Chronological Illogic

In western culture, we place a high emphasis on placing events in chronological order. But sometimes, the way things are revealed or a pivotal point in a story change the way we read the whole thing. Sometimes following the chronology ruins the story.

For instance, despite the fact that most newer editions of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia put them in chronological order, I always encourage friends to read them in publication order. (Here’s a longer reasoning for why.) If you start with The Magician’s Nephew, seeing a lion singing in a strange world makes no sense and the reason behind following the story of Diggory Kirke seems to make little sense. But if read the five books published before, you know that Diggory is the old Professor of the other books and you say immediately on the sighting of the lion, “That must be Aslan!”

Similarly, I feel the same way about the Star Wars movies. Since the prequels were released, there’s a temptation to watch the movies Episodes I-VI. Makes sense, right? Except when you do that, the big reveal to Luke that Darth Vader is really Anakin is just like, “Duh.” But if a new viewer were to watch them with Episodes IV and V first, the revelation takes on a whole new meaning and leads you to ask, “How in the world did that happen?”, which you then get the backstory by watching the prequels. (Though I’m a big advocate for the Machete order.)

The same is true, I think, for how we understand God’s story and how he relates to us. How should one read the Bible? Cover to cover, right? Genesis to Revelation? Or maybe with one of those incredibly complicated chronological Bibles? No, instead we start with Jesus, a concept I learned years ago from Brian Vickers and an excellent book by Graeme Goldsworthy. We don’t read the Bible like we’re slowly working up to Jesus. Instead, we come to it understanding that “all the promises of God find their Yes in King Jesus,” the one who is both author and perfecter of our faith. And trying to read the Bible “from start to finish” ends up ignoring that the life, death, and resurrection change the beginning, middle, and end of God’s whole story. (It was honestly there the whole time, just a mystery till now.)

Sometimes a chronological approach is the most illogical way to understand the most important things.

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