December 2, 2012

The Upper Story and the Lower Story

In GCI conferences in the Philippines, I've been helping pastoral team leaders explore concepts fundamental to a Trinitarian, incarnational theology. One of those is how Scripture distinguishes between what we might refer to as the Upper Story and the Lower Story (terms I borrowed from author Randy Frazee, though he uses them somewhat differently).

The Upper Story is reality viewed from God's objective perspective and the Lower Story is reality viewed from our subjective perspective. Sometimes these two are referred to as the "universal" and "personal" with the former pertaining to what Scripture refers to as "kairos" time and the latter as "kronos" time. Here is a diagram that seeks to integrate these concepts:
Note that these concepts and their interrelationships flow from a Hebraic worldview (the frame of reference that dominates Holy Scripture). The diagram shows that what God has done for us in Christ, "from the foundation of the world" is primary, as the objective Upper Story reality. This then becomes our personal/subjective Lower Story reality when we believe (and thus, in faith, receive) both who God, in Christ, is for us and what he has done (and is doing) for us.

It is with this Upper Story perspective that I proclaim that I was born again in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, which occurred 2,000 years ago. At the same time I proclaim with a Lower Story perspective that I was born again at age 14 when the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of my heart to receive, in faith, what had been mine all along in Christ, namely, God's unconditional forgiveness, acceptance and adoption of me as his dearly loved child.

It is vital to note that Jesus (who is God and humanity united in one person) is, in love, sovereignly present in both the Upper Story and the Lower Story. He inhabits and thus defines both kairos and kronos time. Thus, in Christ, there is no dualism and thus no cause for "two-sphere" thinking. It's not "either I was born again 2,000 years ago" -or- "I was born again at age 14." Rather, it is because I was born from above in Christ 2,000 years ago, that when I was enlightened by the Holy Spirit at age 14, what was objectively true for me all along became subjectively true in my personal (14 year old) experience--a personal encounter with Christ, which in my experience continues to grow deeper (thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit!).

Understand this: Both the objective and the subjective real and important (because God makes them so!). However, our subjective, Lower Story  experience is "real" (and thus meaningful) only because the objective, Upper Story reality is true and undergirds it.

For a more detailed discussion of this important topic in an earlier post, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! Praise God for the conference.

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