Narrative in Christianity

“Stories, hymns, histories, parables, and visions become as important as commandments and ethical teachings in molding the faith perspective through which we view our broken world and seek to mediate God’s healing.”

—Bruce C. Birch

Stories, whether through written or oral tales or through song, play a significant role in Christianity. God’s flawless story is told through the narratives of humans in a broken world. This is shown primarily through two examples: the Bible and church.

Stories can simplify abstract ideas by adding tangibility, but this does not mean they are easily interpreted. For example, the tale of Biblical creation is debated among theologians and scientists alike. However, the purpose of the creation story is to introduce the Creator. The two creation accounts, Genesis 1 and 2, each show “a different side of our faith understanding of God as Creator, and a lack of either would leave us with an impoverished and incomplete theology of creation. In Genesis 1 the stress in on the absolute sovereignty of God….Genesis 2:4b-9 balances the picture with a stress on the relatedness of God,” according to Bruce C. Birch in What Does the Lord Require? The Old Testament Call to Social Witness. No matter where one falls on the spectrum of evolution and creation, Christians must recognize the significance of the creation story and what it reveals about the nature of God.

Fellowship is largely defined by the sharing of songs and stories by a community of Christians. Consider the hobbits; they share stories about the familiar comfort of the Shire. This creates a community within the Shire that makes them feel protected. The stories and songs they share engender an appreciation for their home and culture. In the same way, Donald Opitz says, “as Christians, surrounding by so many competing stories and songs, it is vital that we gather at least once a week to tell the stories and sing the songs that make us a distinct people.” Worship, hymns, testimonies, and Bible study are examples of stories and creativity uniting Christians in fellowship.

This is not to say that stories and songs trump commandments, only that they are both powerful instruments in the hands of God. The Bible would be incomplete without the Song of Solomon or Psalms, but the Ten Commandments play an equally vital role. Jesus gave his followers both commandments (“love thy neighbor as thyself”) but also parables in order that they might know Him better. It should come as no surprise that the Author of life expresses himself to us through these various narratives. Whether they are sung, written, read, or passed through generations, much of our understanding of God’s creation comes from our own creation.

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