stories work–(from The Bible Tells Me So)

stories work–(from The Bible Tells Me So) September 2, 2014

ForTheBibleTellsMeSoStories work. Stories are powerful. Stories move us deeply, more so than statistics, news reports, or textbooks. We all know that. We only need to think about what holds our attention and makes us long for more—that book, film, or TV series that we wish wouldn’t end quite so soon, that story told of some deep, personal, transforming experience, whether painful or joyous.

The Bible, then, is a grand story. It meets us and then invites us to follow and join a world outside of our own, and lets us see ourselves and God differently in the process. Maybe that’s really the bottom line. The biblical story meets us where we are to disarm us and change how we look at ourselves—and God.

The Bible calls that change repentance. Maybe stories are where repentance can happen best. From what I can see, I think the Bible’s storytellers would agree.

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, p. 129

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  • Stephen W


  • ajl

    I think if Nathan had approached David with the facts of the horrible things that David did to Uriah, Nathan may have gotten his head cut off.

    In this case, the truth hurts – but not as much as the truth laid out in a well told story. In that case it brought about conviction and repentance.

  • James

    I’m sure this quote has context to mitigate misinterpretation. But a quick question nevertheless: Did Jesus and the Evangelists view ancient story like this? We do, and it helps us access the truth of old text. But NT text implies, I think, that OT text, at least, is not so much story told around home fire (truth telling, of course!) as it is authoritative word of God. It is sacred story still evolving in multiple strands. And, yes, it means to change us.

    • JL Schafer

      You asked a great question: “Did Jesus and the Evangellists view ancient story like this?” Let me add another question: “If they didn’t, would it matter?” My uneducated guess is no. Jesus and the Evangelists were men of their times, and it’s quite possible that no one in those times was articulating a theory of story that is close to what Pete and others are saying today. Yet they were living and breathing and being transformed by the stories, and that is what matters.

  • Bill Norton

    In “After Virtue,” Alasdair MacIntyre does quite a bit with the power of story. And Walter Fisher and his Narrative Paradigm burrow deeper into why stories work far better than argument to teach lessons with staying power.

  • DMH

    “The Bible, then, is a grand story.” ….. so what is this grand story? Does scripture tell one grand unified story?

    • peteenns

      HA!!! You’ve been sucked in. Now you HAVE to buy the book.

      • DMH

        Seriously… you’re going to make me buy the book 🙂 (not that I wouldn’t like to). I’m not your typical middle class christian with spare change… I live on the other side of the tracks.

        I ask the question because I’m trying to instill a love and faith in Christ in my children- and understanding scripture plays a part in that. I’ve been trying to approach scripture with them as a grand narrative. I’ve found however that depending on how open you are to science (evolution) and historical criticism (which I am) the one story can be significantly nuanced- to the point of telling somewhat different stories (though using the same terms)… or even a unified story at all. Thus my question- to others with much more time and training to sort things out than I have.

  • Lisa

    Came across your book this weekend at Barnes and Noble and skimmed…interesting thoughts.

    Regarding the thesis that God’s problem with the Canaanites wasn’t the depth/futility of their depravity but their street address, what do you make of this prophecy in Genesis:

    “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16″Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” 17It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.…

    Indicating that it was their “complete iniquity” which indeed led to providential demise (at least in the case of the Amorites

    • peteenns

      I address this in the book, Lisa. Based on when Genesis was written, it isn’t a “prediction”

  • Lisa

    Your theory on the nature/character of the Bible is so fragile you can’t accept a logical question like that? the Bible according to Enns or no discussion at all? Good Luck!!

    • peteenns

      Try not to jump to conclusions, Lisa. I moderate comments whenever I log on. Sometimes there is a several hour wait. Also, I’ve written a lot, so I don’t think it is fair to suggest I am hiding.

  • Lisa

    I apologize for jumping to conclusions… logged on and didn’t see my comment even in moderation. Appreciate the grace 🙂
    The more “hoops” one has to jump through to make a theory work, the less reasonable it becomes. It was spoken to Abraham and therefore was a prediction although Abraham didn’t writ the book.
    You said something else…No archaeology to confirm Canaanite presence in Israel. I am pretty sure they uncovered remains of Jericho? I’m sure you researched this?

    • peteenns

      The archaeological record does not support the biblical story, Lisa. Including Jericho. The hoop-jumping is done by literalists. What I try yo do in my books, including my most recent one is take the hoops away.

      • Lisa

        Depends on which archaeologist you talk to, I suppose 😉
        Here’s a detailed summary which concludes substantial likelihood that the ancient city uncovered at the biblical location of Jericho, is actually Jericho

        • peteenns

          You’ll have to do better than ABR, Lisa. Read widely on Jericho, not just apologetic literature. An no one doubts Jericho existed. The issue is whether there was destruction–even occupation–in the late Bronze period. Both are needed to fit the biblical narrative. At best, the story is a much later elaboration on a an event that does not sync with the necessary biblical timeline.

          • Lisa

            Like I said Dr. Enns: “depends on which archaeologist you talk to” I like what ABR said so that’s why I posted that link…the subjective nature of interpreting millennia-old artifacts of civilization allows one to do that (vs molecular biology or something)
            Thanks for publishing my replies!

  • Lisa

    Also, Jesus says He came to fulfill Torah, not to abolish it. If it is fulfilled in Christ it need no longer be observed. I understand that would have been hard for the new Jewish believers to grasp but God helped them out.. Peter’s dream of the sheet with all the Carna and his visit with Cornelius in Acts…

    Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin chronicled their obsession with the Law and ignorance of their “uncircumcised hearts”
    The OT also states that animal sacrifices are not where its at in the ultimate sense… that God desires a broken and contrite Spirit. I think any good Jew could have understood these things from the OT…especially with all the Messianic prophecies…Jesus fulfilling Torah needn’t be such a hurdle into the brave new world of Christianity …my opinion…