Brian’s first whipping boy is what he terms the “Greco-Roman six-line narrative.” Many of us are familiar with it’s story:
In Brian’s words, “To be a Christian has required one to believe that the Bible presents one very specific story line, a story line by which we assess all of history, all of human experience, all of our own experience.” (33) His quest for a new kind of Christianity begins by questioning this story line. How does he do this? By claiming that “it’s the shape of the Greek philosophical narrative that Plato taught!” (37)
In two conversations with two separate friends, “a suspicion began to grow in [him]” and he began to “realize it was also the social and political narrative of the Roman Empire.” According to Brian, the historical understanding of God’s Story of Rescue in terms of Creation, Rebellion, Rescue, Re-Creation (or Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation as it’s also known; this is my own re-framing) is Platonic.
According to Brian, this narrative framing mirrors the story line of Platonism: we start with a “Platonic Ideal,” which is a perfect Platonic paradise; from there we fall into darkness, which mirrors Plato’s famous parable, the Cave of Illusion; now our being has been transformed and the Greek blood-god Theos is furious because his perfect world is “spoiled and now decaying;” salvation occurs when the god of this Greco-Roman version of the biblical story finds a way to forgive this fallen, pathetic, detestable creation through justification, atonement, and redemption; those who are forgiven/saved are returned to an “eternal state in which they will be safe forever;” those who are not “are banished to hell-the Greek Hades” and the tainted universe is destroyed. (41-44)
Brian’s real beef with C-F-R [Creation-Fall-Redemption]is not the C or the R but the F. He does not believe that there was a Fall (or original sin or total depravity or hell) but that what we have traditionally called the Fall is actually “a coming-of age story” which—wait for it—describes “the first stage of ascent as human beings progress from the life of hunter-gatherers to the life of agriculturalists and beyond.” I have quoted him verbatim so you know I am not making this up.
"[I]n order to understand the various motifs in Paul's Adam-Christ typology we need to take into account the Jewish conceptions of Adam and his fall and their expectations of a restoration of the pre-fall state of man and the world with the coming Messiah. Thus the 'Jewish preparation', as sketched by Wedderburn, forms a broad background for Paul's Adam-Christ typology." The Origin of Paul's Gospel, 192.
"Of course, the theological truths that Paul expresses through his Adam-Christ typology must be understood in the light of his conception of God's saving event in Christ and against the background of the Jewish conceptions of Adam and his fall, especially those which, on the one hand, held Adam responsible for bringing sin into the world and death upon all his descendants and which, on the other hand, held each individual responsible for his own sin and death." (The Origin, 186).