Here’s the final of our iCatechisms for now. 321 was released one year ago by Glen Scrivener in the UK. 321 is designed as a catechism with evangelism in mind, not the other way around, so it’s less dependent on a hook for outsiders.
Both our previous iCatechisms, Two Ways to Live and ‘the big story’, move quickly to speaking about a problem in need of a solution. In contrast, 321 revolves around not who we are, what we need, or what needs doing, but on who God is.
321 is the chance to enter into a story that claims to be the ultimate story. To begin with, it might seem very strange. That’s ok. Some of the best stories are strange stories. …
In some ways it’s completely alien. But in some ways it’s every story. Think about it. There’s a pleasant beginning, a fall from grace, a pit of despair, a Hero conquering through sacrifice, and we finish with a wedding and a song. That’s like all our stories. But the Bible says it’s God’s story too. In fact — here’s the claim I want you to consider — the Bible says it was God’s story first.
The meaning of life is to find our place in the Three.
This presentation is denser than others, because 321 refuses to start talking about ‘salvation’ without talking more fully about God. What’s the point of starting with God as Trinity? Mike Reeves puts it strongly:
If we are not specifically and clearly trinitarian, none of our talk is specifically and clearly Christian… If we do not expressly proclaim Father, Son and Spirit then we do not expressly proclaim a God of love — the sort of God who would have any fellowship to share with us.
In the history of ‘evangelistic tools’, Jesus often appears as a random event, a magic man with a mysterious fix. Even the fact that God sends Jesus may not say enough about God.
321 hacks this by showing that Jesus is part of something bigger. To speak of God as Trinity is to see God as living friendship, living community, living family — or, to use that famous phrase, God is love.
This is a ‘salvation’ that’s more than just a response to sin. As the early church fathers knew so well, it was always God’s plan for us to be caught up into the divine life — even before evil entered the world. This is why we know Jesus not only as Saviour and Lord, but as the true human, one with God. This is why I often like to sign emails using Paul’s words: Christ in us the hope of glory.
This up-front Trinitarian angle is an ancient Christian tradition now being revived in Protestant circles.
The richness of this makes 321 ideal for translation. But there are layers to that. There’s more to be translated than just the narration: what about the graphics, symbols and illustrations?
At one point, for example, the video depicts a rich white man rescuing a poor black woman — probably a source of confusion in a postcolonial context! And what happens when people understand marriage a bit differently, like here in Tanzania? I asked Glen about this, and he’s happy to collaborate in order to achieve what’s best for different contexts. He’s already planning some tweaks of his own, too. Get in touch with Glen on Twitter or at 321.revivalmedia.org.
All our stories have different angles to them.
In my last year of high school, I had a specific encounter with God, what you might call a ‘conversion experience’, in which I experienced God speaking through my troubles to impress upon me my need for Jesus as Lord of my self-interested life. That’s one part of my story — and it’s an angle that 2WTL accounts for pretty well.
But my story is also that I don’t remember a time without God, and that I can speak of God’s activity in my life over the course of many years. I’ve struggled with apathy and ungratefulness in the face of a privileged upbringing and abundant blessings. So my story is also one of slow, growing wakefulness to God’s goodness as Father: ‘Every good gift comes from the Father of the lights.’ And there are other angles too.
Which story do I tell? To give voice to them all, I need a way of telling what is not ultimately my story but a part of God’s story. Each of these ‘iCatechisms’ attempts to do this in a different way. But I wonder if 321 is the biggest, the most all-encompassing, because it spends so much time on — God.
What do you think? Next, I’ll write some final reflections.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.