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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Power of Stories

Sonlight's curriculum is based around stories. Fantastic literature. Wonderful books. Incredible tales.

On the flip side, I've seen several instances where people are calling us to return to the Bible--and the Bible only. One example would be the Boundless commenter who said:

why do you bother giving away books that keep poeple from concentrating on the only book that they need to read to answer every single problem they have: the Bible? [errors in original]


I think the Ted Slater does a good job of responding to this particular accusation. And while that individual went overboard, others are beating a similar drum.

On Friday, I read a post by Daniel Abbey about hip pastors who miss the point in their message: Scripture. He's not alone in his complaint. I know families who now refuse to attend church because they can't find a pastor who preaches "enough" from the Bible. And my dad just blogged about a particularly pathetic message we endured this Sunday. And I remember some illustrations but have forgotten the point as well. So, in that sense, Dan's right.

On the other hand, Dan goes on to ask: Why not just preach the Word of God?

Why try to spice up Sunday mornings with fleshly gimmicks and theatrical eye candy? [We don't need] clever devices or secular technique in reaching the lost and edifying believers. ...I can’t tell you how much I loathe the idea that we need some sort of program or technique to grab people’s attention.

My answer: The Bible shows us why we use these "gimmicks."

Jesus constantly uses stories deeply rooted in the culture and surrounding in which He was speaking. His messages were directly tied to parties going on, the locale, and the other events that had just happened. While, yes, we must not get so caught up in looking trendy and cool, there is nothing wrong with engaging our culture with the culture. In fact, Paul is very famous for using Athenian lore to preach the Gospel.

As we consider our options for teaching our children and raising them to be ambassadors for Christ in this world, I think great literature of all kinds--including the Bible--provide the best foundation.

But I think it is unwise, and counter to what we see in Scripture, to push for a new kind of sola scriptura that restricts our teaching aids to the Bible and a handful of "approved" Christian authors.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father


Unknown said...

I'm a Word gal. All the way. Yet I do not feel disdain toward the implementation of 'other reading' - particularly stories - into the mix.

Ruth Beechick's "Adam and His Kin" and her illustrations therein had me rivited. I read it in about 1.5 days, then turned and read it to my children. I am now preparing a Bible Study on the Genesis account for a group of youth. Can you guess what I'll be sharing, in conjunction with the Scriptures? You bet. Ruth's rendition.

Stories bring tangibility and life. As you accurately express, Luke: Jesus employed them with good purpose and significant reason.

If one did not 'get' the hidden parable or meaning, at the very least, they enjoyed the story-telling entertainment for the afternoon. :)

Unknown said...

So...with that logic, then we shouldn't sing any songs other than the ones in the book of psalms? or listen to any other music?

Heather the Mama Duk said...

There's a difference between meandering travelogues that have no point or meaning and distract from the Lord and His teachings and uplifting stories with a reason or books that, while they are secular, point to and remind of Him. And, sometimes, seriously, we just need a break and some fluff is good (I'm talking secular books here, not stuff at church). I think Sonlight does a stellar job at mixing it up just right.

Angela commented about only singing songs in Psalms or listening to any other music... I've known people who believe just that. I'm not one of them.

John Holzmann said...

To Angela:

As Heather notes, there are people who absolutely believe this. They refer to their viewpoint as being based on "the Regulative Principle of worship": that only which the Scriptures command should we do.

And it comes from a sense of absolute awe and fear of the LORD, as (advocates will urge) we should learn from such historical accounts as Uzzah (2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13) who reached out and touched the ark of the covenant in hopes of keeping it from falling to the ground--and "[God] struck him down" . . . because he failed to honor the LORD as He had commanded.

See Theopedia for an excellent short article on the subject. Or Wikipedia, for a slightly longer, but significantly more detailed treatment.

Luke Holzmann said...

Angi, oh, I'm all for the Word too! I hope I didn't come across as opposing it. I just find that that the push for "only the Bible"--and a few select Christian authors--is too narrow and inconsistent. There is much to like in Ruth's stuff, so I'm glad you're sharing it with others <smile>.

Angela, it appears so <smile>.

Heather, totally! And I probably could have emphasized that a little more in my post: There are times when illustrations and trying to be "hip" just distract. Absolutely. But let us never go too far the other way and demand that we only look to Scripture.

Thanks so much for stopping by and clearing that up, Dad! I was not aware of the "Regulative Principle."

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. It adds so much! <smile>


chapman55k said...

I cannot believe I missed this post until now. I believe what Angi wrote about Jesus employing narrative in the form of parables is spot on. What are personal Christian testimonies other than narrative. For us, it was ABSOLUTELY the stories that brought joy to our homeschool experience. The stories instigated more deep spiritual discussions that lead us search for biblical answers. The stories caused us to read our bible more, not less. I need to write about this in my blog!

Fifi said...

I love God's Word ...... but I believe that the Father gave us life and a world to enjoy. I would hate to keep my kids SO narrow minded that they never hear beautiful poems and stories that happen to be written by 'non-Christians'!(of course subject matter would have to be kosher!). I want my boys to learn about different cultures(ones that don't embrace Christianity) so that they have a well rounded view of the world. I believe for my kids to be effective Christian adults in the world, they need to know what is out there in the big wide world and not be frightened to embrace it.
Speaking about the believer's freedom, I think 1 Cor 10v 23 says it nicely ......
"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.

I thank Sonlight for a very well rounded curriculum!

Luke Holzmann said...

Ken, that's a great point about inspiring a love for reading Scripture via outside texts. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Glad this post "lit a fire" <smile>.

Fifi, great point. Love the tie-in to Scripture <smile>. And, as always, I'm thrilled to hear from people who find Sonlight to be a perfect fit <smile>.


Jennifer Sr. said...

I think it is almost humorous when a group or a person declares their particular way of doing things "the" way of reflecting God's design for the church. I respect all my Christian brothers and sisters. I do not cover my head or wear dresses only, but I understand that conviction.

I go to a church that could and has been called "shallow". If I started a church in a foreign country, I would want it to reflect the culture. We are basically missionaries to this area, much like we would be if we traveled to another country. The church is set up to bring non believers in. The goal isn't to be cool, or have good music. The goal is to be excellent and serve and draw people to Christ and help them grow in a relationship w/ Him.

Warren Baldwin said...

I linked here from another site, Luke, and enjoyed this article greatly. Esp. liked your point about Jesus drawing his stories from the immediate culture. As a preacher I often scour a national news source for an illustration, when my own local situation would resonate much better with the listeners and would be a better tie-in to the scriptural message.

On the regulative principle (good point, John), some Christian traditions have a 3-point hermeneutic of Command-Example-Inference that functions like the r.p.

Luke Holzmann said...

Jennifer: Totally. I like what my wife said about all the different denominations making up the whole Church. It's our various approaches that reflect the many facets of how we should worship and serve God.

Warren, thanks for taking the time to comment! I'm glad to hear from an "insiders" perspective on preaching. Good stuff <smile>.



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