I no longer like the word “narrative”. This dislike has been building for the past few years until it has finally become unpalatable. A narrative has become akin to an imaginary friend, a fantasy, into which we now invite others to share our delusion. We now have “virtual narratives”.
Sporting games have narratives, political candidates construct narratives, corporations produce narratives, and worst of all people who are supposed to be academically and theologically astute now churn out fantastical narratives, often to the applause of their colleagues.
The faculty member who has apparently departed from the articles of faith of Wheaton College is inviting others into a “narrative” that she has constructed. If a grandchild asked me to play with him or her in a narrative fantasy the grandchild would likely know that she or he was pretending. However, if the grandchild actually came to believe that the imaginary friends were real, or that there were real Orcs or an army of aliens in the backyard – then we’d have cause for concern.
Members of the academic community (along with politicians, news media, and all too often preachers and pastors) construct narratives with impunity. They build a narrative and invite us to experience it with them. We are not invited to critique the narrative, we are not invited to measure the narrative against the facts – for the narrative purports to be its own reality. Narratives compete with one another for popularity – is it any wonder people move from one narrative to another without apparent forethought?
As the faculty member at Wheaton should know, the one narrative that matters is God’s narrative. Thankfully God has not left us to speculate on what His narrative might be for He has disclosed it to us in the Bible. We can test all narratives, and all truth claims, against God’s self-disclosure through the Scriptures and through Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Scriptures.
The word “narrative” is now a buzz word, a word that is used to allow adults to create worlds of fantasy and to invite other adults into the fantasy. Let me go find a child to play with – children still (I hope) can distinguish between make-believe and objective truth.