The Biblical Narrative and Ours: The Redemptive-Historical Model, Part Three

Mary as a model of faith always sounds good and pious, but this essential message is really quite far from the point of historical Christianity. Are we really to come away with yet another moral or spiritual lesson designed to merely help us get through our days, weeks and lives? In these scenarios one of the theses in Reformed theology once again is made true: the Gospel is not our natural inclination. It is very hard “to do” the Gospel because it is not natural to us. It is easier and more natural to cull out naturalistic messages from the Bible, or the “timeless principles” such as the Application-Bridge model implores us to do. This is because timeless principles, naturalistic messages or moralistic and spiritualistic truisms all fall under our natural inclination, namely that category of Law. We get Law. We understand “do this and you shall live.” We were programmed for such things. We were hard wired to fulfill the covenant of works. That natural programming has never been extinguished. The problem is that our ability was. Thus, to hear “sit back and watch God do it on your behalf,” is aggravating, frustrating, and angering. So it is not natural to read Mary’s Magnificat as the otherworldly announcer of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, the justification of the wicked and the conduit for the age to come. That message is too foreign to the flesh, which furls its brow and asks, “What’s that got to do with me? That’s all too impractical, too lofty and transcendent to be of any earthly good. Please, just tell me what to do, how to live. Give me principles and tools and guidelines. I have a lot to figure out in my particular life, so just write it all down and let me get on with it.”

But instead of pulling God down into our own narratives and making God “relevant and practical” to our lives as we demand He be, the Redemptive-Historical approach seeks to show how we are caught up in the biblical narrative of God’s redemption as He has declared it. Coming away from Advent messages that tell us that the whole point is to pull God down into our individual narratives is weak, to say the very least. Biblical figures point us (and even them) away from our narratives to Christ the Messiah which is God’s narrative.

The biblical narrative is like a rainbow that arches above us, a thing that surpasses our particular experiences as individuals and goes on “above our heads,” so to speak. This is because, like a rainbow, it is God’s work. It then reaches down and sweeps us out of our particularities and sets us all on equal ground together. The truth narrative of Christ’s work for us becomes ours; we are grafted into it together. Gone are the individual experiences amongst us that serve only to divide us. Gone are John’s particular pains and my this-worldly pleasures. The themes that unite us are those otherworldly themes of sin and grace. Gone are any impulses to examine what is going on in our lives these days and how God fits into it, and they are replaced with what God has done and how we fit into that.

Mary’s Magnificat beckons us to enjoin with Mary and “magnify the LORD” that He is about to fulfill what He declared through the prophets: the fulfillment of the promises to justify His chosen people, His race of faith, His elect. He is about to clothe Himself in flesh and blood, come down and actually dwell amongst His people. The Light is about to flicker and remind us all that He is ready to make the way of salvation and to do His work as promised, to usher in the next age. Ours is a dual task: we celebrate His first coming and what it accomplished in order that we might look ahead to His second.

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12 Responses to The Biblical Narrative and Ours: The Redemptive-Historical Model, Part Three

  1. sean says:

    “But instead of pulling God down into our own narratives and making God “relevant and practical” to our lives as we demand He be, the Redemptive-Historical approach seeks to show how we are caught up in the biblical narrative of God’s redemption as He has declared it.”

    Yep, happened this weekend. Took Micah 5-deliverance coming from the Assyrians via Bethlehem. He rightly associated this with the incarnation, but then slaughtered the point by saying God delivers through ordinary means and we shouldn’t look to the supernatural(lightning bolt) for deliverance, but look to God’s ordinary provision. A good point actually, but the complete opposite of what Micah is actually pointing to. What’s more supernatural than the incarnation? Humble? yes. Ordinary? not quite.

    The reason he pulled this bit of homiletic gymnastics? He has an overriding principle of “relevant” application that must be served. Damn the text or any other counter consideration. PCA church by the way. Oh yeah, the seven shepherds and eight princes later on in the text became the promise of christian leaders who would rule us righteously. NOBODY batted an EYE. In fact, I explained what he’d done to a friend of mine and he asked if I wouldn’t mind just keeping my thoughts to myself. I laughed, he’s probably right, if not the PCA then where is he supposed to attend?

    It still sucks out here.

  2. Zrim says:

    Sounds like humble followed ordinary out the window with all the Christian leader stuff.

  3. sean says:

    Zrim,

    It was actually kinda sad. He gets to the seven shepherds and eight princes and he mumbles “something something”( I swear, that’s what it sounded like) than just kinda throws in the christian leaders line and quickly goes to “let’s pray”. Which, after that hatchet job, I thought was rather a presumptuous thing to say, but hey; “he’s ordained” . Need I tell you what I think of Jason’s “Holy orders”?

    Advent really screws up a lot of these guys. They’d rather it just move along, they’ve got important life application to pontificate on. His saving grace, like so many of these cats, is he’s “really good one on one.” I think Trueman just shot down the value of that virtue in his address, but what does a limey know.

  4. mboss says:

    Zrim,

    Kind of like what worship, the church, and the sabbath should be – occasions when God spreads out a feast for his people to receive and to be fed. Yet lovers of the law that we are, we do an effective job of turning those gifts into “opportunities” for works. No wonder so many (including myself in times past) get burned out by churchy and para-churchy activities. I just listened to a lecture from Dr. Horton on worship, and I think I gave myself whiplash from nodding so often.

    Mike

  5. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    Was Horton’s lecture called “Stop Serving God”?

  6. mboss says:

    Zrim,

    Not sure of the title, it was a WHI cd bonus track.

  7. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    It’s not nice to brag, especially at Christmas, especially in hard economic times.

    Kidding. I bet that is the title. Sounds like good stuff.

  8. mboss says:

    Zrim,

    Though I am a fellow Michigander suffering the hard economic times with everyone else here in southeast Michigan, given what’s available around here churchwise I tell myself that my wife and I need that little bit “extra” to supplement what we might not be getting consistently on the Sabbath. I am thankful, though, that unlike another church in the area, my church did not bring automobiles from the Big 3 to the pulpit to pray over them.

    Speaking of Dr. Horton, he’s coming to GRerusalem next March for a Conference.

  9. R'na says:

    Zrim, if there is a way you really need to get a hold of some of Bill Baldwin’s sermons when he was pastor of Redeeming Grace OPC. His sermons were always pointing us in the congregation to Christ, proclaiming the promises, setting us in the biblical narrative as part of our story of redemption.

    Bill was arguing for the indicative (who we are in Christ) and not the imperative (moralism) when many were steeped in Puritan piety.

    If anyone knows if his sermons are online please let me know.

  10. Zrim says:

    R’na,

    You might start with his blog. But I think it’s been pretty inactive for a spell.

    http://bettercovenant.wordpress.com/

    It’s 19 degrees and overcast. Winter strom slated for tomorrow and Friday.

  11. sean says:

    R’na,

    Here’s what I found on a search.

    http://bettercovenant.org/index.htm

  12. R'na says:

    thanks!

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