hell and totally destroys vast parts of a developing human being. Those who seek to rescue expolited children know…it is very difficult to bring them back from the wholesale damage done to their psyche.
Now think of a pagan culture…of generations of this type of wickedness, generation after generation, one after another…deeper and deeper into the horror. I believe God was merciful in destroying those cultures. Their lives were abominable! (Even to themselves.) There would have been no good…just misery.
As I reflect on these thoughts, I am glad that God in His infinite wisdom removed the evil …even it if meant removing many souls in the process. Evil is a contagion…
We lock people up in prison…because we know some people will not cease from doing evil and will destory many other lives in the process.
As a culture we feel completely justified in doing so, for the good of those who are not a danger to others.
So, let’s move on…God continued to show his love…over and over to the nation of Israel…even in his judgements and chastisements. He kept His Word and has fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Issac and Jacob…in Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us, was born of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit, so he would not inherit Adam’s sin nature…He lived a perfect, sinless life, for us…because we cannot…He laid down His life for us…so, our sin nature might be put to death in him…and He rose again, because sin had no claim on him! The resurrection proves…his sinlessness…Death could not hold him…Now he lives in heaven to intercede for us…Plus, in his great love he has poured out His Holy Spirit into the hearts of all believers…
God’s love…His justice, His mercy, His righteousness, His goodness, His kindness, His faithfulness, His power…manifest…throughout the OLD and New Testament. Do we hsve a better Testament than the Old…Absolutely! But, let’s not diminish the whole counsel of God…
Withiut the Old…there cannot be the New!
Right now, I am not able to provide all the scripture references, for what Inhave said…as I am away from that resource…But, as we know from Ephesians, God planned before the creation of the world, to reveal his love to us in Christ.

(ThomasHeld) #19

Hi Billie,

@Billie Thank you for sharing your testimony. Powerful and filled with so much love, truth and insight.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” Romans 8:37.

God bless, you.

(Tabitha Gallman) #20

Wow @Billie I agree, what a wonderful testimony and I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our daily lives as the scripture you have referenced I read just this morning in my Bible study of the OT. I am in the book of Joshua ch. 2 and the story of Rahab opened my eyes to what you are talking about.

Joshua sent two spies into Canaan and Rahab hid them and verses 8-10 read:“Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have hear how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Rahab was referring to an event that happened over 40 years (40 years God gave the people of Canaan time to turn to him). But there’s more time actually because 420 years before this God told Abraham in Genesis 15:16 “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Wow!!! And another thing I learned is that Rahab is in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5).

God is Good - all the time!