In the title of one of his very last books before his death, Robert Webber raised what he believed to be the most urgent question of our time: Who Gets to Narrate the World? He points to two challenges to the Christian narrative: the external threat of radical Islamic religious nationalism and the internal threat of Western cultural accommodation.
Webber suggests that God’s story, our story, is best captured in three words: creation, incarnation, and re-creation. What is fundamentally different about Christianity from any other religions is that grace is offered through Jesus Christ, who reconciles, rescues, and reverses the brokenness between God and humanity. God’s work of redemption accomplished through his Son makes it possible for sinners to be made right with God once again. Our salvation does not depend on our being made right with God through our good works. The Son of God, who is both Creator and Redeemer, by his coming to earth as the human child Jesus united the divine and the human/created order. Creation is also re-united with God through the incarnation of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus the chosen revealer of God should be the narrator of the world.
How has the story been getting lost?
- Reason and science divide the world into sacred and secular.
- Human concepts of reason, science, evolution, and progress replace the narrative of creation, incarnation, and re-creation. “The world can now be understood without God” (p. 88).
- Postmodern philosophy deconstructs all narratives and encourages us to make our own meaning based on truth being relative—in other words, “whatever.”
- New Age spirituality is a secular spirituality that encourages us to find our meaning in vague transcendent experiences.
- There has been a loss of scriptural roots, origins, heritage, and history with increased focus on self and our needs defined by marketers and a consumer-driven society
- Consumer-driven models of church practice are the result of individualistic values.
- The modern approach to the incarnation is a focus on personal salvation, not “the cosmic work of God in history.”
- God’s narrative is therefore being reduced to “social betterment” or one’s personal faith journey.
- With no universal rules and the denial of man being created in the image of God, moral decadence is on the rise.
- A new gnosticism has been made popular through such books as The Da Vinci Code and The Jesus Papers.
Webber suggests that much like the early Christian church scattered throughout the Roman world, we find ourselves in a land and time with no unified narrative, and yet those first Christians “narrated the world in a new way. They did not accommodate the faith to culture but set forth the faith in a countercultural way. In a world that had no set beliefs they proclaimed, ‘We believe.’ In a world that had no ethic, they proclaimed, ‘We behave.’ In a world where there was no belonging, they declared, ‘We belong’” (p. 51).
What are the implications of our loss of story for how nurture faith with students?
(Webber and other evangelicals have articulated a call encouraging Christians to return to the narrative of God’s Word – “A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future.”)