Friday, July 22, 2011

Narrative Identity and Praise

The narrative theology of Robert Jenson may cause some people metaphysical squirms. Of all the theologians I've read, he is the one who places most emphasis on God being his acts, not just revealed in his acts. Despite the theological quibbles, I've noticed a joyful benefit in hanging out with narrative theologians and using their perspective. The benefit is the increased ability to praise.
Ask a bunch of christians to praise God, to simply praise God in prayer, and it won't be long before they move into confession and petition, and generally move away from praising God. The content of the praise is usually some vague attributes, thanks for taking away sins, and some recollection of nice things God has done recently.
This week I ran some prayer meetings at church. I shared with them the idea that praising God was simply telling him who he is and what he has done. As we paint a picture of praise, the whole sweep of the Bible is our palette. We know God through these stories, so if you can recount the story, you can praise God.
We could have spent the whole time praising God. It just gushed out, as people remembered different bits of the scriptures, retold them with 'You are the God who...' It was easy instead of painful. It was joyful instead of dreary. It was concrete instead of abstract. It set the scene for the rest of our prayers because it praised God as a person, as a subject, who acts, rather than a vague benevolent force.
In one of the most interesting responses, one of the prayers said afterwards, "I want to go home and read my Bible so I can praise God more". Whew, surely that is what we are aiming at right.

So, I highly recommend dabbling in some theology of narrative identity and incorporating it into your prayers.


Dan Anderson said...

Beautiful Mike. Thanks. I've really enjoyed reading the first part of The Triune Identity this year. Hope to find time to finish it soon.

Chris Swann said...

So brilliant!

In these last couple of years out of college, I've consistently found that it's these kind of writers (the guys we might have some theological quibbles with) who do the most to help me and others focus on the living Lord at the heart of our faith.

Mike W said...

Thanks gentlemen.
I really enjoy Jenson. I get the critiques, but I just don't care. I perhaps should have said 'actualist ontology' rather than 'narrative theology',oh well.
So, who else have you been reading chris?

Chris Swann said...

Moltmann, Von Balthasar, J Louis Martyn and Nate Kerr. I find myself invigorated by the different ways they each insist on making their theological centre of gravity the incarnate Jesus and his cross (rather than some shady backroom deal in pre-temporal eternity or whatever).

Mike W said...

ooo good. I just ordered a couple of volumes of von balthasar's 'theo-drama'.
Is Nate Kerr that envigorating? I read rave reviews on blogs, but haven't quite been convinced to buy that apocalyptic book.
I met him at a conference once. He was a pleasant guy, but I got the feeling he was way too cool for me. (though that could be because I turned up on the last day after he had given his talks, sat next to him and had no idea who he was or what he had said).
If anything he seems to be making the usual critiques of Hauerwas but as a hip theologian rather than conservative evangelical. Though that vibe is just from Halden Doerges blog. Ok I've convinced myself, I'll read the book