DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology

Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology

Narrative Theology. Yes, you have probably heard the term. These days, it seems, Narrative Theology is in demand. It’s no small wonder! Our faith is built upon narrative! The Christmas season we are just beginning to enter only emphasizes the fact. The story of the Incarnation will be told, re-told, sung, illustrated, and celebrated around dinning room tables all over the world during this Christmas season. The narrative nature of our Christian faith is most obvious in times of holiday. It has always been so and it will continue to be so.

What is Narrative Theology? That’s the question everyone should be asking. The term is used by many today, but have many really investigated or explored it deeply? Is narrative all that theology is? Is there more to the approach than the popular use of the term suggests? Is Christianity solely “story?” How does this Narrative approach inform or effect ethics? Does it have anything to do at all with praxis? What is the relationship between narrative and history? These questions - and many, many more that we haven’t even thought about - are very important.

I’m diving into a book titled Why Narrative: Readings in Narrative Theology. It is edited by Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones. Hauerwas also contributed to the book’s introduction. Anyone seeking a broad understanding of Narrative Theology should put this book in their library. It’s a diverse and thorough introduction to the topic. If your goal is to actually understand the narrative theological approach that is gaining so much momentum today, this book will serve you well. The book is not a quick read, so plan to spend some quiet time with it.

I’m starting with the first chapter: The Story of Our Life by H. Richard Niebuhr. I’ll be posting thoughts regarding the content as soon as I complete it and give it some thought time.


  1. Posted November 27, 2007 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I did an independent study in “Narrative Theology” in seminary and have since tried to adopt some of its principles into sermon preparation. There is no doubt that stories can often best convey Gospel truth. Jesus certainly knew this and made the most of it.

  2. Posted November 27, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Pistol Pete - Thanks for the comment. I’d love to hear more about your own understandings of Narrative Theology. It sounds as if you have much to offer this conversation! So, feel free to jump in at any time!

    You are right: Jesus epitomized the narrative approach like no other. He’s the model.

    Today was my very first visit to your blog. Great work! It’s now in my feed reader. You should consider joining us over at The Daily Scribe. Give it some thought and apply!

  3. Posted November 27, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your response and for the referral to “The Daily Scribe”. I submitted my blog (hopefully the right way).

  4. Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Have you read the book The Divine Drama by Kurt Bruner? We need to emphasize both the “proposition and the story” of the gospel, according to Bruner. I really liked his little book on that–he writes the gospel in the form of a play then describes what he did in the last half of the book.

  5. Posted November 27, 2007 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    @Pistol Pete: I’ll look for your submission!

    @Rich: No! I never read that book, but it seems, from your description of it, to be trekking in the same direction as Hauerwas and Co. Niebuhr, for example, in the first chapter is really zeroing in on one big question re: narrative: “How can revelation mean both history and God?” I’m not sure that Bruner’s emphasized “proposition and story” is that far removed from Niebuhr’s larger thought concerning revelation. It’s a great read!

    At any rate, this narrative approach is beyond interesting and necessary, especially in this postmodern culture of ours. Jesus used narrative, as Pete says, to articulate the Gospel; so should we, but we should at least know what we are talking about and all of the implications when we cite narrative as our theological approach of choice.

    Great stuff, fellows.

  6. Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I’ve come to view narrative theology in a broader sense than story telling. It is telling the Gospel story in the way a particular text tells it. So, if I’m preaching on the parables, I should look for images in daily life to illustrate God’s kingdom. If I’m preaching on Paul’s advice to Timothy, however, I should adopt more of a “counseling” tone. I don’t always pull this off well, but I try to match the genre of my sermon with the genre of the text.

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