The Bible is a love story, not a rule book

Pastor Steve Hart
Pastor Steve Hart

In starting and leading a new church, one of the bigger challenges has been helping people to understand the Bible.

Most people have the misconception that the Bible is a kind of “rulebook” full of moral commands and fables with a moral point, all about telling Christians how to live. Christians seem to get this idea from their preachers, sermon after sermon hearing, “Here is what the Bible says. Do this and God will bless you!”

Outsiders to the Christian faith seem to have gotten this idea from Christians themselves, who see Christians trying to be the “morality police,” making sure everyone knows all God’s rules (and making sure that everyone knows that Christians always keep those rules).
The tragic result of this way of reading the Bible is that Christians are joyless and judgmental, while those outside the faith — those who, incidentally, were most attracted to Jesus in his day — want nothing to do with Christians and their rulebook!

I’ve had to clarify, over and over, that the Bible is neither a rulebook nor a collection of moral fables. The Bible is primarily a story, a beautiful, heartbreaking and redemptive story. The Bible is a love story, telling the story of the creator and his epic pursuit of his prized but wayward creation: humanity. Fully three-fourths of the Bible is narrative and dialogue, and when there are “rules” they only make sense in the context of the story itself.

The Bible
The Bible

Before we can dismiss the Bible, we’ve got to actually listen to the story and engage it, as it is. One doesn’t watch “Lord of the Rings” and dismiss it because elves don’t exist. Rather, we read (or watch) the story, stepping into the world the story describes, engaging with the characters and joyfully allowing ourselves to get caught up in the winding narrative. We find ourselves cheering for Bilbo and crew, even though we know it is just a story. All great stories do this to us, and we don’t for a minute dismiss the story simply because it isn’t true. In fact, we often find by the end of a great story that we actually wish it were true, wishing that our lives carried such significance, that we were the kind of pure, noble and courageous people we found in the story, and that somehow, in the end, everything really might be made right again.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to lay out this love story, trying to retell the Bible’s story in just a few posts. As we’ve done this in our church, we’ve seen a new (or renewed) desire to engage with the story of the Bible.  Suddenly there is reason to tune in and find out what will happen. And whether or not you believe the story or not – that it is the true story of the world — you might just find yourself wishing it were.

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I’d have to say that your description of us poor, deluded Christians who would actually think that God gave us His Word for instruction in righteousness is quite misleading. I love studying the Bible, and the more time I spend in it the more joyful and free I feel. The Bible is nothing short of a miracle, written by the Holy Spirit through men to give us everything! we need to know to be saved and enjoy God’s presence forever. I use a historical grammatical interpretation, believing that anything less does turn it into a powerless fable.

Steve Hart

Thanks for your comment, Dennis. I think perhaps you’ve misread my post, as I didn’t mention anything about “poor, deluded Christians.” My only point is that the Bible isn’t primarily about us and what we ought to be doing; it is about God and what God has done and is doing. Jesus himself said that we easily misread the Bible: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 ESV) It is possible to read, study, and love the Bible all while totally missing the point – just as the Pharisees did.


I’m sorry for putting words in your mouth that were not your own, and also for the use of sarcasm in my post. It was disrespectful and I will try to keep my posts from descending into that type of reply. That doesn’t mean I’ll always agree and I will try to defend my convictions about God’s message through Scripture and reason. I’m looking forward to reading your next post, just haven’t had time yet.


I am starting a ministry where people share stories, by reading God’s story and sharing our life story. I am really new to these, as in my place there are not many resources and understanding about seeing the bible as narrative story – so I am like walking in the dark. I’d like to ask several questions:
1. How do you see connections between story and doctrine? Is doctrine has lower priority?
2. What people learn from a story could be very diverse or even contradictory – is there a way so the meaning of the story could be manageable, and what people learn could consistent with what the Lord intended? After all, if the bible is His story, then He has His own goal.
3. Is there a good internet resource where I could learn about reading the bible as story?
Very big thank you Steve, and looking forward for your next article.

Steve Hart

Hi Paul!

Thanks for your post & questions. We use a “storied” version of the Bible from our church network, Soma Communities. You can find the resource here: http://somatacoma.org/resources/story-of-god/. Hope this helps!

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