The Narrative Character

The Narrative Character of our Faith

“Too many Christians are just pious versions of Ulysses Everett McGill protagonist in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou]; that is, too many Christians have bought into the modernist valorization of scientific facts and end up reducing Christianity to just another collection of propositions. Our beliefs are encapsulated in ‘statements of faith’ that simply catalog a collection of statements about God, Jesus, the Spirit, sin, redemption, and so on. Knowledge is reduced to biblical information that can be encapsulated and encoded. And so, in more ways than one, our construal of the Christian faith has capitulated to modernity and what Lyotard calls its ‘computerization’ of knowledge, indicating a condition wherein any knowledge that cannot be translated into a simple ‘code’ or reduced to ‘data’ is abandoned. But isn’t it curious that God’s revelation to humanity is given not as a collection of propositions or facts but rather within a narrative — a grand, sweeping story from Genesis to Revelation? Is there not a sense in which we’ve forgotten that God’s primary vehicle for revelation is a story unfolded within the biblical canon?”

James K.A. Smith, PhD., Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?; pp. 74-75.
Lyotard’s “computerization of knowledge” reminds my of Polanyi’s “Tacit Knowing.”

“This is why the Scriptures must remain central for the postmodern church, for it is precisely the story of the canon of Scripture that narrates our faith… The narrative character of our faith should affect not only our proclamation and witness but also our worship and formation. …we need to know the story, and that story should be communicated when we gather as the people of God, that is, in worship. That is why the most postmodern congregations will be those that learn to be ancient, reenacting the biblical narrative. Just as Lyotard’s account of narrative knowledge shows a link between premodern and postmodern, so worship in postmodernity (which appreciates the role of narrative) should signal a recovery of liturgical tales — the narrating of creation, fall, redemption (as well as crucifixion, burial, and resurrection) in the very manner in which we worship.” (pp.75-76)

They kept saying, “Show us a sign. Give us proof. Then, we will believe.” And He responded always, “No.”