Bible Prophecy Only In the Eye of the Beholder

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by Neil Godfrey

Here’s another piece of recommended reading. It’s the sort of article I wish I had thought to write. So thanks to Gavin Rumney of Otagosh for

The Prophecy that Wasn’t

He addresses the Christian tendency to read into God’s curse on the serpent in the Garden of Eden a prophecy of Jesus Christ one day coming to destroy Satan through his own death (symbolized by a snake-bite on the heel).

Gavin introduces the key term metanarrative into his discussion. That’s another useful expression I am sure to borrow for Vridar in future. So read Gavin’s post so you’ll be prepared. But since you’re here now here’s a preview (but you have to promise to read Gavin’s article, too) and some additional thoughts of my own:

Metanarrative: big word but simple concept. The idea is that there is a grand narrative, a saga, a big story that gives sense to the world, “an overarching story that defines your reality and who you are within it.” There are, according to the theorists, competing metanarratives, but the one we’re talking about is the story about sin, death, saviour and salvation (Eden, Satan, the Fall… all leading to Christ – birth, death, resurrection – and ultimately salvation from the sin that began back in the Garden.) Metanarrative is especially significant as a concept, according to Don Cupitt, in Reformed theology.

John Calvin in particular stuck so close to Augustine and was so Grand-Narrative-minded that preachers in his tradition (variously called Reformed, Calvinist, Presbyterian or puritan) long tended to maintain that the entire story, the Plan of Salvation, was implicit in every verse of Scripture…

That explains how it is each cult can lead its members to see the same lessons in the various scriptures that completely escape nonmembers. Many cults, I think, teach members that their reading is being guided by the Holy Spirit. It’s that Spirit that dwells only in their own church that reveals the meaning of the scriptures so clearly to them. Others cannot understand because they lack the Holy Spirit.

Garbage. All they lack is the right metanarrative through which to read the Bible. The JWs have one metanarrative, Mormons another, and so on, so members of each don’t have to be told how to interpret each and every verse in the Bible according to their church’s “Truths”. Once they have the “key” to understanding (i.e. that church’s metanarrative) it will all fall into place. A miracle! Proof that God has blessed them with His Truth — and them alone with his understanding!


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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “Bible Prophecy Only In the Eye of the Beholder”

  1. Neil,

    Wouldn’t you consider even mainstream NT scholarship working within a “metanarrative” of a vast religion founded by one remarkable (or unremarkable, depending on the argument trying to be made) man who inspired his followers to continue his teachings?

    1. Certainly. In one sense it can be considered just another name for apologetics. Those few who were never believers find the field a convenient place to receive the scholarly honours due to the token atheists (compare the honours once — and still — heaped upon the Jew converted to Christianity). That’s not so much second-guessing their motivations as it is echoing Stephen Young’s references to sociological analyses of the academics engaged in biblical studies as per https://www.academia.edu/10039504/_Protective_Strategies_and_the_Prestige_of_the_Academic_A_Religious_Studies_and_Practice_Theory_Redescription_of_Evangelical_Inerrantist_Scholarship

    1. “Metanarrative: A metanarrative has some similarity to Kuhn’s “paradigm;” however, there are some important differences. First, the terms are generally used in different settings. Metanarratives are generally used in philosophical and social science settings. Paradigm is the preferred term in scientific settings. The primary emphasis of a metanarrative refers to a set of beliefs applied universally that is unquestioned by the individual and/or group holding those beliefs.”

      “Paradigm: The concept of paradigm was initially introduced by Thomas Kuhn (1996). Essentially, a paradigm refers to the world view through which the world around us is interpreted. They are constructed through the process of building knowledge and the world view and assumptions about truth which emerge from this process. Different types of paradigms can exist. For example, there are many cultural paradigms which are largely shared between individuals from a particular cultural background. People also have individual paradigms which influence the way they view the world (similar to the idea of a world view). Each of the three major philosophical epochs (premodernism, modernism, and postmodernism) can be seen as one example of a paradigm. Compare with zeitgeist and metanarrative.”

      from: http://www.postmodernpsychology.com/postmodernism_dictionary.html

      The way they present the differences between the two terms, I don’t see much of a distinction. Whether a “metanarrative” or a “paradigm,” what we’re talking about is a set of expectations that define how one interprets the subject matter in question.

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