scripture: principles or narrative?

Does anyone think there is an problem when we treat the Bible as a set of principles?

After all, the Bible as a whole forms not a constitution but a narrative.

Stories are beautiful things. They draw us into their world and have  the potential to convey experiences. This transmission leads us in turn to partake of these experiences.

Stories thus preclude abstraction. It is somewhat unnatural to spin a story into an abstract esotericism.

None of this is to say that drawing principles from the Bible is necessarily bad. However maybe we need more care and humility; care that we do not profane the beauty of the narrative with constitutional exegesis, and humility so that we do not think our principles to be as inspired as the narrative (we can always be wrong).

Of course there are parts of the Bible that are more given to the derivation of principles – proverbs, the epistles – though is it not also true that such texts find their place in the larger narrative of God’s action in history, much like a monologue in a movie.

Perhaps we should worry less about drawing principles from the Bible, which are almost always altered by our worldview as they pass from the text to current reality. Perhaps we should worry more about letting the narrative of the Bible draw us into its world, so they we might partake of its reality and bring this experience to bear on our world.


Posted on February 14, 2011, in Biblical Studies, Hermeneutics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree with you here Matt. I get frustrated with hearing too many sermons that have… now I am going to give you 3, 4 , 5, 10 points and principals in which you can live your lives better….

    The opposite extreme also seems to be also true in that we preach not so much principals, rather we preach / believe and make a series of propositions in which we believe the foundation of our life.

    While I believe we do need to have some propositional truth for our foundation along with having some principals for living… what causes the alarm bells to ring for me; is when we think if we do this, this and that…then this, this and this will happen… and our lives fall apart and we have a crisis of faith when it doesn’t… and it is here that we find the narrative works as we live out the narrative of walking with God…..

    Propositions and principals may tell us that we should love…but its within the narrative story we find / experience the truth that we are loved and can and are given the opportunity to love and show / receive grace, mercy, blessing etc…..

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