Theology 101

The Four-Chapter Gospel: The Grand Metanarrative Told by the Bible

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1)

 

The Book of Genesis opens with the account of creation, the start of the most encompassing story that will ever be told. One of the reasons many Christians do not fully comprehend the biblical concepts of work, calling, and vocation is because we have lost the vision of the grand metanarrative told by the Bible. This metanarrative includes Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. It is called the Four-Chapter Gospel.

This comprehensive, grand narrative of Scripture has been neglected for several reasons. First, we have so dissected and compartmentalized the Bible that we have lost sight of its great overarching story. As a result, bits and pieces of the Bible are absorbed into the prevailing cultural story, which then supplants the Bible as the story which shapes our lives. Only the unified biblical narrative has the authority to enable us to withstand the competing humanist narrative currently shaping our culture.

Second, postmodernism embraces an almost fanatical suspicion of metanarratives, rejecting the absolutes they proclaim. The belief is that metanarratives of the past contain controlling stories that have failed us. For example, postmodernism suggests both capitalism and communism failed to explain our world and have shown to be oppressive, self-serving stories that, in some cases, have brought misery to millions.

Christopher Wright in his book The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, suggests that within postmodernist thought,

There is no grand narrative that explains everything, and any claims that there is some truth for all that embraces the totality of life and meaning are rejected as oppressive power plays.

Yet, postmodernism has its own metanarrative, since the death of the metanarrative is itself a metanarrative.

Third, the Bible’s metanarrative is not only suspect, it’s also politically incorrect. Not because it tells the wrong story, but because it tells a story and claims it to be the most important one. The Christian metanarrative with its perceived exclusivity and intolerance would seem to be a hard sell in the 21st century.

For 2,000 years, the church has struggled with multiple cultural contexts, yet as Wright says,

it has sustained the conviction that there is an objective truth for all in the gospel that addresses the claims of people in any context.

Therefore, we as Christians reject the postmodern notion that there is no single metanarrative. The story of the Bible clearly presents one over-arching narrative in the story that starts in the garden and ends in a City of God, the New Jerusalem. The New Testament tells us this story reaches its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Bible begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things, and in between it offers an interpretation of the meaning of all history. In The New Testament and the People of God, N.T. Wright says that the divine drama told in Scripture “offers a story which is the story of the whole world. It is public truth.” It is the only story that explains the way things were (Creation), the way things are (Fall), the way things could be (Redemption) and the way things will be (Restoration). The biblical metanarrative makes a comprehensive claim on all humanity, calling each one of us to find our place in his story.

Question: What metanarrative are you living within? Is it worth living and dying for? Leave a comment.

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