When it comes to Bible-believing Western Christians, the narrative that one brings to the text makes all the difference for how one reads and what one sees in the scriptures.
We all bring a controlling narrative to the scripture, a general big picture story into which we believe the Bible speaks and into which we believe the deeds found I the scriptures plays a vital role.
But what if our controlling narrative can't make sense of the scripture? In that case, we must assume that the author of the text is functioning off a different controlling narrative, a different story line into which the text would be very much at home. That is the goal in doing exegesis, to grab a hold of what the author really wants to communicate. In order to do this, we have to get the controlling narrative right.
For most westerners, the controlling narrative is something like this: The world is a corrupt, evil and broken place. People have problems. God wants to redeem mankind and rescue them from this fallen world and bring them to heaven. Hence, the Bible is about how God rescues us for heaven.
The problem is that this narrative falls short of making good sense of much of the scriptural texts. There is much more at stake in scriptures than the individual destinations of souls. The missing element is creation itself and the continuing life of the Christian within that creation. In other words, the narrative gives us little help for discovering why God made us and the world in the first place, nor for what we are made to do in the present, before we die. And the narrative is actually harmful when trying to understand the Apostle Paul, not to mention Jesus Himself. There are many things that we will simply not get, as in, comprehend or understand. We become like someone who is trying to force the jigsaw puzzle pieces together where they don't quite fit. The result is that important prices to the puzzle remains neglected on the floor and the full glorious picture of the gospel is never completed. Until we are willing to discover and then adopt the controlling narrative of Jesus, Paul, the gospel writers, and the ancient Israelites, we will never fully comprehend the gospel, nor fully appropriate it. This is to our loss and to the world's. Jesus said that the truth shall set us free and that is still true today. If we are missing vital pieces of the scripture's controlling narrative, we are missing vital truth and significant freedom.
Are we willing to risk losing our controlling narratives and gaining the freedom of the truth?
I hope so.