Metanarrative :: “Any founding or overarching story that gives rationale and legitimation for a particular worldview, perspective, or value system…The postmodern critique of metanarratives is but an echo of the biblical warning against idolatry and, by implication, the totalizing of any theory or narrative other than God’s story…” (A Is For Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church. Sweet, Leonard and Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003)
So, where does that leave us? It seems that even by saying “warning against the totalizing of any…narrative other than God’s story” we are still saying that God’s Story is THE Story. And on that point, I would have to agree. I see inherent value and truth in PoMo (let me just say that I know PoMo is the trendy way of writing postmodernism, but I simply do it because it’s shorter…well, and it’s trendier) for followers of Christ, especially those who have been disenchanted with organized religion, traditional church and Modern Christianity as a whole.
But I have a hard time figuring out this “metanarrative” thing. After I returned from the Emergent Convention where I had talked to Brian McLaren a few times (he wrote A New Kind of Christian, The Story We Find Ourselves In, More Ready Than You Realize and others), I emailed Brian and others and asked them about this question. This was Brian’s response:
Adam — Thanks for your note, brother. I have a chapter in a book coming out this September (I think) called “Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives” or something like that which addresses this question. Short summary — metanarrative is a term that describes a big story that distorts, wipes out, replaces, coopts, or otherwise destroys all other stories. I don’t think our story does that. I think it redeems all other stories … Plus, if you say “our” story is THE story, one might ask which version of it do you mean – health&wealth, Calvinist, Arminian, young earth, old earth, religious right, religious left, etc., etc.? That’s why I don’t like to use the word metanarrative for the gospel. HTH — Brian
Yet, it still seems like we’re playing language games. Brian’s last sentence: That’s why I don’t like to use the word metanarrative for the gospel. But…just because you are changing the wording of what you are calling it — you are viewing it as a metanarrative.
I guess I don’t really have any answers…I think we begin to get on some shaky ground when we say that God’s Story is as equally true as any other story. I’ve heard some people differentiate between a story being “true” and a story being “valid.” I think I can see the difference, but I’m not sure that answers this question. I do believe that God’s Story, the Story we see from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, is the Ultimate Story. So I guess I still am holding on to a metanarrative.
And I guess that makes me a PoMo runt (see Matthew 16.8 in The Message). Any thoughts? I’m open.