Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Living in a universal story without a universal storyteller

One of the themes that seemed to come out of last week's "Mere Anglicanism" conference (detailed notes on which can be found at the Anglican Curmudgeon's pages) was the need to find a way to present the story of Christ and Christianity in an increasingly aggressive anti-Christian, secularized world. 

The process of secularization has degraded our western culture's common narrative into a confused and ever changing mix of stories that is being fed into the minds of our children by media, educational systems, parents, and sometimes the Church itself. 

Of course the process began well before the modern media and educational institutions began, but it seems to have accelerated thanks to our obsession with technology, entertainment, and distraction.
"If there is little mystery about where the West got its faith in a narratable world, neither is there much mystery about how the West has lost this faith. The entire project of the Enlightenment was to maintain realist faith while declaring disallegiance from the God who was that faith’s object. The story the Bible tells is asserted to be the story of God with His creatures; that is, it is both assumed and explicitly asserted that there is a true story about the universe because there is a universal novelist/historian. Modernity was defined by the attempt to live in a universal story without a universal storyteller."—Robert w. Jenson, “How the World Lost Its Story” (HT: Tim Massaro)
All one has to do is watch a "modern" person with their smart phone or computer to see that we are addicted to something that these devices provide. 

Yes they provide entertainment, gossip, news, even direction, but more than that, they provide the modern narrative. 

"What narrative," you ask?

Obviously a very confusing one, and it is a narrative that also gives no meaningful direction or moral guidance to this generation... with the expected consequences to society.

What the world and our children need is the narrative that only the story of God we learn from the Bible and his coming to us as Jesus can provide.

The power of "Story" must be harnessed by Christians in order to transmit the Good News to a people whose world is already filled with a daily supply of an infinite number of new and temporarily entertaining stories, unlike previous generations to whom the number of stories to remember was limited to a smaller number of important and memorable ones. 

As with most addictions, our addiction to bathing in this tsunami of new stories is going to be tough to treat. Add to that the sheer numbers of people afflicted and you can see the scale and scope of the problem ahead.

We believe that we have been touched by the universal story teller. We may have even heard His call. 

How do we get people to remove their ear buds and listen to the most important story ever told? Can we ask them to repeat it, to pass it along, for that is how "Story" becomes memory for individuals and how it finds its way into the collective memory of society.

God help us to get it right.


  1. "How do we get people to remove their earbuds and listen to the most important story ever told?" That's a good question. I am confronted with folks with ear buds at the fitness center, on the bike path and on the running trails. I have given up trying to communicate with them. I think the ear buds provide a virtual reality cocoon that, like a drug, subdues the anxieties of modern life.

    1. Maybe there is a place for contemporary Christian music after all.