All humans find some meaning in their lives through a narrative framework. Humans develop meaning in life based on the broader framework developed through the story that they live out. Often this narrative framework is operating below the surface level. It is a story that was embraced at a very early age and is assumed as normative, so much so that it is rarely questioned. Even though most humans go through life unaware of this driving narrative, it is still extremely powerful. Many decisions that are made in life are based, consciously or unconciously, off of the story that is providing meaning for life.
There are multiple narrative stories in the world, each one arguing that it is the true story. These stories originate in many different places; myth, science, or religion. No matter the beginning point, each story argues that it is the real story and all of the others are either fake, or simply smaller narratives that fit into the larger story.
Lesslie Newbigin argues in The Gospel In A Pluralistic Society that there are two major stories in contemporary society (at least as proposed in most educational or philosophical settings) that are competing for dominance. One is the story of evolution, the rise of civilization, and the advancement of science that has given humanity some form of mastery over nature and creation. In most educational settings this is the story of dominance. It is a story rooted in Enlightenment thinking and highly influenced by modernism and the scientific revolution. It is based on a belief that humanity is advancing and with enough time and knowledge humanity can solve almost any problem. The other story is the story contained in the Bible. The story of creation and fall, the election of a people, and Jesus coming to earth to redeem and restore the creation. In this story God is the one in control and God is moving history toward a specific end; the New Creation which John envisions near the end of the book of Revelation. These two stories, one based in Enlightenment thinking and the other based in the Biblical narrative, are incompatible and are constantly vying for control in the lives of humans.
What Christians must believe is that the story contained in scripture, even though it is disavowed by the greater culture as myth or fantasy, is actually the true story of the world. The dominant culture will argue that the advances made in science and civilization prove that the story portrayed by the greater culture is the defining story. The story portrayed in the media, in the entertainment business, in the political arena, and even in many educational settings is spoken so strongly that it wants to make us believe that it is the only true story. The dominant culture says that religion may work in small settings, but it’s story is too outdated for the modern world.
However, the story in scripture is the story that must define our lives and become the basis for all of the decisions that we make. The story of scripture is not just a story among other stories but as Christopher Wright says in his book The Mission of God, the story portrayed in scripture “is the story, the ultimate and universal story that will ultimately embrace the whole of creation, time, and humanity within its scope.” It is only in embracing the story of scripture as the grand narrative of the world that Christians can learn to embrace the call God has for their lives; or even the mission to Love God, Love Others, and Share the Good News. It is in embracing this true story that one learns to live into the plan God has for their lives. And part of the role of spiritual formation is for individuals and communities to find themselves narrated into the great story of scripture. To allow the great story of scripture to so intersect their lives that it shapes their individual stories. Part of the role of spiritual formation is to allow one to open themselves up to the one who is not only writing the story of one’s individual life, but is in reality writing the narrative for the entire world. And to allow the real narrative of the world to become their guiding principle.