Archive for January, 2012

How and Why We Ought to Read Stories

When I consider “Reading Narratives,” I tend to think in terms of “what should I, the reader, do when reading a story?” or “how ought I to read a story?” Though that is something I have thought about way too much (and I am not really the more informed for it!) I am willing to throw in my two cents.

So I am more concerned, at the present, with how we ought to read a story. More from the reader’s point of view, of course, as a very large can of worms is opened up when you introduce the role of the author of a narrative. So, wishing to not complicate matters, I think that a thesis statement is in order…

We ought to read stories as Christians in the world.

“We”

Not just the blogalectic peeps, but all Christians everywhere.

“ought to read stories”

Because the Bible is predominantly a Story, the Christian must not despise stories. A story serves many purposes (as I am sure later posts will affirm) but not a small purpose is to help us to see the Story that we all inhabit; both the big metanarrative (yeah, I went there…) and our little narratives. It is not ethically necessary to read stories (outside the Bible) but I contend that it is secondarily necessary because reading the little stories well will help us to understand God and His Story better. Since this is a “good” that we must seek if we are to be “good”, then we ought to seek all of the means by which we can become better in that life-long journey. Thus: we ought to read stories.

But the point is to read stories in a specific way

“as Christians”

Before I get into “as Christians”, Vicki brought up a legitimate point about the presence of evil and sinful stuff in stories that are fundamentally dark and unbelieving. I would disagree about the whole “can’t use the Philippians test” idea because I think that the ethical realm is firmly seated (if the author is not considered!) in the reader, not in the text itself. I am not advocating an entirely subjective reading ethic, though, as I would say that we can still test a text by the Philippians standard within the context of the personal. The text has no ethical frame of reference without either the author or the reader. The words are not timeless Platonic forms of meaning, but rather are dependent on human (or greater) interaction to have their meaning. You have to just trust that i am not advocating subjectivism, as I know it sounds a whole lot like that (and I do wax postmodern at times!). It might have been sinful for the author to write something lusty and messed up because he was not considering the “excellent” or “praiseworthy” while writing it. And the reader that is having lust issues that reads such a text is made to stumble, and it is entirely the fault of him who chooses to read something (if false advertising is employed the question gets more difficult) that would cause him to stumble. Okay… this could go on forever, so I will stop. So I will conclude that by saying that the Philippians standard applies to the entire process and context of reading in terms of content, but to the text itself in terms of form. I know that is a large statement, but forgive me, I won’t defend it here… Comment or write your own post about the relation of form and content in relation to objective standards of the good, the true, and the beautiful!

We should read a text “as Christians” because of obvious Biblical reasons, not the least of which is that all things should be done for the glory of God. Sometimes it seems that with that we have to say that you should only read devotional books, theology books and the Bible… But that is not the case because of…

“in the world.”

We don’t exist in a little Christian bubble (unless you attend Biola haha) and so we ought to read with the understanding that “the glory of God” is achieved when we grow in our knowledge of others made in His image. We can see brokenness and fundamentally dark books as glorifying God, because there was no light at the crucifixion, and God was most glorified at that moment. Of course that is only glorious because  of the Resurrection, but a resurrection need not be spelled out in every narrative. There were two thieves next to Jesus at the darkest moment of human history. It is helpful to know about both the one who ended up “with Him in Paradise” and the one who hurled taunts and abuses at the Lord of glory and died in dishonor, hopelessly clinging to his sin all the way to Hell. If we are gonna be like Jesus we have to live in the same world He entered and He loved and He saved. We have to learn every lesson we can about the scoffing thief that we never be like him.

Advertisements

Readmission of an Excommunicated Person

This morning at Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I witnessed one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen at a church. The elders announced that a woman who had been excommunicated several years ago had contacted the session and expressed repentance and a desire to be received back into the communion of the church. Following the Suggested Forms for Use in Connection with the Book of Discipline contained in the Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (VIII.D), this what happened:

D. Readmission of an Excommunicated Person
1. When an excommunicated person is so affected by his state
that he is brought to repentance and desires to be readmitted to the
privileges of the church, the session of the church which excommunicated him, being satisfied of the evidence of his repentance and
contrition, shall proceed to readmit him. It is fitting that the sentence
of restoration be openly pronounced by the minister in a service of
public worship on the Lord’s Day.
2. It is well that the elders stand with the minister before the
congregation.
3. The minister may address the congregation in the following or
similar words:
[Name] was excluded from the communion of the church, but
(he/she) has now given satisfactory evidence of repentance to
the session. Therefore, in the name and by the authority of our
Lord Jesus Christ, we declare (him/her) absolved from the sentence of excommunication, and we do restore (him/her) to the
communion of the church, that (he/she) may be a partaker of
all the benefits of the Lord Jesus, to (his/her) eternal salvation.

4. The minister may then address the restored believer in these or similar words:

Beloved (brother/sister), be assured in your heart that the Lord
himself has received you in grace. Be diligent to guard yourself
against the subtleties of Satan, the wickedness of the world, and
the folly of the flesh, lest you again become entangled in sin.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit again. I charge you to continue
steadfastly in the confession which you have made, humbly relying upon the grace of God in the diligent use of the means of
grace—especially the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.
5. The minister may then address the congregation in these or
similar words:
Beloved Christians, receive this (brother/sister) in love. Rejoice
and be thankful, for this (brother/sister) was dead and is alive.
(He/she) was lost and is found. Rejoice with the angels, for our
Lord Jesus said, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in
heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety
and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Do not look on (him/her) any longer as a stranger, but as a fellow
citizen with the saints and a member of the household of God.
6. The congregation should then be led in prayer. It is well in
such prayer to thank and praise God for granting repentance and
restoration to the one who has been restored; and to pray that he
may grow in assurance and joy; that he may walk faithfully, and that
just as he has previously caused grief, so now may he be the cause
of great joy and edification; that God may graciously enable us to
forgive and receive; and that he would enable us all to persevere in faith, hope, and love.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Praise Him, all creatures here below!

Praise Him above ye heav’nly host!

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Amen!