These Living in The Story essays talk a lot about how to read and reread, how to interpret and reinterpret Scripture. I hope you can tell the Bible is precious to me. I hope you can see how much I respect its power to reveal truth about who we are as humans; how much I believe that God continues to speak a current word through these odd and ancient words. I believe the Bible is true.
But then we still have some stories that are just flat weird . . .
The ancients who wrote these documents did not operate within our modern understanding of science, they did not conceive of history in the same way we do, they did not write their stories in line with Enlightenment standards of rationality. The ancients were storytellers.
Story is how we humans probe the truth of our existence, it’s how we discover and discern what is real and true about our shared humanity. Story is a time-honored way to make sense of who we are as humans, where we come from, why we’re here, and what is the meaning of life; it’s a way to watch for intersections with the Holy. As my theologian husband wisely said:
Sometimes folk tales have been incorporated into the text of the Bible. No one ever thought or intended that these folk tales should be taken as factual.
They’re morality fables: a talking snake, a talking donkey, a great fish that swallows and then spits out a man unharmed, rude boys getting their come-uppance from two mama bears, two thousand pigs rushing headlong over a cliff because a demon named Legion has been sent into them (don’t you know the people who first heard this tale chuckled at the similarity of the pigs to their hated Roman oppressors?).
Different genres are embedded within the various stories in the texts making up the Bible, and these stories bear witness to a people’s living faith in a living God. . . .
Faithful believers can believe in Creator’s overarching interconnection with creation without believing God personally manufactures tailor-made consequences for every action.
We can believe in Creator’s supreme power at the same time we believe in the human power of choice.
We can believe in Creator’s overarching movement for reconciliation and ultimate justice within creation all the while enduring the reality of injustice prevalent in our world.
And we can trust that all our stories (no matter how weird) can still be used by the Creator of The Story to offer hope: to point to and bear witness to God.
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle, Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace. (387-397) Resource Publications.
Living in The Story readings for Week 34
Image credit: Bears savaging the youths. From a French Manuscript