The article discusses the importance of understanding and embracing the true story found in the Bible amidst the multitude of competing narratives in our society. It highlights the impact of alternative stories on our worldview and urges readers to immerse themselves in the Christian narrative centered on Jesus Christ. By being rooted in the biblical story, individuals and communities can find their true identity, act more like Christ, and participate in God's mission of restoration.
Our world is a marketplace of stories all vying for our attention, affection, and allegiance. Consumerism, nationalism, free-market capitalism, communism, atheism, modernism, postmodernism, partisan politics, the American dream. The list goes on.
We only have room in our hearts for one core story, one fundamental operating framework for the world, who we are, why we’re here, and where things are going. We may find ways to fit elements of other narratives alongside or underneath our core story, but there can only be one story at the center of our heart. And the competition is fierce.
Here in America, the marketplace of stories is perhaps bigger and more varied than ever before. Our increasingly diverse and pluralistic society combined with the splintering of media brought on by cable TV, the internet, and social media means a torrent of various stories is coming at us from all angles all the time. We’re endlessly bombarded with proposed answers to the five basic questions that, according to theologian N. T. Wright and Michael Bird, in their book, The New Testament in Its World, make up a worldview:
Worldviews are often unstated and taken for granted, which makes them even more powerful. Introduced via our habits and the stories we passively absorb, they creep in through the back door of our consciousness, silently shaping how we see the world.
So, every time we watch a YouTube review for the latest tech gadget, every time we flick through Instagram and see that one influencer on yet another trip to the Caribbean, every time we come across a beer commercial featuring a group of friends laughing on a boat, we’re engaging in secular liturgies that do something to us. Every advertisement preaches a sermon about the good life, about happiness and fulfillment and pleasure, along with the silent accusation that this isn’t you, is it? But maybe it could be, if you just bought that thing.
It’s a simple story, but it’s one that disciples us into a kingdom that seeks to rival the kingdom of Christ. The kingdom of consumerism is built on alternative answers to the five questions listed above, directing our hearts to worship alternative gods. And it is merely one among the multitudes of stories we’re exposed to.
If we’re never taught the Bible contains the true story of the whole world, centered on the person of Jesus Christ, we will inevitably latch on to a story from somewhere else. A minimalized, summarized, and chopped-up version of Scripture can’t stand up to the onslaught of narratives offering us enticing explanations of who we are and what we’re here for. Without our even realizing it, the alternative stories become our core story, and we pick and choose the parts of the Bible that seem to fit into it. And in many corners of the American church, this is exactly what has happened.
If I had to diagnose the main source of the anemia, divisiveness, and confusion plaguing many Christians in America, it would be that we’ve lost our story. We’ve allowed ourselves to be discipled into alternative stories preached by cable news anchors, politicians, corporations, and social media feeds. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes in his book, A Way Other Than Our Own, that many of us have settled for a “generic U. S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.”
My generation and the generations behind us are walking away from the faith because we’re being shown a story that is muddy and incoherent at best and hypocritical at worst. We sing about the victory of Jesus on Sunday, then watch as people who claim to follow Christ participate in partisan politics just as feverishly and with just as much vitriol as everyone else. We listen to sermons about God’s restoration of all things, and then witness many believers who, unable to come to grips with anything but the most romantic version of our nation’s history, spit at the feet of those who claim they have been oppressed and mistreated during America’s rise to superpower status. Of course, this critique isn’t meant to absolve the younger generations of our responsibility. We have certainly chosen our own paths and allowed ourselves to get caught up in a myriad of alternative stories. My point is that there is a lot of room for improvement in how self-identified followers of Jesus tell and demonstrate the narrative of Scripture and the good news of Christ.
The Bible’s grand narrative has been reduced down to a bumper-sticker summary of creation-fall-Jesus-heaven and sequestered into the “spiritual” corner of our hearts and minds, while we leave the real operation of the world to the stories told by the world. How can we find our way out of this muck and mire? The first step, says Smith, is to become aware of our immersions. We need a “liturgical audit” of our day-to-day and week-to-week habits to see which stories we are absorbed in and what they’re doing to woo our hearts, capture our minds, and shape our imaginations. Where are you getting your stories during the majority of the week? What do these stories want you to worship? Who do they want you to love?
The second step, I would say, is to continually immerse ourselves in the Christian story that reorients us to the deepest, truest version of reality. There are numerous, important ways to do this, not the least of which is regular participation in corporate Christian worship.
If we’re going to stand up to the stories told by the world, we need to be rooted in the story found in Scripture, revolving around Christ. If we claim to follow Jesus, we need to be immersed in the story where he is the hero, where God is constantly acting to save, and where the ultimate orientation of the cosmos is toward hope.
When the Bible’s narrative seeps down into our bones, both individually and in our communities, it reinforces the core essence of our identity: that we are God’s image-bearers, deeply broken yet infinitely loved. It remakes us into beings who are more truly human, who look and act more like Christ. And it invites us into God’s mission to bring restoration to all creation.
The false stories and promises of the world will never go away. They will regularly seduce us, tempt us, and sometimes ensnare us in their lies and half-truths. But if we constantly return to the story of Scripture, which subverts and deflects the alternative stories, we will know when we’ve been lured away from Home and return to the One who gives us true life.
Taken from The Bible Reset: Simple Breakthroughs to Make Scripture Come Alive by Alex Goodwin © 2023. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by TyndaleHouse Publishers, Inc. Source