The Bible is at it’s heart a story.
This is hard to grasp for a number of reasons:
#1 It’s written to another time and culture, so because we don’t “get” that time and place, we misunderstand the story being told.
#2 It’s been used in all kinds of ways–from abusive to farcical–so that no one sees it as a story. And if they do see it as a story, they see it as a bad one.
#3 It’s been taught incorrectly: As a rule book–a list of things to do to keep God happy. As a hero book–a list of people who lived lives we’ll never live up to meant to somehow inspire us to get on with our lives and do better (gee, thanks). As a club–a book to win arguments, prove points (however important), and exclude people.
Here’s how Sally Lloyd-Jones says it in the beginning of her children’s book, The Jesus Storybook Bible (a great place to start if you don’t understand the Bible, by the way):
“Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”
Like any story, there is a plot. Characters, tension, a climax and a resolution. I don’t use the language of story to say the Bible isn’t true, because our lives are stories, full of the drama that makes for a good story. I would argue it’s not really a stretch to say that we live by stories. As someone said, if you want people to live better lives, tell better stories.
The plot of the Bible is this: a good God creates a good world full of creativity, wonder and life. We choose badly in the face of the good world we’re offered (something we see on the nightly news) and fall away from God, ourselves and others. Pain, suffering, violence, death, hate and bitterness enter the world. God loves the world and people he created so much, he doesn’t throw it away, he comes to pay the price necessary to pull it out of a nosedive. He dies to redeem it. And not only redeem it, restore it. Far from throwing the world away to burn, he begins to put it back together again. And someday he will resolve the story with a new heaven and a new earth.
Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. This is the story of the Bible.