“See the Bible not as a repository of abstract doctrines but as a source of timely narratives that continue to shape our world today.” Center for Action and Contemplation
For centuries theologians have debated what it is exactly that Christians must believe in order to call themselves Christians. Typically, “right doctrine” has risen to head of the class. Do you believe in what is written in either the Apostle’s or Nicene Creeds? If so, you too have risen to head of the class. If not… oops… it may be the Highway to Hell.
Do Creeds Lead Us to Life?
Now, I have no problem with understanding and adopting either doctrinal or creedal statements. Personally, I too believe, for the most part, in doctrinal propositions of faith. However, I also believe these statements have little to do with my… what shall we say… salvation?
Now we are talking about an entirely different question: It is not what you believe as much as it is how you believe that offers insight into the purity of our personal faith. It’s sort of like saying, “If you call yourself a Follower of Jesus the Christ, then act like it.”
I really like the quote at the top of the page from the disciples of Richard Rohr at the CAC. They clearly state that abstract doctrines do not hold the same measure of significance as Bible Stories that tell us about the lives of all sorts of people trying to live out their beliefs every day.
Jesus: Story Teller
We are fond of pointing out that the clear preference of Jesus the Teacher was story telling. Even when he wasn’t telling a story, his teaching seemed to follow the story-telling model. His aim was about speaking to the heart more than to the head. He asked no one to recount a list of doctrines. Instead, he said “Let me tell you a story: The Kingdom of God is like…”
And then he proceeded with a story that impacted both heart and head, one that swept the listener away with grand thoughts of kindness and love and humility. Stuff that really matters.
And Then, Stories of King David
The literary device of “story” abounds in both Old and New Testaments. The stories of Kind David with Goliath and Bathsheba give insight into reliance on God as well as the shortcomings of God’s earthly king. Both true and both invaluable. The lessons of these stories don’t even require a teacher to “tell us what they mean.” The lessons are self-evident.
My mind goes to the intention of The Divine—what does God have in mind? Right doctrine or right behavior.
Experiences of Love
I vote for the latter. For in The Cloud of Unknowing, the 14th century anonymous author tells us that our prayers are far more profitable when seeking intimate love rather than not-so-intimate thought (or doctrine).
Intimacy with God is an experience of love. And the best way to communicate “experience” is via stories of love and frustration and transformation. Stories heal and bring us together. For me, such is the heart of the Gospel.
Stories Transform and Doctrines Set Boundaries
Both Are Essential
Photo courtesy of t:Boonyachoat at istockphoto