[Disclosure: I’m preaching through this series with a church who has partnered with this campaign and had a brief cordial talk with Shelley Leith, the National Church Coach and Story Specialist, Western Region, at the NYWC, 2011. Thanks to Shelley for the dialogue. I hope my words here do justice to our conversation.]
There does seem to be some movement in the Christian Church regarding the Biblical text. Many are no longer satisfied with the pithy “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” kind of understanding, or the overly simplistic “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach. There appears to be a genuine hunger for more, and this awakening coming not just from the publishing industry. Much of this may have to do with the prevalence of the “new atheists” who may have ironically and inadvertently heightened spiritual awareness and curiosity of the Bible. Much of it may have to do with the global religious climate. Much of it may have to do with the advancement of Biblical studies, archaeology, historiology, etc. Regardless, I am persuaded that this curiosity and interest is a good thing (Genesis). Understanding the Bible on its own terms for the kind of writing that it is and the kind of writing that the original readers would have understood it to be can only be beneficial for the faith development and expression in the Judeo-Christian ethic in our contemporary culture. Perhaps the Bible’s reputation and content not only be redeemed, but once again find prominence of place in public discourse. And that, not just because it’s “the Bible,” but because as we read it differently, we understand it more honestly and thoroughly; a perspective that illuminates the Bible’s brilliance when it comes to the human condition.
The Story is a good step in the right direction. It’s approach is simple: Bible only. Well, an edited version, but the actual text nonetheless (NIV version); you just have to get through a foreword by Lucado and Frazee.
I do have two opposite sentiments regarding this campaign, however:
1. Why not just buy a Bible with the full STORY? Part of the major problem with The Story is that it is a compilation of “selections” from the Bible. Hundreds of key elements are left out (Abraham’s cutting of the covenant, and Shiphrah & Puah, as examples). When the Bible was being written, it wasn’t as if the authors were throwing in “filler” material so that they met their word count quota. The significance of even the smallest detail in the grand Story (yes, including genealogies) that God is telling cannot be overlooked. While I understand the necessity of editing when publishing in this format, this reality conversely establishes the main reason to be disappointed with the campaign and production.
Okay, … however,
2. Bless God for The Story. May more people/churches engage with the fullness of this book and the STORY that God is truly telling in it. I do believe it is necessary for us to set aside “Bible-bashing,” (using the Bible as a condemnatory tool), “quote-mining” (finding verses in the Bible to substantiate our own opinions), “imaginative interpretations” (“I think this verse means … to me“), and “cultural eisegesis” (imposing our own viewpoints on the Bible to make it “relevant”). Like any other piece of literature in the world, we ought never to bastardize or manipulate words in ways they were never intended to be used. As Shelley mentioned to me at the convention, The Story is not intended to replace the Bible, but to be a beginning point for people to actually go and read the Bible. I trust her stated value, and hope that it actually does result in this behavior.
I am also thankful for the supplemental materials that Zondervan has provided. My brief perusal of the historical and cultural content provides much needed information for contextualizing the Bible appropriately. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be sold as part of the main curriculum package (which is discouraging for me), however, you can request it, and perhaps it will make its way into the main packaged offerings.