Monday, May 19, 2008

Are Narratives and Propositions Opposed?

Time and again in my personal conversations with others on the nature of Scripture and other related matters, I’ve found that narratives and propositions are set up as antithetical (on a related point see Helm's Deep). Why should they be? I’m unconvinced that they are so, or that the Reformed Orthodox presented theology in such a way that propositional truths were allowed to trump the Biblical narrative of redemptive history. Both forms were valid ways of communicating the Gospel and the truth of Scripture.

Recently, while reading the outstanding thesis by Henry Knapp entitled, Understanding the Mind of God: John Owen and Seventeenth Century Exegetical Methodology (Calvin Theological Seminary, 2002), I came across a quotation from William Perkins which proves the point. In his The Arte of Prophecying, Perkins presents the Gospel in both narrative and propositional forms (pardon the 16th century spelling):

The true Messias shall be both God and man of the seede of Dauid; he shall be borne of a virgin; he shall bring the Gospell forth of his Fathers bosome; he shall satisfie the Law; he shall offer up himselfe a sacrifice for the sinnes of the faithfull; he shall conquer death by dying and rising againe; he shall ascend into heaven; and in his due time he shall returne unto iudgement.

Iesus of Nazaret the Sonne of Mary is such a one:

He therefore is the true Messias.

In this syllogisme the Maior is the scope or principall drift in all the writings of the Prophets: and the Minor in the writings of the Euangelists and Apostles.

(cited in Knapp, 81)


Marty said...

Dear Edwin,

Thanks so much for this. I totally agree and sounds like I've had the same sorts of conversations (many times).

One of the problems I have is when some want to make the meta-narrative of Scripture the supreme authority. I've never quite understood how narratives command or synthesize?

God bless,


Chris Ross said...

Hey Edwin,

Thanks for the great post. Reductionism seems to be a common source of lousy theology.


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