Metanarratives: The story we find ourselves in

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Metanarratives: The story we find ourselves in

March 21, 2022 -

Summary: Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison discuss how societies are driven by metanarratives, the Western and Eastern differences between them, religious metanarratives, Putin’s metanarrative for Russia, and how they all match up against the Bible. 

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Show notes: Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison begin by covering the basics of metanarratives. Every culture and country has a north on its compass, a “larger story we find ourselves in.” Dr. Denison provides the history of the Western metanarrative, that the government exists to serve the individual. The West believes, “I, the individual, am the center of my existence.” 

He contrasts this view with the Eastern perspective, which holds generally that the individual is not the center. He considers Greek philosophers, Hinduism, Islam, radical Islam, Marxism, snd then the current imperialist Russian perspective held by Putin. Each of these reflects a unique metanarrative. In particular, Dr. Denison reflects on the massive clashes between Russia against the West (in the cold war and now in Ukraine) and radical Islam against the West (terrorism, 9/11, etc.).

The source of recent conflict becomes clearer when we consider Putin’s view that NATO is encroaching on their borders and the radical Islamic perspective that the West has been the aggressor against them since the Crusades. Both of these play into the divide in metanarratives that set countries against each other. In the case of Russia, Dr. Denison shares the history of Russia over the past centuries as context for Putin’s mindset. Putin’s mindset, while not Communist, is one that values the collective greatness of Russia over the individual. 

Dr. Turman and Dr. Denison then turn to America to consider our country’s narratives through the centuries, the cultural shifts, and the consistent metanarrative that the individual is the highest consideration. Then they reflect on how the “American dream” holds up when compared to Scripture. The American (and Western) individualistic mindset, while not all bad, does not match with God’s ultimate metanarrative revealed in the Bible. Neither does the Eastern mindset that values the collective above all else. 

This is because the collective of God’s kingdom, the church, is most important. Within this, however, each person must respond to the call as an individual before being adopted into the Father’s kingdom. 

We exist to serve God’s kingdom with other believers, in a community. The Bible, then, provides its own metanarrative for us to live by. Dr. Turman and Dr. Denison close by reflecting on this one, true metanarrative for Christians to live by. 

P.S. Jim’s most pivotal book to date, The Coming Tsunami, is now available on Kindle, hardcover, and Audible.

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts 

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content. 

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

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