Tag Archives: Propositional Theology

Narrative and Propositional Theology

The topic of reflection today is the contrast sometimes made between narrative and propositional theology. My thought was simply this: If theological propositions (statements about God) are intended to be articulations of the teachings of Scripture, then they will always have a narrative context even if this is absent from their articulation. Furthermore their interrelatedness will always require an explication of this narrative context. 

This is so because the knowledge of God which comes to us through the Scriptures concerns God in his active engagement with creation in its history, we know God only as the one who concretely created, commissioned, blessed, liberated, judged, promised, etc. in past events. God’s character, who God is, is revealed in God’s actions, and the communication and understanding of actions always takes narrative form. Whenever we recount what has taken place we are telling a story.[1]

There is a sense then in which all Christian theology is narrative theology, because it is simply not possible to abstract talk of God from the story in which God is known. To do so will either result in an incomplete picture of God or, if it does attend to all aspects of the Scriptures testimony to God, as a collection of propositions it will nevertheless form a story when read together.

So I am uneasy about the dichotomy sometimes drawn between narrative and propositional ways of exploring/organizing our knowledge of God. Perhaps theology that has been characterized as propositional leaves the story in the background whereas theology that has been characterized as narrative brings the story to the foreground? I speak out of relative ignorance, having read little on the topic.

Regardless, any telling of the biblical story will use propositions and propositions must be grounded in the biblical story. Perhaps the real matter for concern is the question of what means of articulating the teachings of Scripture not only brings them out most clearly for our audience (and ourselves), but which is most fruitful in forming God’s people.[2] If as human beings we all “inhabit” a story and it is out of this story that our lives take their shape, then the renewing of our minds through the re-narrating of our world and ourselves is the most important task for theology. And to this belongs the Scriptures story of God’s redemptive mission.

Please share your thoughts…

[1] This says nothing about theology that seeks to move beyond the teaching of the Scriptures in asking fresh questions about God, such as those tackled in books on science and theology.

[2] We should not imagine that current models of propositional and narrative theologies are the only two options available.


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