A recent forum discussion raised the question of what role the narrative portions of Scripture have for establishing Christian doctrine. The question had two parts: “What is sound doctrine concerning the doctrinal importance of narratives in Scripture? Who decides what is the correct view and what is not?”
I remember hearing a lot of bad preaching from narrative, growing up. I also heard a lot of good preaching from narrative. One lesson learned: If we don’t respect what narrative is, we can easily miss what God intended and even abuse the Scriptures.
As for “Who decides…”? I hope to show here that nobody special is required. We can all see that there are challenges involved in using narrative properly.
I’ll explore the topic briefly here in Q & A format.
1. Can biblical narrative establish doctrine?
It can! Consider the first few chapters of Genesis. Our doctrines of creation and the fall are clear (though not complete) from Genesis alone.
Both Jesus (Matt 19:4-6) and the apostles (1 Tim 2:13-14, 2 Cor 11:3, 1 John 3:12, 1 Pet 3:20) referenced portions of Genesis as support for doctrines they taught.
Still, narrative almost never stands alone as a basis for doctrine (more on why later).
2. Can biblical narrative show us how to behave?
The popular answer that “narrative is descriptive, not prescriptive” is an overgeneralization.