Part 4 in a 4 part series. View series intro and index.
The world is full of stories. Romantic stories. Dramatic stories. Sports stories. Horror stories. Adventure stories. Fantasy stories. We tell stories because we are created in God’s image. God is the divine storyteller, so it only makes sense that we would mimic him in our telling, writing, and acting stories.
If this is true–that we are reflections of God’s creative genius, which naturally expresses itself in storytelling–then every story outside of the Bible even relates to the gospel message, the climax of God’s redemptive story. You might say, “Can’t a story just be good in itself?” Maybe, but ultimately we will ask ourselves why we love victories in the face of affliction; why we long for protagonists who squish the antagonist; and why we always want a happy ending.
When we ask these questions and more, we start to realize that the fact is not simply that we love stories, but rather that we need stories. We need stories to understand how life works. We need stories to understand why we are the way we are. We need stories to understand why the world is the way it is. We need stories to understand what it takes to be rescued. This insight helps us realize that there aren’t “secular” and “Christian” stories. If God is the ultimate storyteller, then every story is a footnote in his grand, redemptive story told in the Bible.
Every story can be redeemed, even “bad” stories about rape, murder, hatred, and sexual immorality. Those stories–perhaps more than others–make us long for Hero who never fails and never forgets and never injures and never does injustice and never speaks foolishly. What about stories that seem to give false hope by neatly wrapping up everything in 90 minutes or 300 pages? Don’t those stories make us say, “I wish that were true”? Those stories make us long for Someone who will one day wrap everything up and judge the world with equity.
Great stories touch our heart and change us. They don’t change us because they give us a list of rules to follow. No one loves a story that says, “Be a nice sibling.” No, stories change us because (nearly always) some hero captivates and conquers our hearts. That is what the Bible is about. As Sally Lloyd-Jones has written, “When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done!”
The Bible is God’s magnificent story. Every other story–fanciful or true–is oriented to and grounded in it. Our stories point to the gospel story, which makes possible the dream we never thought could come true: one Hero who has accomplished final victory for us and promised eternal happiness to us. Once we get this, the “footnotes” of daily life that we read, hear, see, and experience will remind us of the infinite treasures of God’s kindness to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are several resources to help you learn how to read the Bible contextually and with a gospel-centered lens. These will also help you to think critically about so-called “secular” stories.
- God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
- How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael Williams
- Gospel and Kingdom (in The Goldsworthy Trilogy) by Graeme Goldsworthy
- Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright
- “Questions to Ask of Films” by John Frame [This can be adapted to help understand all kinds of stories.]