If Christianity is the Story We Are In, Of Course
Paula and I have played around with so many ways of organizing this research material. But in the end, we came to see that this is the place we must start. For everything we discovered hangs on it.
Is your God the Great Storyteller?
Does the question strike you as an odd question of minimal importance? Off point, or too focused on the parables of Jesus?
Or, maybe it strikes you as so obvious, it’s not worth even asking?
Or, maybe you feel skeptical, like I’m showing your God disrespect, or trying to reduce your God down to less than he is? Maybe I’m trying to frame him as some innocuous teller of fairy tales, like some bearded grandpa in a rocker, smoking a pipe by the fireplace, spinning tall tales for the children?
Paula is laughing as I write this, for the things that we’ve discovered about your God are so far from this picture, it is literally laughable.
But we are asking the question quite seriously…
Is your God the Great Storyteller?
Okay, I know on some level it’s a strange question, and at first, it was weird for me to ask too.
And you can understand my difficulty. After all, I’m a Chinese agent and secularist, exploring the possibility that Christianity is the story we are in. And I was under so much pressure. Even my Uncle gave me a warning in the original assignment memo…
But, you are now assigned to head up a very special unit related to this matter. Your unit is tasked with exploring the question through a rather unique lens — which you are probably going to hate:
What if Christianity is
the story we are in?
But you should also know that some of our key players are rather uncomfortable with even giving you this assignment. They wonder at times if some of your team – or perhaps even you – will be tempted in a very personal way to consider entertaining the possibility Christianity might really be the story we are in. They fear that if you let yourselves go too far down that road, you may begin to fall for those fairy tales and betray the Party.
So, I’d be very careful if I were you, Nephew! It would be easy to make a misstep in this delicate situation. But to help guard you from their criticism, I also want you, as you go forward with this assignment, to see if you can learn anything which may help us to stop the spread of Christianity in China.
That made me so depressed. I knew I didn’t have the skills to help the Party come to see how it could stifle the growth of Christianity in China. And I was afraid that Shih Tzu would play his revenge game and turn the Party against me. And against my Uncle.
But, Paula helped me see that I could not just keep pushing my Uncle’s directive away, if I wanted to be loyal to my Uncle. I had to explore the question ‘Will the United States Survive Until 2025?’ through this lens:
Is it the Christian Story we are in?
And so, as we studied Robert McKee, our eyes were opened and we began to see, that, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is the Great Storyteller.
I mean no disrespect. After all, look what your Bible says about Jesus…
Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….Colossians 2:2-3
If Christianity is the story we are in, it would mean Jesus is the Great Storyteller.
No one else could do it better than him.
In fact, I’m expressing the opposite of disrespect. Consider this insight from your cowboy maverick, Dallas Willard…
But can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what Christian’s take him to be in other respects and not be the best informed and most intelligent person of all: the smartest person who ever lived, bringing us the best information on the most important subjects.
What lies at the heart of the astonishing disregard of Jesus found in the moment-to-moment existence of multitudes of professing Christians is a simple lack of respect for him. He is not seriously taken to be a person of great ability. But what then can devotion or worship mean, if simple respect is not included in it.
By contrast, the early Christians, who took the power of God’s life in Jesus to all quarters of the earth, thought of Jesus as one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3 NAS) They thought of him as master of every domain of life.“Who is Your Teacher?” by Dallas Willard
And look at this…
Paul offers a cosmic picture of Christ as God’s end: God created all things for (eis) Christ (Col. 1:16), so that he, Christ, might be preeminent in everything (Col. 1:18). If Christ is to be preeminent in everything, then he should be preeminent in philosophy and in every other academic discipline, too.Paul Moser, The Severity of God
Preeminent in every academic discipline. Do you Christians believe that?
And look how all this connects with the simple story question: Who are we, here in the story?
[T]he best explanation for why we make architecture and jokes, sculptures and gardens, stories and mythical creatures, is because we bear the image of a God who is the master creator, comedian, and storyteller.Paul Gould, Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World
That guy is on to something.
And Paula Wong showed us this passage out of your New Testament book of Romans…
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.Romans 11:33-36
And so, we began to wonder.
If Christianity is the story we are in, what if your God is up to something with story?
What if he does communicate through story?
When our Creator — the designer of the human mind — set out to reveal himself to the humans he created, he chose to do so not in bulleted lists of facts or lengthy doctrinal exposition, but in story.Hope in Neverland: How God’s Story Shapes Our Own, By Jed Ostoich, DTS Magazine, June 27th, 2018
And what if you Christians have missed something big? Because this comment got our attention…
Most people are not doing what it takes in order to see what is true. If an astronomer refused to use a telescope or a biologist refused to use a microscope, we would regard such people as having, at best, incomplete knowledge in their fields.Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
…at best, incomplete knowledge in their fields… is what Damick says.
And check out how this fits with that…
I was reluctant to use the word stupidity as the opposite of wisdom because it has such a fuzzy feeling in the mind. We’ve heard “stupid” so many times that we lose the core meaning of the word. So it’s worth reiterating its core meaning:
Stupidity means that no matter the information available, one is incapable of or unwilling to understand. Stupidity is resolute.
Ignorance on the other hand is a temporary unknowing due to lack of information. Once the information is available, though, the ignorant become enlightened and gain wisdom.Unknown Unknowns, by Shawn Coyne
Are you unwilling to understand? Because Paula showed us this, from one of her favorite basketball players…
Just seven games into the season, LeBron James is starting to run out of patience with the mistakes of his young Los Angeles Lakers teammates.
“We talk about patience but you can’t have reoccurrence of the same thing,” James told reporters after the loss to the Timberwolves. “If you are doing the same things over and over and over and expecting the same result then that’s insanity.
“So we have to get better. We can’t keep having the same mistakes over and over.”Inexperienced Lakers starting to wear on LeBron, Reuters, October 30, 2018
And then Paula showed us this…
When secular thinkers tell the history of humankind as a story of progress, they flatter themselves that they embody the progress of which they speak. At the same time, they confirm that their view of the world has been inherited from monotheism. It was only with the invention of Christianity that a history of humankind began to be told. Before that point, there was no universal history.John Gray, Seven Types of Atheism
So, since you have ignored or pushed away taking a serious look at the possibility your God is the Great Storyteller, who has given humanity the very kind of story they deeply desire, we wanted to show you this insight from Robert McKee, just to see whether it would catch your attention…
The storyteller’s selection and arrangement of events is his master metaphor for the interconnectedness of all levels of reality — personal, political, environmental, spiritual. Stripped of it characterization and location,story structure reveals his personal cosmology, his insights into the deepest patterns and motivations for how and why things happen in this world – his map of life’s hidden order.Robert McKee, Story
And if Christianity is the story we are in, it seems to connect with what these guys are saying…
The biblical story from Genesis to Revelation is a great drama, a great saga, a play written by the living God and staged in his wonderful creation… It is not our play; it is God’s play….Freedom and Framework, Spirit and Truth: Recovering Biblical Worship, by N.T. Wright
It’s a play; your God’s play.
And look at this Koukl guy, tying together ‘worldview’ with story…
It is the Story the Storyteller himself has enabled us to discover from the clues he’s left behind for everyone to see, and from the words he has spoken for those who will pay attention to them. It contains all the right parts of a complete worldview, and all the parts of a good story. Moreover, it helps us to see the role we play in the drama.Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality
Now check out this James Sire guy. He’s so important. He may have gone through a significant change since he wrote The Universe Next Door. So, is he suggesting to his brothers and sisters in Christ to transition away from ‘worldview’ and embrace story?
I have argued that the Christian worldview begins with ontology – an abstract concept, but soon ontology becomes lodged in story form. The ancient Apostles Creed demonstrates this… Only the first line is utterly ontological. The second line brings in action and while it does not take a position on whether creation was in or out of time, it recognizes God as origin of the earth. It is in the fourth line that roots the Christian worldview in story…. The remainder of the creed is steeped in story.
When one turns to the Bible itself, the ground of all Christian theologies – Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox – the element of story is even stronger. Most of the Bible is story, and all of it is embedded in story– a history, a story of events that really happened (not just-so stories, or likely stories, or myths).James Sire, Naming the Elephant
So, this possibility that your God is the Great Storyteller seemed to us a great starting point. If we were going to continue with our crazy assignment, we couldn’t just push it away.
We couldn’t stay ignorant because of this crazy assignment. And because we didn’t stop here — our eyes then began to open and see why the story of the United States may be coming to its end. To show you how this connects, come further down the trail with us to the next question it made sense to ask…which became our next epiphany.