Skip to main content

Living by the Script

People often wonder why Christians have an obsession with the bible. They can see why being a church together is important—for fellowship etc—and they can see why we might conduct certain rituals as part of worship or perhaps to appease our deity. So why the obsession with words written in a book?
We will return to the book in a moment, but let us firstly look at how we speak and act in the world. Everyone leads a scripted life. Our cultures offer us scripts—ways to speak and act in the world—and even when we don't notice them consciously, we act upon them. As Christians we dedicate ourselves to the scripture and thus are given a different script. Our life of faith is, in a sense, a gradual learning and conforming to the script of the bible. It offers us ways to speak—truthfully, lovingly, morally and gospelly—and ways to act—against sin and for God.

You could say that Jesus adopted and lived out the script found in the Old Testament. Christ, after all, performed the narrative found in the Jewish scriptures. His act of sacrifice was a fulfillment of all that Israel longed for. The atonement of Christ is the culmination of the story found in the minds of the children of Israel. Kevin Vanhoozer, Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, calls this a reincorporation of previously assumed events, promises and ideas: “The cross...reincorporates the earlier action: Adam, the Exodus, bloody sacrifices and sin offerings; the exile; the Passover supper; the offices of prophet, priest and king; the destruction of the Temple—all are taken up, “recapitulated,” in Jesus' Death” (Vanhoozer 388).
We might surely wonder which script is the right one, or even merely the best one, to live by. Is there a superior myth or narrative which explains the world as we see it and scripts our interaction with it? A common belief in the west is that all scripts have equal validity. None hold an absolute priority over the others. The Christian story is just as valid as the materialist story. The problem with this is that it requires the creation of its own script. The story goes something like this: as primitive cultures emerged, each one passed on tales of its origin. As events happened—great wars were won, hunger overcome and heroes made—new myths were added to the canon. At some point, much of the wealth of myth became formalized, taught as official doctrine and translated into laws and constitutions. The Christian myth in this sense is merely one of the more successful myths that emerged from the ancient world. The problem with this is that it is itself a myth reliant upon a belief that we evolve from simple cultures into more complex cultures, which itself relies on a materialistic take on how the universe works.
According to Jesus, to choose his script over the alternatives is akin to building a house with solid foundations:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).
According to Christ, his words—and ostensibly the words of the whole bible—will stand up to any test, challenge or attack. His script can deal with life when it goes to pot. It doesn't fold when people oppress you, oppose you and even persecute you for the script you live by.
The question most prescient to a person who inhabits a given culture is: which script do you speak and act according to?
Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Drama of doctrine a canonical-linguistic approach to Christian theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2005.