The Stories We Tell Ourselves; Narrative Repentance and True Stories of God, Self, Church, and Creation

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2022

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Abstract

This thesis outlines how a Christian leader can guide the faithful to live their life rightly in light of true stories of God, self, Church, and Creation. Each of us perceives, contextualizes, and interprets our experiences in life through our social imaginary, an interpretive framework that is narratively and communally formed. This social imaginary can be distorted by false stories that corrupt our understanding of what gives meaning to our lives, leading us to embrace destructive desires and no longer live in harmony with God’s intention for us. To unlearn such false stories and to re-form our social imaginary in harmony with God’s true stories is the work of narrative repentance, a cooperative effort of priest, parishioner, and God to heal our souls from the corrosive spiritual affliction of sin. Narrative repentance encompasses the human work of purifying our social imaginary from false stories and the hoped-for divine work of revealing to us the true story of our soul through divine illumination and communion with the life of the Holy Trinity. Understanding narrative repentance as a pastoral principle that underlies all pastoral work impacts the Christian leader’s effective practice of preaching, teaching, and worship. Most notably, an understanding of narrative repentance allows a Christian leader to enter the sacred space of parishioners’ social imaginaries and collaborate with them in unlearning false stories of God, self, Church, and Creation, and in adopting the true stories that may free them from captivity to their distorted desires and thus allow them to live freely in the world as witnesses to God’s love and the joy of life in His Kingdom.

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Lawrence, Robert Stephen (2022). The Stories We Tell Ourselves; Narrative Repentance and True Stories of God, Self, Church, and Creation. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/24479.

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