Embellishing Scripture

The Gospel Does Not Need Our Help

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

In most movies with a narrator, what the narrator says to help the story unfold is usually more interpretive than literal. He'll talk more about what the character feels, and then the character will speak words that express that feeling, but it usually won't be a direct quote.

The movie Forrest Gump is different. As the narrator tells the fictional story unfolding before us in flashback scenes, whenever he recounts what a character feels or says, that character then repeats it exactly. Word for word. It's not an interpretive re-telling but an actual, literal quote.

For example (and this is not from the movie but for illustration purposes), the narrator might say, "And I looked up at the sky and said, 'The sky is blue.'" Then immediately in the flashback scene the character will — do what? — look up at the sky and say, "The sky is blue."

Hmm. Direct quotes. What a great idea!

Because it's so rare in movies, this narration strategy really stands out. It's so clever in its unassuming simple-ness. It's as simple as telling a story so that the story tells itself, and that's what helps make the story so interesting and powerful. No interpretation to bog it down or cloud it up. The message is plain enough all by itself.

Of course, such a strategy can be a death blow if it ends up making the story nothing more than a redundant bore. But it works in "Forrest Gump" largely because of the simple-ness of the narrator himself, Forrest Gump, whose childlike innocence in how he looks at the world around him comes across in how he talks about it. He speaks in plain and simple words as he recounts his incredible life story.

Indeed, the story is already so captivating all by itself, he feels no need to add to it, over-dramatize it, exaggerate it or even magnify himself in it beyond the straight facts. And because the story, being his own, is so close to him, there is no risk of misinterpreting or twisting the truth.

Why can't preachers do the same thing?

That's not to suggest that they should be low-I.Q. simpletons like Forrest Gump. The first commandment for all of us is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. That means use it! For biblical Christianity, faith and reason, and logic and belief must go hand-in-hand.

And certainly we know that God has gifted and specifically called some people to help all of us understand the Scriptures, and that in turn requires a degree of interpretation on the part of a skilled and humble preacher or teacher.

But why is the practice of adding to, over-dramatizing, exaggerating or emphasizing one's own role in the ministry of the Gospel a growing problem in today's churches? And why is close personal study of God's Word, combined with making it one's own by sincerely trying to live by it, so neglected, to the point that misinterpretation and the false doctrine it spawns have become epidemic?

When we share anything from the Scriptures, what's wrong with simply saying what God plainly says? If God says in His Word that the sky is blue, why must we say it's royal blue or electric blue or bluish-purple with a touch of forest green?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the wisdom, guidance and hope that the Bible provides us for daily Christian living, are plain enough. God's Word does not need help to be relevant, compelling and life-changing. And when sharing it requires interpretation, keep it simple. The message of the Gospel is plain enough all by itself.

Image Credit: Chris Eccles; "Illuminated bible, Barga, Italy"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Church-Issues  | False-Teaching

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Published on 8-20-15