Thursday, April 26, 2007

Competing Narratives

The assumption that came out of the enlightenment was that truth was “objective” and could be reached by rational and reason. There was one answer and if one person didn’t reach the same conclusion as another, then one of them was more rational than the other. Reason was the new king that would lift us to harmony and peace. Instead, reason came crashing down on the heads of all those living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It enslaved 11 million people to their death in the holocaust and people began to realize that reason wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, it wasn’t getting us very far at all. Slowly but surely we’ve taken the crown off of the head of reason and placed experience on the throne. All the proof in the world doesn’t lead to truth, experience does. Truth is whatever really “works” in real life. God is whoever would be the best one for the job. People are hungry for something they can actually live in, a truth that transcends reason and rational and actually makes sense in real life. Truth is no longer found in science or evidence, it’s found in narratives.

Narratives are systems of interpreting reality. They’re stories in which we live, and through which we see everything. We’ve realized that no one is objective, everyone is influenced and presumptuous. Everyone is interpreting experience through a narrative. Thus science itself is a narrative, it interprets experience through what it can see and observe using formulas that are presupposed to work best so they’ve all agreed on these formulas. Science is a tradition which embraces a certain way of coming to truth. There are other narratives. America, for example, has a narrative. America has a tradition and it passes down that tradition by word (i.e. the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence), song (i.e. “The Grand Old Flag,” “My Country T’is of Thee,” and “The Star Spangled Banner”), creed (the pledge of allegiance), story (i.e. George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Abe Lincoln never telling a lie, etc.) holy days (i.e. the 4th of July and Presidents day), and sermon (i.e. presidential addresses). America’s narrative is about capitalism and democracy and it presupposes those principals to be the best way of living life and government. And finally the Church has a narrative. Our narrative is the story of God working through reality and history to bring the world to redemption. The story started in the Bible and continues even to us in our time. We presuppose God and the Scriptures to be the best way by which to interpret reality, live, and come to truth.

The Church doesn’t have to be afraid of this shift, like all the others it’ll change again sometime down the road. But perhaps this shift is more up our ally than any of the past. We are in a narrative and we do have presuppositions and in a world where we’re not supposed to have presuppositions we’re at a disadvantage. But now, in a world that has realized that it’s not as objective as it thought is was and that everyone is coming from different perspectives, the playing ground is even and we may even be at an advantage because our narrative is all about how to live the best possible life and it always has been about that and now we can come out of the closet with it.

To survive in a world like this one, the Church needs to revive its narrative, its mission, its tradition, and invite others to join us for the ride, for our way is the best interpretation of reality, it’s the most true presupposition, and it’s the very best way to live life and experience truth. Now, it’s all about experience and so for us it’s all about living the narrative and being faithful to the God we find within this narrative an no one else’s.

3 comments:

KJKEB said...

Man, your writings challenge me mentally and academically. I wish i was smart enough to understand one of your last sentences...

"Now, it’s all about experience and so for us it’s all about living the narrative and being faithful to the God we find within this narrative an no one else’s."

;>)

WES ELLIS said...

sorry,
I don't proof read my blogs. I'll revise it if I find the time. I hope you get what I'm saying.
-Wes

KJKEB said...

Oh, don't worry about it. I am just a few years (26 in fact) removed from the academic pursuits of a christian university or college.

Keep up the writing!

BTW, are you graduating this year?