Friday 2 March 2012

Stephen Nichols on Narrative Theology

Stephen Nichols, ‘Who’s Afraid of Narrative?’, The Gospel Coalition (1 March 2012).

Nichols makes a brief argument for the virtues of ‘a narrative systematic approach’ to theology, taking his cue from no less than Jonathan Edwards.

He writes of his experience teaching undergraduates theology using the standard encyclopedic categories of christology, pneumatology, anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology, etc., but with the students not really making the connections between the various areas of the curriculum.

‘Mention the categories of encyclopedic systematic theology and people are lost. Theologies are a language of the guild, by the guild, for the guild. Conversely, mention creation, fall, redemption, and restoration and you're speaking a language of the people, by the people, for the people.

‘Narrative theology need not be proposition-less, or anti-propositional. It is true that some forms are; they are not healthy for the church and should be refuted. Plain and simple. But, as those like Kevin Vanhoozer have shown, a narrative theology can be proposition-full. No dumbing down here, either. Narrative theology can also be rather robust and rigorous. It is also poetic, artistic. And at the end of the day, when you open up the Scriptures you see it. That is to say, you see creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. This is not imposed; it's there. And you see it in life. The narrative systematic theology approach resonates with experience, and it does so because it's true.’

1 comment:

john lee said...

Hi Antony

This caught my eye too! I sit under preaching which could be characterised as systematic, and have been taught via the North West Partnership's Ministry Training Course, which is more narrative in emphasis. My observation is that narrative is a wonderful vehicle for smuggling theology into people's hearts, but that challenging application in preaching needs a systematic framework. In other words, we can't write ourselves into the biblical narrative, but we can apply the theology they exemplify.

Your thoughts?