Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unity Factor

“Without focusing on the Big Story, we are tempted to impose alien readings on the Bible. For example, if we reduce the Bible to an elaborate answer to the question, ‘how does a person go to heaven after he dies?’ – if we think this is the Big Question the whole Bible is answering – we’ll be prone to misunderstand major parts of the Bible that were written before that question was on anybody’s mind (like the entire Old Testament).”
_Brian McLaren

In my research on Biblical inerrancy vs. Biblical infallibility I’ve read a little bit about what I thought was an interesting concept. It’s called the “unity factor.” The “unity factor” of scripture suggests that the Bible has one unified message despite any “conflicts or tensions” within the text itself.[1] It affirms that there is one central message in scripture and that every story in the scripture is like a square on the quilt. Brian McLaren calls it the “Big Story.” Every little story like the story of Adam and Eve, the story of David and Goliath, and the story of Jonah and the whale all fit into this one “Big story.” As Brian McLaren puts it:

“Without focusing on the Big Story, we are tempted to impose alien readings on the Bible. For example, if we reduce the Bible to an elaborate answer to the question, ‘how does a person go to heaven after he dies?’ – if we think this is the Big Question the whole Bible is answering – we’ll be prone to misunderstand major parts of the Bible that were written before that question was on anybody’s mind (like the entire Old Testament).”[2]


What do you think of this concept? Do all the stories in scripture have a unified trajectory? I’m inclined to think so. To me the stories in scripture all point to God’s plan for restoration. The creation story gives us a picture of what we’re being restored to and how it got messed up in the first place and everything after that is God calling His people to repentance (T’Shuvah), which is a return to who God originally intended us to be. Then in the end of scripture the story is prophetically finished and the world is restored and God comes to Earth and dwells with us for all eternity and we are totally redeemed.

I want to know your thoughts.



[1] Gerald H. Wilson, Hermeneutics: Why Do We Have To Interpret Scripture Anyway? From Christian College Christian Calling (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2005.) 47.
[2] Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) 78-79.

2 comments:

Rich(luthsem) said...

I just don't like the terms biblical inerrancy or infallibility and I know this will just pigeonholed me more because I'm in a Mainline "one of those liberal" denominations.
The unity factor does make sense and it is similar to the inerrancy of purpose view I think.
I like the term sacramental because I believe the Bible conveys Christ and his promises which is the overall message. Well it involves Creation, Fall, Redemption and re-creation.

Mike Exum said...

Well, I keep waiting to see what others have to say to your post before I offer my bit. But no one seems to be willing.

I suppose there are a number of directions I might go in reacting to you post, but I'll try to hold it down to one or two. For starts, I am not one to get gitty over the topic of inerancy v. infallibility etc. Not that I don't think there are important ideas there, but I wonder if they are as big a deal as we sometimes make them, and anyway I don't have a need to see it as inerrant. I figure there really are errors, especially in some of the ancient manuscripts leaving us to sort out which ones were copied closest to the autographs. But that is a side comment to my bigger thrust.

I have never heard the term unity factor before. That is a new one on me. However, as you describe it, it seems to make sense in my ears. And it sounds very conducive to Wright's (among others I am sure) understanding of scripture as the 5 act play/drama. The whole thing tells a comsic story, and now we play a part.

It seems to me, anyway, that such a view need not be uptight about some "error" in the whole thing. It does not all hinge on every little bit. It is a picture not a chain.

Thats my bit in two bits.

More if you want it.

Many blessings....