How narratives shape us

Brian Onstead
Posted 7/9/20

We’ve been hearing the word “narrative” come up quite a bit as of late. We hear quite frequently, “It didn’t fit the narrative” and “The media has a …

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How narratives shape us


We’ve been hearing the word “narrative” come up quite a bit as of late. We hear quite frequently, “It didn’t fit the narrative” and “The media has a narrative.” It is true that narratives are a driving force in the way we see things. A narrative is simply a story by which we present information. Stories are powerful, intriguing, and often draw people’s interest. We remember stories more readily than anything else (except perhaps songs). 

God reveals himself in the Bible by telling a story. The Bible is one grand story — one unfolding narrative through which the truth is conveyed. It gives us the basic pattern for every story: origin, fall, redemption, and consummation. The origin tells us the beginning: where things came from and how they got here. The fall tells us the problem. Redemption tells us how it is fixed. Consummation tells us the goal or the ideal. Almost every story follows this exact plotline.

In God’s story, he communicates the truth about the world we live in. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us the origin. It reveals to us that God created all things by his powerful word, and that he created them very good. He made humans in his own image with dignity, value and worth.

However, a problem arose. Satan comes in and deceives the woman (by telling a different story). Adam and Eve fell into sin and caused the world to be sin-cursed. This explains why the world is the way it is today. However, God introduces the solution. He makes a promise that an offspring of Eve’s would crush the serpent’s head.

As the story unfolds, this offspring is identified as the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the curse of the law (Galatians 4:4-5). Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience to the law for believers, including a battle with the devil in the wilderness, where he was tempted to eat like the first Adam, except Jesus succeeded.

Jesus then died on the cross in place of believers in order to pay for their sins in full. Redemption (the only solution to the problem) is found in Christ alone, by simply trusting him. And the consummation of all things will be brought about by him when he comes again to judge and establish the new heavens and the new earth.

We get a glimpse into what this consummation looks like in Revelation where we read that a unified people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” are lifting up their voices in unison, worshiping God. Here, we see a diverse people truly united as one in perfect peace and harmony. This is why the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 1:10 that the Father will “unite all things in [Christ].”

Satan likes to counter God with his own narrative. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he suggested to the woman that God is restrictive and that they would not die but only have their eyes opened (which they were, but only to their own shame).

Satan likewise continues to push a counter-narrative today. He tells the world that we are not made in the image of God, but rather evolved. He tells us that the problem is inequality. He offers a false redemption by having us confess privilege as our great sin, calling us to be activists, and join a Marxist movement that promises to reconcile all things. He holds out a utopia here on earth by eliminating authority and social differences so that we can all be equal.

However, this is a false narrative that is opposed to the true narrative we find in the Bible. The problem is not that God has given more to some people in his providence, but rather sin. The solution is not a works-righteousness system where you have to prove yourself to others to show solidarity with their cause, but resting in Christ alone who has perfectly worked to bring full forgiveness of sins and true reconciliation and peace with God and one another. The consummation is not a utopia here on earth, but the new heavens and the new earth where all nations, peoples, tribes and tongues are gathered as one, unified people.

The answer is not found in Marx or any other man. The answer is found in Christ alone, and he will not give his glory to another.      


(Brian Onstead is the pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Powell.)