In HOPE 7.7                                  back to home                        David Timms

Current Series

This "In HOPE" presents Part 2 in the current series. Last week touched on Words & Images. This week briefly explores another facet of the dramatic changes facing the church. We should not under-estimate the enormity of these times in which we live, and the great opportunities available to us. 

Hope Happenings

Hope International University presents a special Student Leadership Conference -- Dare To Lead -- for High School Juniors & Seniors on September 14-16, 2007 in Palm Desert, California. Only 100 participants will be accepted into this innovative, leadership development conference. For more information and to register, go to the University website .


Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831

"One of the most powerful ways to deepen our connections is the practise of storytelling as a corporate spiritual discipline."  -- Shane Hipps, 2005

Propositions & Stories

The printing press (15th century) successfully turned the western Church into a repository of doctrines, dogmas, policies, procedures, and propositions over the last 500 years. Systematic theology flourished after the Reformation (16th century). Increasingly linear, rational, and analytical thought corresponded with the rise of moveable type. And in such an environment we learned to defend the faith, argue for it, categorize it, classify it, exegete it, and surgically dissect it.

But the times are changing.

As a college student, I well recall hearing that we cannot -- indeed must not -- seek truth in the narratives or stories of Scripture. They serve a purpose, but not to prove anything. If we want airtight arguments and valid proofs to convince skeptics of the faith, we should appeal to the "teaching" sections of the New Testament.

No wonder that for centuries the Apostle Paul has usurped Jesus as the Master Teacher.

Churches still carefully craft Statements of Faith -- each word specifically chosen for its accuracy and clarity, saying neither too little nor too much. But the emerging generation has little interest in theological legal-ese. They respond more to Stories of Faith with all the ambiguity, open-endedness, and mystery that good stories provide.

We cannot reduce life to neat packages of truisms. It remains dynamic, unpredictable, emotion-laden, and relational. Why would we try to shrink God and His Word into defined systems of thought?

While some folk still like propositional truth (bullet-point statements that make a case and close the loop-holes), emerging believers have far greater interest in narrative truth (what we learn by listening to stories about God). In such a context, apologists become like fire extinguishers: always good to have one "just in case" but not used very often.

This cultural shift calls us to new ways -- Jesus ways -- of expressing truth and reality. Our own stories of authentic encounter with Christ will carry more weight than our opinion about Him or a collection of verses about Him. Describing our faith will become the best presentation of the faith. Touching the heart with real experiences will prove more effective than reaching the head with a series of propositions.

Propositional truth has generally encouraged private faith, something to believe not something to live. Furthermore, propositions tend to form closed systems and isolate us from each other based on the system we accept. The rise of denominationalism and sectarianism in Christianity has coincided with increasingly sophisticated propositional systems. 

Narrative truth, on the other hand, encourages community. It engages us in something incomplete and in process, a story without an ending but with meaning and direction. Therein lies our hope for the unity of the Church and the salvation of the world.

May our stories emerge more often and include Christ more fully. 



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David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board of the institution. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.