In my initial manifesto, I presented a sample narrative of Jesus in action rather than the typical set of static statements, but I never published a comprehensive "Orthoscript" about the whole story that defines why we are here, where we have faltered, and who we can now be in the story God is writing. I believe it is now time to replace every "doctrinal statement" stuck in the linguistic concepts of previous cultures with a new metanarrative. And I need your feedback in order to overcome my own biases and cultural misperceptions as we craft a story bigger than ourselves that can define each self.
- "OrthoScripts written well animate a way of seeing our role and significance in the world. They define what the key characters are doing and where the story is headed so we know how to join in."
- "They blend narrative with statements of nature. They make you feel who God has been and the trajectories of who he is being. They form thoughts for the mind but stir feelings in your heart. They act more biblical than static affirmations of what is right to believe."
- "OrthoScripts ...play on both the foundation of rightly interpreted Scripture (“Ortho” meaning “right”) and the form of a written script that captures a good story (the “Script”)."
- “Static ‘is’ statements do not reflect the diachronic development throughout Scripture. The move from Deuteronomy’s ‘kill your enemy’ to Jesus’ ‘love your enemy’ reveals a trajectory not a static truth. Our faith must express where the key players are heading and how major themes are developing over time, or else we theologians are just picking out pauses in the storyline that please a particular generation.”
- "Let's create OrthoScripts that inspire and imaginate. Let's bring the activity of Scripture and sin, Jesus and redemption, God and the church back to life. Let's experience the truth rather than settle for argumentative expressions whose meaning is more rooted in a temporary cultural-linguistic construct than a long history of divine movement."
I hope the following Orthoscript I have drafted begins to realize these lofty intentions. This narrative of our human journey will mix facts and feelings, inner struggle and external pressure, brokenness and hope, in a metanarrative that captures the human search for something greater in Scripture. I hope this story defines you. I hope these truths free you. I hope you join the most meaningful mission any person could embrace in his or her cultural moment. And please help me refine this seminal Orthoscript through your reflective feedback in the comments below.
We were all designed to live a certain way, but humanity has chased its desires down destructive paths. Born on a planet that’s precisely put together so we could flourish, we have rarely done what the design calls for. We go against the grain every day, and every generation learns how not to live by the consequences of short-sighted, self-deluded judgment calls. We plague ourselves while blaming the problem on someone else.
Despite the darkest hours of the human experiment, we have been given a light. One Ancient Near Eastern Semitic family detected a God who rose above all other nationalistic, violent, and petty gods. The old human proclivity to cajole the Divine through elaborate worship in order to win wars, get rich, feel superior, and avoid problems was undermined. The nation of Israel slowly discovered a superior God who reflected our highest ideals rather than our basest cravings. How was he different? He actually cared for Israel and their enemies, he favored social justice over ornate rituals, and he valued the character suffering produces more than the pride of victory. Narcissistic kings and oppressive elites resisted, but prophets decried tyrannical injustice and painted the portrait of a better leader who could show the world how to align with God’s virtuous order. The Jewish prophets’ struggle against systemic injustice in search of a new kind of life and leader resonates across all cultures, countries, and eras as an evergreen hope of human existence. We long for an ideal that exceeds the usual positioning for power, impunity, and pleasure.
In a dramatic act of poetic irony, a small Mediterranean province, struggling under the oppression of the 1st century Roman Empire, gave us the exemplary leader we have always been looking for: Jesus. Jesus invalidated the power-hungry, retaliatory attitude of ancient gods (and their supporters) to reveal the most pure dream God could ever have for the world. Jesus worked toward justice rather than jockeying for position. He gave people second chances rather than writing them off. He focused inward on the human heart, rather than intimidating people to make behavioral modifications.
In a radical subversion of every religion, Jesus made the age-old focus on faithfully loving your preferred God inseparable from the imperative to love every person you know about. You could no longer “love God” just to get his fringe benefits; you had to care about everything and everyone he had created too. In a grand demonstration of love and a historic protest against oppressive power, Jesus stayed faithful to his principles even as religious and political powers killed him for it. Jesus embodied how humanity is meant to live and launched a movement to restore this world to all the right things it was supposed to be. That’s why he was raised up above all others and now invites everyone to follow the trail he blazed. It is hard to imagine what more meaningful path you would want to follow in this life?
We all now have the honor and responsibility to incarnate the same humble service and subversive activity witnessed during Jesus’ life. But we cannot will our way to be like him or enforce some set of rules for people to follow, no matter how right we think they are. We must be energized by a new inner life that transforms us from the inside out. We must feel the freedom from every self-obsessed story we have been sucked into and find joy in something greater. Jesus’ compelling mission, and his grace for every twisted turn we have taken, gives us a new lease on life! So let your spirit go wild and forget the pressure to perform while you lose yourself in his loving mission to care more about the interests of others than your own. Life is not meant to be about you!
We are not meant to indulge only ourselves or to be alone. Jesus’ life and mission was rooted in his relationship with the Father, so embrace his example. We need deep, transparent, and unpretentious friendships to fulfill our natural desire to know and be known. Our need for connection is met in Jesus’ kind of communities characterized by love, grace, justice, compassion, humility, and joy. That is how Jesus rescues us from the soliloquy of our individual lives and sweeps us into his global family on a self-sacrificing mission worth living for. We find ourselves when we are poured out in love toward others. What an ironic freedom! But it is how our world returns to right from all its corrupted ambitions.
The Bible recounts the progressive steps on that mission of renewing the world. Our participation in that mission has been inconsistent, yet in that struggle, Scripture’s laments express our pains, its praises show us the thrill of being about something bigger than ourselves, its commands remind us there is a right and wrong way to live, and its characters provide a pool of possible selves to become or to avoid on our journey. We need the Bible’s drama to question us and inspire us, confound us and teach us, define us and convict us because we get lost in our own small stories inspired by a hallow world.
We were all meant to play our part in this story until the whole world is set free from its self-destructive habits. That’s why you are here. That’s where everything is headed. You are more than a materialistic consumer who needs to self-medicate through myopic indulgences. So let’s pray and exercise wisdom, sacrifice ourselves and do the work to mature. Every act of mercy and every life saved, every outsider welcomed and repentant sinner forgiven, every enforcement of justice and loving family formed is God’s dream coming true. So come indulge life wisely the way Jesus showed us to live. Amen.
Our human struggle has been the same throughout history. Our search for something greater has been universal. Inspiration from someone ideal is our aching need. And this human narrative has been captured in the biblical epic that crosses so many centuries. So let’s bring this story to life.
No one has turned to “statements of faith” during “crises of faith,” but an inspiring OrthoScript can change that. No one consults a “Catechism” or “Creed” to navigate the existential struggles of human existence, but a transparent and authentic OrthoScript can change that. No one derives the meaning of their life from a “Confession,” but the redemptive trajectory of an OrthoScript can show you how to fit in to the whole story. So let’s start proclaiming a faith that leads to faithfulness and a truth that sets us free rather than binds us to a sectarian movement. Let’s recite a story that dispels the myth of materialism while moving us into transformation from the inside out.
Jesus is the ideal we have been waiting for, and his way will help us navigate a world ravaged by self-indulgent ideas. We need story and poetry, history and psychology, exposition and inspiration to captivate our imagination and intellect. That is why I believe the OrthoScript above should replace the doctrinal confessions, catechisms, and creeds whose language has lost its precision and syntax only serves to divide disciples of Jesus. We can unite again around the story that defines us rather than propositions that divide us.
I welcome any advice on how to tell the story more biblically and dynamically.