Saturday, October 21, 2006

Finding Our Place in the Story of History

“The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories…But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of subcreation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien; The Tolkien Reader

The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact…It happens—at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences…By becoming fact it does not cease to by myth: that is the miracle.” ~ C.S. Lewis; Mere Christianity

The power of story is great. It has the power to make us believe things that we never would have thought possible, to dream things that are bigger than ourselves, and to understand the desire of our hearts. For both Tolkien and Lewis it was story which gave real meaning to the world.

Story can take on many forms. For Tolkien and Lewis they were primary concerned with myth and legend. For our society today we are concerned with the visual stories on television and the movie screen. The reason these things are so seductive, the reason they pull us in is because they are able to show us glimpses of the life we were created to live.

One of primary thoughts John Eldredge puts forth in his books is that the stories that we love reveal to us the desires God has created in us. For example I love the movies Gladiator and The Magnificent Seven. Why? Because I long to have the courage that is displayed by Maximus and Chris (the leader of the Seven). I love The Last of the Mohicans. Why? Because I desire to be the one who rescues the Beauty from the hands of the enemy. God uses story to help us discover the longings of our hearts.

But the greatest story God uses, the one He used to reveal to us Himself, is History. History is the account of God working in this world. Notice how both Tolkien and Lewis recognize the importance of History. When we neglect the study of History, when we make stories just about us, we miss out on what God desires us to know. It is through the study and telling of History that we come face to face with the God who is seeking to redeem all of creation.

This idea of History as God’s story was very important to the first century Jew, and thus it needs to be very important to us:
This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and honorable fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he moved to Haran” (Acts 7:2; NLT).
Stephen goes on to give a short account of History to illustrate that Jesus was indeed the One God promised long ago.
So Paul stood, lifted his hand to quiet them, and started speaking. “People of Israel,” he said, “and devout Gentiles who fear the God of Israel, listen to me” (Acts 13:16; NLT).
From that introduction Paul tells a summarized version of God working through History to bring salvation to people. Paul reminded the people of the Story they were a part of.

If we are going to reach people in this post-modern, post-Christian, and pagan age that we live in we need to return to Story. People are not going to be motivated to change because we can list 20 virtues for Christian living. Lives will not be transformed if we allow ourselves to be pulled into senseless philosophical or scientific debates. Change will only occur when people come to realize they have fallen into a story, and how they live determines what type of character they will be.

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