A big piece of biblical literacy and Christian worldview allows us to observe the Good News drawn out across all of scripture.
We have referred to this idea often in the blog and now in Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, but it is time we are systematically defining what we’re talking about when we use the phrase “redemptive narrative” or its capitalized form.
I want to attempt to supply it in two versions: written description supplemented with a handy series of visuals. The structure of the visuals is no accident: The triangle communicates something of interconnectedness, purpose, and even hierarchy (in this application). As you consider the import of each of the phases of the narrative, consider also the position of the persons or entities involved and the Father’s design, the impact of man’s actions, all that hangs in the balance.
In a big-picture sense, we use the phrase “The Redemptive Narrative” in its capitalized form to communicate the Story of God’s redemptive plan unfolding in His word and world. In its lowercase form, we use “redemptive narrative” to communicate any story that echoes the beauty of The Story. If it proclaims the need of man for a hero, and if it presents a redemptive hero, that narrative has redemptive qualities (even if it is somewhat narrow in its scope).
It is vital for man’s understanding of Redemption to have the complete story: It is broader than merely sin and its consequences, and Jesus’ death and resurrection as its solution.
To get the full Story, we begin at creation, when God made all things from nothing by the word of His power. With the pinnacle of His creation, man, He “completed” His work. Creator, man, and creation all stood together in a “very good’ (Genesis 1:31) relationship: Man took his place as vice-regent to work under the Father within His creation, stewarding it on His behalf. In fact, the only thing that was “not good” was for man to be alone, so God created a co-regent/helper that they might together flourish and multiply (and cause creation to also flourish and multiply). When mapped on a triangle, that looks like this (notice the arrow that refers to man within relationship with other human beings):
We know where the story goes next. After providing not only a helper but also the creation rhythm of rest in chapter two, chapter three recounts the fall, sin, and man’s subjection to the curse. The “fall of man” or “man’s rebellion” as some prefer to call it, ushered in a new status for our relationships with God, one another, creation, work, rest—everything. In a visual form, the consequence of man’s rebellion may be shown with the interruption of God’s design for relationship:
Yet even in chapter three, we read the “proto-euangelion”—the first Good News—in the prophecy of the Seed to come. (Genesis 3:15) This sets up the expectation for Messiah, the one who would redeem man and restore him to his right place within creation and in relationship to God. I like to draw the third visual, communicating that restoration of our relational status, for those who are in Christ, like this:
Each time I draw this visual, I am struck by the fact that there was no brokenness in the relationship within the Godhead. Father, Son, and Spirit continued to have perfect unity and harmony (of course) in the face of man’s sin. Nevertheless, the solution to the brokenness of man drove straight into the heart of heaven, separating the Son from the Father in His submission to God’s wrath and punishment—to death—in our place.
We have a hope, secured firmly in Christ’s work on our behalf, that we will never have to experience that separation in death. We have a sure hope that He will come again, make all things new, make a permanent state of walking with our Creator God, face to face in His creation. The third triangle looks like the first—only imagine those lines made of far sterner stuff than my feeble drawing or words could adequately represent.
The complete narrative, redemption in four movements:
We use this tool not only to see how other stories measure up, to affirm the places they do, and to challenge the places they do not—but also to remind ourselves of the beauty and breadth of the gospel story, playing out over history.
Discussion questions to work the content further:
- What do we know of God’s intention for His creation?
- How did man fail to live into that design? What were the consequences?
- How did Christ’s work not only redeem man, paying for the consequences of his sin, but also fulfill the Father’s intention for man and restore him to his place in creation?
- What hope do we have, now, for the completion of the Father’s design? What is our future hope for restored human expression?
May this tool bless you and your family richly as you observe His word and world.