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Christianity and Literature 540 contexts of which I am unaware. I for one look forward to seeing how reading and re-reading medieval poems with Spearing’s ideas in mind will enhance my appreciation of their composition and poetic craft as I learn to pay attention to deixis and the potential instability of the “I” of medieval texts. M. W. Brumit University of Dallas In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts. By C. S. Song. Cambridge, UK: James Clarke & Co., 2012. ISBN 978-0-227-68023-0 Pp. vii-172. $18.90. Choan-Seng Song is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology and Asian Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion in San Francisco. His book In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts seeks to challenge “Western biblical scholars and theologians who have monopolized the interpretation of the Bible” (115). He desires to throw “wide open the door of interpretation to men and women from outside the West, to people of different ethnic origins and cultural backgrounds, to women as well men, to the powerless over against those who hold power, whether political, social, religious, or academic” (115). Here is how Song structures the book to accomplish his goal. The book consists of ten tightly integrated chapters and a bibliography. Chapter headings include, “In the Beginning Were Stories, Not Texts,” “Story Is the Matrix of Theology,” “Theology Rewrites Stories,” “Stories Rectify Theology,” “The Theological Power of Stories,” “In Search of Our Roots,” “Stories within a Story,” “Stories Are Culturally Distinctive,” “Stories Can Be Theologically Interactive.” The final chapter, “The Bible, Stories, and Theology,” provides the reader “approaches” to pursue theology conceived in stories inside and outside of Scripture. Chapter 10 answers this question, “How is … intense theology to be born out of the matrix of stories?” (152). The first step of story theology is, “Awareness of the theological nature of stories” (155). For Song, “story is the matrix of theology” (18). This axiom drives his book, challengingtheWesternpenchantforsystematictheology.Heraisessomeintriguing questions to make his case, “Who says theology has to be ideas and concepts? Who has decided that theology has to be doctrines, axioms, propositions?” (6). Song’s conclusion? “God is not concept; God is story. God is not idea; God is presence. God is not hypothesis; God is experience. God is not principle; God is life.” He adds, “theology worthy of its name has to be part and parcel of the dramas of life and faith” (116). Song ably answers the above questions in the book. And his story-based 541 Book Reviews approach to theology is his major and masterful contribution to the Christian world. The book reminds one of Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (1974), Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981), Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones’ Why Narrative? (1997), Leland Ryken’s How to Read the Bible as Literature (1984), Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s Drama of Doctrine (2005), and Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, among others, in the emergent church movement in the U.S. One significant difference between Song and the above authors, however, is his entertainment of secular stories in theologizing. As one who has lived in Asia for many years, I loved the stories from the various countries from that part of the globe, as well as the more familiar “The Ugly Duckling.” But why include secular stories? How does this relate to discovering the theology of Scripture? Song surmises, “Stories have the capacity to transcend time and space” (162). In secular stories, whether real life stories, parables, fables, folktales, myths, Song searches for themes related to theology within Scripture in these three areas: (1) suffering and faith, (2) sin and death, and (3) transformation of life (131). Why? Because “Whatever form or genre it may take, it is a real life story both to the storyteller and the listener” (132). For example, the real life stories of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mahatma Gandhi, Hitler, and Martin Luther King cross “oceans and continents” and carry theological truths. “The Ugly Duckling” serves as a second example in that a metaphor of the gospel can be embedded in a fairytale. To illustrate, the ugly duckling can be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 540-542
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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