Metanarrative Layer

by Matt Carter

In an important way, the metanarrative layer is the simplest layer to understand. This is the grand cosmic story of God restoring creation. It occurs in four acts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. There are nuances. There is progression, but this cosmic story is simple and simply beautiful. We live in between Act 3 and Act 4. Redemption through Christ is here, but all things have not yet been reconciled to him. As Christians, we expectantly await that restoration, and that is our hope.

The primary problem we have with the metanarrative layer is not one of understanding, but of merely understanding it. For the metanarrative layer to be real, it must be lived out as our story. It has to shape our way of seeing and making sense of the world. It has to form us. It has to become our story.

The problem for most of us is that we have already been shaped by the secular world's metanarrative. We have already been taught to take what we want and see ourselves as the most important and relevant actors of our story. We know that victims get what they deserve and that the strong dominate the weak.

As a result, we really need to interact with the world's metanarrative. We need first to see how we get shaped by what the secular world’s influential stories are really telling us. A key part of this first stage is to see what the world's metanarrative imagines as possible. We really start to get a sense of this whenever we think about popular movies and popular ways of spending our free time. Secondly, we need to see how those stories get saturated into our bones through habits and practices that we unconsciously adopt. These actions shape our desires for the things the world tells us we should crave. Thirdly, we need to identify ways that we can counterform ourselves along biblical lines to shape our desires for the beauty of God and shalom. Then we should adopt these practices intentionally as a way of habituating ourselves to a counterformative way of making our way in the world.

But this all begins with starting to see how the stories we tell and encounter either reinforce or subvert these metanarratives. To do that, we need to become familiar with these stories. This class hopes to begin that process.

Avoiding Gotchas

  1. Don't look for an allegorical, hidden, or secret meaning in the text.
  2. Don't decontextualize. Each story needs to be read within its historical and literary context.
  3. Pay attention to the entire story not just to a few select words or phrases.
  4. Don't look for moral lessons or assume that you should become more like a character within historical narratives.
  5. Don't personalize by seeking an individual meaning specific to you personally.
  6. Don't redefine the clear meaning of a story to make it fit within your own context.

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