Narrative theology is a relatively new undertaking and is one good example of a positive development in theological studies, due, in part, to the influence of postmodernity. I would suggest that the contributions of this movement will surprise many with numerous insights into how we might better approach the theological task, read the Bible, and live as faithful disciples in an ever-changing postmodern world.
Among the many emphases of story theology is the underlying claim that story plays a central role in how human beings make sense of the world and how they process and organize their experiences. N. T. Wright expounds on this fundamental role of story:
When we examine how stories work in relation to other stories, we find that human beings tell stories because this is how we perceive, and indeed relate to, the world. What we see close up, in a multitude of little incidents whether isolated or (more likely) interrelated, we make sense of by drawing on story forms already more or less known to us and placing the information within them. A story, with its pattern of problem and conflict, of aborted attempts at resolution, and final result, whether sad or glad, is, if we may infer from the common practice of the world, universally perceived as the best way of talking about the way the world actually is.
While raw information can stimulate and exercise our brain muscles, it is usually a good story that moves us to tears. And it is when we are moved holistically—both mentally and emotionally—that we are most likely to be changed or transformed. As Wright puts it, “Tell someone to do something, and you change their life—for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.” As Clark Pinnock describes it,
Stories are what tend to precipitate change and transformation in our experience, in a way that dogma and law simply cannot. It is when we hear the story of an act of courage or self-sacrifice, for example, that we are challenged to compare ourselves with this act of heroism and identity with what the agent does. We are less moved when someone commands us to be heroic and self-sacrificing, however right they may be.
We begin to see here how story can be a vital tool in ministry for sparking transformation as a person’s own personal story is confronted with and invited into God’s greater story of redemption.
As we begin to recognize the centrality of story in the Christian life, we realize discipleship is more about living our lives within a particular story than about adopting a new moral ethic. Salvation, with all its dimensions, includes also the grace of God reaching out to those writing their own futile stories and inviting them into the life, or Story, for which they were originally created, but have been unable to live since the original story plot was so ruthlessly twisted by Sin and Death, when these two villains first entered the stage of history. Hauerwas expands on this narrative dimension of discipleship and salvation:
As disciples, we do not so much accept a creed, or come to a clear sense of self-understanding by which we know this or that with utter certitude. We become part of a journey that began long before we got here and shall continue long after we are gone. Too often, we have conceived of salvation—what God does to us in Jesus—as a purely personal decision, or a matter of finally getting our heads straight on basic beliefs, or of having some inner feelings of righteousness about ourselves and God, or of having our social attitudes readjusted.
Salvation means being graciously grafted into God’s great epic of redemption, where we, the church, now share the stage with the risen and exalted Christ in enacting the next great chapter of history. Again, Hauerwas explains:
The story began without us, as a story of the peculiar way God is redeeming the world, a story that invites us to come forth and be saved by sharing in the work of a new people whom God has created in Israel and Jesus. Such movement saves us by (1) placing us within an adventure that is nothing less than God’s purpose for the whole world, and (2) communally training us to fashion our lives in accordance with what is true rather than what is false.
Have you found yourself swept up by this Story? Have you found your special role within it’s ongoing action and plot?
 For an introduction to narrative theology, see Carl F. H. Henry, “Narrative Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001) and for an evangelical perspective, see “Narrative Theology: An Evangelical Appraisal,” Trinity Journal, 8 (1987): 3-19. See also Alister McGrath, “The Biography of God,” Christianity Today 35, no. 8 (July 22, 1991): 22-24 and Stroup, The Promise, 84-89, for an overview of the origin’s of narrative theology. Other well-known studies include: Hans W. Frei, Theology and Narrative: Selected Essays, eds. George Hunsinger and William C. Placher (New York: Oxford, 1993); James Wm. McClendon, Jr., Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology (Nashville: Abingdon, 1974); Mark Ellingsen, The Integrity of Biblical Narrative: Story in Theology and Proclamation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990); and George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984).
 See Stephen Crites, “The Narrative Quality of Experience,” in Why Narrative? Readings in Narrative Theology, edited by Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 65-88, for the classic study on this view. See also, Terrence W. Tilley, Story Theology (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1985), 23-26.
 N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 40.
 I have written elsewhere on the role of story in sparking transformation. See Jeremy L. Berg, “Revelation, Illumination and Transformation: A Narrative Approach,” (Unpublished paper, 2002).
 Pinnock, Tracking the Maze, 165.
 Hauerwas and Willimon, 52.
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