Conservative Theology

The Abuse of "Story"

JB

Postmodernism has greatly increased the relevance of "story" in both the interpretation of the Bible and in interpersonal interactions (for those of you who are unaware of what this is, here is a really good short summary by a friend of mine).  On the whole, this is a good thing.  However, recently I have been reading books which abuse the notion of story as to become propoganda.  This is a phenomena which I believe we will see more of, and is an unintended effect of our culture's shift towards "story" as a way of understanding. 

The problem is that "story" can easily become a substitute for "rational argument".  When we overemphasize story, we fail to be able to analyze a situation critically.  The book I'm currently reading is about the "story of the universe," and, actually, it is much worse than previous books I've read on this subject.

With story, one need not give an argument.  One simply presents heroes and villains and victims.  It is not possible to ask of a story if the heroes were heroic or evil, or if the victims were actually villains in someone else's story.  Story prevents you from asking many questions which are essential for discerning truth.

That isn't to say that story can't be used to communicate truth.  I certainly believe that the Bible does that.  The problem is that "story" only communicates truth when the teller of the story is a trusted source.  The only difference between story and propoganda is the trustworthiness of the teller.

Therefore, the postmodern shift towards story, while it may be good for both Biblical studies and interpersonal relationships, could really damage us in the realm of public knowledge, because to rely on story for this critical aspect of life will mean that it is inevitably susceptible for anyone to create a good enough story, with beautiful looking heroes and mean, nasty villains, and, since "story" instead of "argument" is the key phrase, public villainizing can be substituted for public debate.

"Story" is not impartial, and it's usefulness depends on the trustworthiness - and shared ideals - of the teller.