Why is Scripture a Story?

Last week, I wrote about how it is a common misconception that the Bible is a series of do’s and don’ts. In reality, the Bible is primarily stories. The majority of the Old Testament comes to us in narrative form. The first five books of the New Testament comes to us in the form of stories as well. The Bible is far from being primarily a book of rules and laws. While there are many directives in scripture, the most important parts of the Bible come to us in the form of stories.

Why did God do this?

I think if most of us were to write our own “sacred text,” we would probably come up with various rules, regulations, directives for worship and sacred practices, and then maybe top the whole thing off with a set of Proverbs. Sure there are some really creative types in the world who could write poetry and make it all sound better than a plain set of rules, but at the heart it would be rules. God chooses to do something different, he uses stories, and not just parables and fables, but real life stories of people who rarely get it right.

I’m not an expert, but here’s why I believe God did this, because it reflects life. N. T. Wright  writes, “The Bible, then, is designed to function through human beings, through the church, through people who, living still by the Spirit, have their life molded by this Spirit-inspired book.” God’s word is about real life and affects our daily lives. It’s not a series of abstract rules, but a guide for life. Wright describes this the function of scripture in the context of an uncompleted Shakespeare play.

booksImagine that we lost the ending to one of Shakespeare’s great plays. How would we know the end? Wright suggests, “it is felt inappropriate to actually write a fifth act once and for all: it would freeze the play into one form and commit Shakespeare, as it were, to being responsible for work not in fact his own. Better, it might be felt, to give the key parts to highly trained, sensitive, and experienced Shakespearian actors, who would immerse themselves in the first four acts and in the language and culture of Shakespeare and his time, and who would then be told to work out a fifth act for themselves.”

This Bible then is the beginning of the human story that we are still living out under the leadership of our great director, producer, and author of life. God has given the pages of scripture as the beginning of the story and set the stage for us to continue the play that he has started. He’s still involved and intervening, but to a certain extent allows us to live out the continuing story of God’s people on earth with the Bible as his authoritative guide for continuing that story. The Bible then creates a “rule of life” under God’s authority instead of rules for life. Wright continues, “the creator and covenant God uses this book as his means of equipping and calling the church for (covenant) tasks.” It is up to us to soak in the story of scripture so that, “By soaking ourselves in scripture, in the power and strength and leading of the Spirit, in order that we may then speak freshly and with authority to the world of this same creator God.”

The challenge then is, do we know God’s word well enough to live out the story that began thousands of years ago?

6 thoughts on “Why is Scripture a Story?

  1. calebtrimble 03/04/2014 / 3:59 pm

    I really like the idea of living out the story rather than the rules. It has always been interesting to me that God instructed the Israelites to tell His stories to their children. God’s commands were not separate from the stories. Good words.

    • Peter S. 03/06/2014 / 9:10 am

      I think the idea of retelling stories has been greatly missed in scripture. Throughout the early books of the Bible God commands people to retell the stories of deliverance. I even think that communion serves the same sort of function. We stop on a regular basis and retell the story of Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and return. Even to share the Gospel is to share the story of Jesus. We forget that the most important parts of our faith are found in story and not in the sections of rules. It’s like the rules are the commentary on the story not the other way around.

  2. jesseevans 03/13/2014 / 9:26 pm

    Rules are fundamental to understanding the story. Even in the garden there was one rule. Don’t Eat of that tree. Everything else was permissible and good. But your right, the bible is way more than do’s and don’ts. The story also makes more since with rules. Just like nature makes since with natural laws.

    • Peter S. 03/14/2014 / 10:14 am

      Yes, the story comes with rules, but many see only the rules without the story. The story is crucial. Especially, since the Gospel doesn’t come to us in rules, it comes in the Story of Jesus Christ. I am certainly not advocating for removing the rules. Jesus himself gives us the “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 to love one another as he loved us. Obedience to this commandment even marks us as his disciples. Thank you for your comment, I would never say that the Bible is without commands and directives.

      • jesseevans 03/14/2014 / 4:31 pm

        I didn’t mean to imply that you would not understand that. Any one with a decent grasp knows that “rules” are all over. Because it is clear, God has something to say about how to life life in a way that brings life. Rules when set in their context come from a God who has revealed himself to have an outside perspective of a system he created. He knows what brings life and what tears down life. His rules work, which reveals that his “rules” are wonderful. David wrote about how wonderful they were. And Jesus also gave “rules” in his sermon on the mount. Rules remind us that God knows what is good and what is not, we know what is good and bad (the wrong tree) but we have a limited perspective. God would not be good with out some help as to what we should and should not be doing.

      • Peter S. 03/16/2014 / 7:40 am

        I’m sorry, Jess. I wasn’t trying to disagree or debate you. I appreciated your comment and I was trying to agree with you that we shouldn’t forget the rules when looking at the whole story.

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