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Navigating the Narratives

Shaped by the Bible’s Story or the Culture’s Story?
Guest Post from Jim Hamilton, Part 2

How does “God’s glory in salvation through judgment” relate to the moral, ethical, social, economic, and political issues in our culture?

Everyone approaches these issues from the perspective of a wider narrative. Homosexual marriage and abortion are questions that people look at from the perspective of the story of the whole world. The big story of the world told by the Bible has been challenged by academics who argue that the Bible doesn’t tell a coherent story, and that has weakened the confidence of some evangelical scholars and teachers. Others are distracted from it, or they really don’t think it can be established, or they haven’t thought about it because they’re more comfortable analyzing pieces of the puzzle than trying to put the puzzle together, or for whatever reason they don’t bring its relevance to bear on their thinking about these issues. As a result, many people, including Christians, have begun to operate as though the story told by the modern myth and fable makers is true.

These modern myth and fable makers are the witch doctors, medicine men, and shamans of contemporary culture. Today’s myth makers tell people that in a past so remote we can’t understand it (billions of years ago), there was a big bang, a huge explosion, and though it took more years than any of us can understand (and it seems the more they think about it the longer it took) everything ultimately resulted from a sudden unexplained release of energy. What caused that no one knows. That’s what they tell us. Everything came from nothing. And they can prove it. They have these machines that tell how long a rock has been decaying, and they have these complicated mathematical equations. Smoke and mirrors haven’t gone out of style.

Even though there have been some major scandals showing that some of these shamans have perpetrated some significant frauds, as long as we call them scientists, their integrity is not the issue and believing what they say is never regarded as taking anything on faith. Since the myth-makers say it, even if many of them disagree with each other, those who believe the myths have every right to insist that their beliefs are based on solid fact rather than faith.

According to their story of the world, there’s no God, no meaning, no absolute truth, no ultimate purpose, humans are no more valuable than animals, there is no such thing as ultimate morality, and everything is evolving on to something better, however better may be defined. If you ask them how they identify what is good, they tend to change the subject.

Make no mistake about it, this modern mythology has its morality: Inconvenient children can be killed if they are still in the womb. No sexual perversion is off limits. People of the same sex can marry each other. Those who object to the fundamental tenets of the myth and its morality are ignorant, immoral, and can be treated with righteous contempt for the public good. Those who reject the myth and its morals are bad people who can be ignored, dismissed, insulted, and mocked. The shamans, witch doctors, and medicine men are not to be challenged.

But what if the Bible tells the true story of the world? What if the biblical authors aren’t some less evolved collection of incoherent wild men who can’t agree with each other? What if the biblical authors really were every bit as human as we are? What if they can be shown to be in agreement with each other? What if they believed that God made all that is, and that he did so with a purpose? What if they tell us what that purpose is? What if they say that God is revealing all the glory of his infinite goodness by exalting the exact rectitude of his justice so that those who receive his mercy will be so transformed by it that they will sing about it forever? What if they all agree that God thus glorifies himself by saving people through judgment, and what if that is the center of biblical theology? Would that mean that the Bible speaks to pressing moral, ethical, social, and economic questions? I think so . . .

Jim Hamilton is author of the new release, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.