1. The Introductory chapter to Michael Horton's The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way is titled "The Dogma Is the Drama: A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way".
In this chapter, Horton places a premium on story.
I am very uncomfortable with this.
I believe in the primacy of truth.
But a story can be either true or false.
2. First, some definitions from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Story: (a) an account of incidents or events; or (b) a fictional narrative shorter than a novel.
Narrative: something that is narrated: story, account.
Narrate: to tell (as a story) in detail.
Drama: a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces.
3. Second, some quotations and comments.
Quotation 1 (Horton 2011, 14):
A modern myth is that we outgrow stories. When someone asks us to explain who we are, we tell a story. Furthermore, we interpret our personal narratives as part of a larger plot. ... The biggest questions, demanding the most rigorous intellectual analysis, are really doctrines that arise from a particular story that we either assume or embrace with explicit conviction. The Christian answers these big questions by rehearsing the story of the triune God in creation, the fall of the creatures he made in his own image, the promise of a redeemer through Israel, and the fulfillment of all types of shadows in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ. The Apostles' and Nicene creeds are not just a list of key doctrines; they are a confession in the form of a story, our shared testimony to the most significant facts of reality.
Firstly, I do not believe we outgrow stories.
But I am apprehensive about using story as a literary form to convey systematic theology.
The reason being that whereas systematic theology is meant to state the truth-claims made by the Bible, a story can connote a fictional account of events.
There is a mismatch between the literary form and content when one uses a story to state the truth-claims made by the Bible.
Secondly, there are two types of stories: a factual account of events and a fictional account of events.
When someone ask me who I am, I do not *just* tell a story; I give a factual account.
When answering the big questions, instead of *just* rehearsing the story of the triune God in creation, I give a factual account of the triune God in creation.
Equally, the Apostles' and Nicene creeds are not *just* confession in the form of a story, but confession in the form of a factual account of events.
4. Quotation 2 (Horton 2011, 15-16):
Today a story (narrative) that pretends it isn't one is called a metanarrative (meta meaning "beyond"). Many of the most unquestioned presuppositions of modernity were simply taken as the deliverances of absolute and universal reason. For example, where progress meant for Christians both God's outworking of his redemptive plan in history and our growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ (defined by the biblical story), for modern secularists it meant outgrowing childhood superstition (i.e. belief in the miraculous intervention of a transcendent God within history and nature). Everything in religion - particularly biblical faith - that belonged to a narrative or story was dismissed as myth, and any truth contained in these stories had to be demonstrated by the canons of universal reason and morality. ...
Firstly, again, there are two types of stories: a factual account of events and a fictional account of events.
Secondly, since a story may or may not be true, if one express the biblical faith as a story, one has not thereby claimed that the biblical faith is true.
The truth-value of the biblical faith as a story is left undecided and hanging in the air.
Since the speaker did not even make a claim that the biblical faith is true by telling a story, can one blame the audience for asking for a demonstration of its truth?
There is a mismatch between the literary form and content when one uses a story to express the idea that the biblical faith is true.
If one wants to express the idea that the biblical faith is true, then use a statement or declaration to make a truth-claim.
5. Quotation 3 (Horton 2011, 16-17):
... It is a confession of faith, a personal act of witness of the God who has entered our history in and through a particular narrative that cannot be "translated" or demythologized in secular terms. All of our worldviews are stories. Christianity does not claim to have escaped this fact. The prophets and apostles were fully conscious of the fact that they were interpreting reality within the framework of a particular narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, as told to a particular people (Israel) for the benefits of the world. The biblical faith claims that its story is one that God is telling, which relativizes and judges the other stories about God, us, and the world - especially the ones that have assumed the shape of Promethean metanarratives. ...
Firstly, Horton keeps assuming a story must convey truth when it need not be.
Secondly, God did not "enter our history in and through a particular narrative"; rather, a particular narrative gave a factual account of how God entered our history.
Thirdly, all of our worldviews are not *just* stories.
Our worldviews are truth-claims.
Fourthly, keep substituting "factual account" for "story" in Horton's sentences.
6. I can produce a few more quotations from the pages following, but the points are similar.
7. A story is not a good literary form for writing systematic theology.
A theology is a theory.
A systematic theology is a theory that synthesizes and presents the Bible in a topical and logical arrangement.
What are presented by systematic theology are the truth-claims made by the Bible.
The truth-claims made by the Bible are sorted into topics and arrange logically.
For this purpose, a story is not a good literary form to convey the content of systematic theology.
The reason why a story is not a good literary form for writing systematic theology is because a story leaves its truth-value undecided.
A story may be a factual account of events or it may be a fictional account of events.
In writing systematic theology with a story, one has to constantly struggle with the connotation that the story need not be true.
Making truth-claims in a literary form that can suggests fiction is a mismatch between form and content.
Horton, Michael. 2011. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary,
(accessed July 6, 2011).