Just come across these statements made by N.T.Wright, the current Bishop of Durham, in an interview he did for Christianity Today:
What happened with the Enlightenment is the denarrativization of the Bible. And then within postmodernity, people have tried to pay attention to the narrative without paying attention to the fact that it’s a true story. It’s the story of Creator God with his world. The great biblical story is fundamentally not like a parable of Jesus, which is true whether or not there was a farmer who had two sons. The overarching story of who Jesus was, the story of God and Israel and the coming of Jesus, has to have a historical purchase on reality. Otherwise, it is colluding with the very Gnosticism it is opposing. This particular story is about the Creator and the real world; it’s not about a God who is only interested in our interior reflections or our spiritual progress, the Gnostic worldview.
The Gnostic conspiracy theory says that orthodoxy hushed up the really exciting thing and promoted this boring sterile thing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And of course there’s a great lie underneath that. In the second and third centuries, the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because the empire is perfectly happy with Gnosticism. Gnosticism poses no threat to the empire. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do. It’s the church’s shame that in the last 200 years, the church has muzzled Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and turned them into instruments of a controlling, sterile orthodoxy. But the texts themselves are explosive.
I heard N.T.Wright speak at the International Preachers Conference earlier in the year and I found him captivating and very well thought through. These particular statements are highly challenging, especially with their implications for preaching.
Does our preaching seek to have the same challenge to radical Christian commitment and living that these texts appeared to have to their original readers? What would that look like today?
Does our preaching tell the Gospel narrative, or boil it down to a series of facts or principles? But at the same time, do we tell the Gospel narrative in such a way that we reduce it to just a good story, but strip it of its historicity. This is not simply a great yarn, but true.