27. Seeing through the Redemptive Narrative (part… | God's World News

It's our June giving drive! Help more kids see God at work in the culture.


Kelsey Reed • 07/12/2023
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Kelsey Reed
Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. We’re here to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and teens through culture and current events. I’m Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.

Jonathan Boes

Together, we want to model conversation and ask questions that you can use at home or in the classroom. As always, we invite you to send in your questions by email or by recording. We love to hear your voices. Send those in to newscoach@wng.org.

When we encounter stories in the news, these are stories. They are stories of people, places, events, and whether we want to or not, in our minds we situate these in a bigger picture. You might call this a “metanarrative”: the bigger-picture story we use to place all the stories we encounter in life. How do we think the world began? And where do we think it’s all headed in the future?

As Christians, we have a way of thinking about that big-picture story, and we call this the Redemptive Narrative. If you’ve been listening to our podcast for a while, you know we bring this out all the time to help us locate where we are as we’re looking at culture and current events. So today, much like we did several weeks ago, when we dedicated an episode to the SOAR method, we are going to step back and examine our tools to make sure that we are all on the same page when we use those words “Redemptive Narrative,” to dive deep into each stage of the Redemptive Narrative to explain the overarching story of the universe that we see in scripture. Because this overarching story will be one of the most important things to help us situate our discussion of the news in a way that makes it make sense to us, and in a way that helps us convey it to our children with a sense—not of despair or meaninglessness—but of hope, and with an emphasis on the gospel.

So Jonathan has given a little glimpse as to what we’re going to be talking about today, and a good argument or apologetic for why we would use this Redemptive Narrative as our driving big picture, our metanarrative, for engaging with all things in the world, but also for diving deeply into scripture, to have a closer look at what is going on over the course of the Lord’s story for His people, and where He reveals His plans for His creation, for His world, and reveals His character in that.

So we have discussed SOAR. I want to also place where we use the Redemptive Narrative within SOAR for those of you who might be interested in understanding where these things fit together. This Redemptive Narrative framework or paradigm is something we use in the analytical portion of that tool. So when we are seeking to look at a story well, we are moving to that place of analysis. It is in the A portion of SOAR.

But what is the Redemptive Narrative? I think it’s good for us to try to not only map it out in terms of definition, and take it—really another one that has an acronym, so we’re going to take it one letter at a time. But we also want to show maybe an image in your mind, and we’ll include it in the show notes—something that you can draw out to understand how these pieces work together, how they work within relationship, and something we encourage you to do as an activity with your children.

So first, the what of Redemptive Narrative. You may have heard these initials thrown around a lot. The C.R.R.R. is what we did in our seminary, which was standing for Creation, Rebellion, Redemption and Restoration. Probably you’ve heard some version of it that might have been Creation, Fall, Redemption, Glory or Consummation as the last letter. So C.F.R.C. is the acronym that is used quite often. We want to start by just recognizing that it can be very tempting to narrow, and as our Christian walk, try to categorize in a narrow way that we can wrap ourselves around and try to function within simplified categories, is what I would say. It is a complex life that we live in, and so we’re often trying to simplify to manage. And I want to invite Jonathan to speak into this oversimplification that we can sometimes do, in living in just two of these initials—the Fall and Redemption. And you had a wonderful observation to share with us today about that.

Yes, so as you said, when we’re talking about the Redemptive Narrative—and we’ll get into each of these later—but we’re talking about the overarching story of the universe that we see in scripture, that begins with Creation, goes into Fall or Rebellion where man rebels against God, to Redemption where we see the work of Christ, and then finally to Restoration or Glory where we see the new creation, where we see Christ’s return and reign.

Now, Andy Crouch is a thinker who has really influenced our work on this podcast. Lots of great stuff, not just about the Redemptive Narrative, but also about culture making, and the family and technology. Lots of great resources there from Andy Crouch. One thing he talks about is that a lot of us Christians have a kind of functional view of the Bible that he calls “a bad news to bad news Bible”—that’s the term Andy Crouch uses—that begins in the Fall and ends in judgment. It’s like our Bible kind of begins in Genesis 3 and then ends partway through Revelation. But he encourages Christians to look at the whole Redemptive Narrative. When we look at all of scripture, we see that it’s not bad news to bad news. It’s good news to good news. It begins with Creation, where God declared it good and created man and called man with woman very good. And then we see that it all ends in Restoration, that all things are made new, that there is a new creation, that God is with His people. And when we look at that whole picture, that is not a picture of despair. It’s not a man-centered picture of judgment and sin. It’s a picture of hope that is really more focused ultimately on God.

And this is where it’s so helpful to have these images that I encourage you to try to draw. We start with this triangle. And even that concept that Jonathan helped us to think about so far, of creation being complete, when man was given and provided a helper—that was within a greater relational context. It wasn’t just that man was complete and now creation was good, but that man and woman, within relationship to Creator and placed within context of creation, that that triad of relationship included man with man, humanity in relationship with one another—that was proclaimed as very good.

So if you’re sitting down there today, and listening in a place that you can draw, draw out a triangle with God at the top, a place of authority at the top point of the triangle. Man is on one of the other vertices. And then at the last one is creation. And there’s a little arrow that wraps around back onto itself on the man side. Creation was not good. It was not good for man to be left alone. And so it became complete at the time of creation in our narrative arc, when all of this was made in its completeness, and the Father said “very good.”

And right now we’re sitting in the beginning of this Redemptive Narrative, at the point of Creation. Would this be a good time to kind of pivot our discussion? Should we start taking these point by point and kind of diving more deeply into each point of this Redemptive Narrative, starting here with Creation and how that informs us?

So we have used the term multiple times, “very good.” We were made in a certain way to reflect the Father into Creation, as in the garden, to do our work in it, even commanded to go, flourish, multiply. That is all a part of the Creation Mandate that came before there was any sin in the picture. So Creation is the moment where all people are functioning in their perfect places. Man is walking with God in the Garden. Man is stewarding the creation that he was given to steward. And man is also walking in perfect relationship with one another: husband, wife, male, female, man, woman. That’s a part of the flavor and color of this beautiful picture of the Lord’s intention at His creative work, and that He had the power to let light be light. There’s this interesting understanding of the way that the Hebrew was trying to convey that God’s power was such that He could say, “Light,” and that light sprang forth. So all was right. And it was following His authority perfectly.

And this is also the point of the story—this “chapter one” of the story of our universe, the Creation—this is where we see that man is given the image of God. This is another thing we talk about all the time when we are looking at the news, when we are looking at stories where a government or some other person is devaluing people, is treating people wrongly. We believe, as Christians, that there is such a thing as human dignity, that people have value, even though they are sinful, which we’ll get into soon. But that value that people have, this chapter one, this Creation part of our narrative is where we locate that, because we see that man is created in the image of God, as very good—man and woman. I’m using “man” here, you know, as a short term for “man and woman,” created very good with the image of God. Now, what exactly is that image of God? That’s a huge theological topic. Kelsey, you’re the one who has been to seminary. That’s a huge question. But we know that that is a statement of dignity and of value, and a reflection of our Creator inside of us.

And in order to play out more of the theology of even image of God, you actually have to take it through each of the different initials in that metanarrative to fully understand what’s going on there. But suffice it to say, while we’re in that Creation moment, man was given this unique position within creation to reflect the authority of the Lord into his work in creation. He doesn’t have that authority, but he was made to reflect that authority, to operate as an ambassador, a representative of the Most High. And that was something that the Lord’s intention was fulfilled in that moment. And He was also saying, it is very good for man to share the mantle of my authority in the way that I have determined for it to be. This didn’t mean that man knew everything about good and evil, that didn’t—you know, there were restrictions on what that authority and even knowledge looked like. But that in His terms, man represented Him, and in that way, we would even use the term that he was “like God” in some way, though not God.

And another thing we see in this beginning place of our redemptive narrative is that, God and man and creation, there’s this good, unbroken relationship. But there is the potential for brokenness. This is the point of the narrative where, to borrow a term from St. Augustine, man is able to sin and able not to sin. Man can choose to obey or disobey God. There is the potential in this Eden place, in this point of Creation, for brokenness. Things are good, but they’re not as good as they could possibly be. I’ll just put it that way as maybe a preview of things to come, as we get further into our narrative. There is the potential here for a downturn in this story.

We’ve done some of our foreshadowing just in talking about the potential in man to represent God, but also communicating that there are limits to how far that could go. And then Augustine’s good words, which for those of you who like the logic game and the way that Latin helps with that, that original phrase was posse peccare. It was possible for a man to sin at that point. That was a potential of man. So this is a good point to pivot towards what happened with that potential.

And before we pivot—I’m going to hold onto us for just a minute more—because before we leave each of these sections of the narrative, I want us to take a quick look at, how do these points of the narrative inform us in the present as we are looking at the news, as we’re looking at culture? And so what do we see in this point of Creation that we can carry into our discussions of the news stories we see today? I know the one thing we’ve already touched on is human dignity, that we see that people do have value. What else do we see?

I think it’s so good that we actually camped out there for a minute longer to do that, because it can be so easy, even with the amount of time given to that Creation status, that before-the-fall status of man—it’s such a short amount of time in scripture that we can just breeze right past it. And so I’m really glad that you had us redirect and go back to thinking carefully about looking through that lens.

So we’re looking through the lens of what is good when we look at any story. When we look through the Creation lens, or the what is good here lens, we see that there is something good about man, something that was created in His essence that the Lord proclaimed as good and glorifying to Himself. Another thing that we would see in the story, that I think is a Creation concept in any story that we see, is the recognition, as we read, that the Father’s authority has not left the building. He is still very much in authority over each of the things that are going on in the world. Now, because of the fact that we’re living in a world that is post-Fall, we’re having to sometimes remind ourselves in that moment of the Creation reality of the Lord’s good authority.

That’s so good, that even when we don’t see it immediately in front of us, we know that God is still at work in the world. And He is the God who literally spoke this all into existence and sits in authority over it.

So one more part of that, I think, is that we need to also look at creation through the lens of Creation. And what I mean is, we’re looking at those created things of the world that are not humanity through that lens of what is good. The Lord, He loves the things that He has made. He loves the works of His hands. We see how He delights in those, how He made it for His delight, His glory. And so when we’re looking at the world, and looking at news of the world, we need to remember the Father’s Creation posture towards His world.

We just had a great conversation on the podcast with Nathan Howell, an environmental engineer. And we talked about that, that this is a concept we see here in the place of creation, in that part of the Redemptive Narrative: that God created the world, that nature is good, and that we are placed here in authority over it, not to do whatever we want to it, but as stewards who have responsibility. And that responsibility, again, points back to the authority of the Father.

So we can say, through those lenses, that the work the Lord has given us in the world, whatever work that might be, has a quality as well of being glorifying to Him and a very good idea, a very good concept.

So I could sit here and talk about the Creation part of the Redemptive Narrative for a long time. But we should probably now pivot to the downturn. This is the point in the story where, like any good story, the problem comes in, the conflict.

So the Lord made—in His mysterious wisdom—made man with the ability to choose, the ability to rebel against His order. The mystery is there of why: Why was there this tree in the garden, this temptation? You know, why was there this fallen angel? There’s so much of the story that is worth us pushing into to understand and to humble us. Because as with the book of Job, where the Lord says, “Stand like a man, gird yourself up, and let me question you.” You know, “Were you there at the beginning of days? Can you feed all of the creatures? Can you take care of Leviathan?”

There is a necessity, even as we push into these things and ask questions, to recognize again the Lord’s mysterious ways and His authority over all, and to submit, and to have a humble posture, even as we desire to think the Lord’s thoughts after Him and to know Him better, which He loves for us to do as His children. So, this mysterious part of the story, where He has created in man this ability to choose and has allowed this temptation to be in at the very beginning of days, and man who had been made to be like God in so many ways, the ways the limits that the Lord had set over that—it just wasn’t enough. Man chose to be even more like God, according to the words of the tempter, who said, “Oh, but you can be like God.” They didn’t realize that they had already been created to be like Him, within the limits set for them.

And so man rebels. Man chooses sin. And we see from that point that death enters the world. It is from this point of rebellion that we see Cain and Abel, we see murder, we see war and rebellion and sickness and death and all the dark, awful things that we still read about in the news all the time.

When we look at the Creation Mandate of Genesis 1:28, and then think about the curse that came after sin—you know, all of the things that the Lord said “go and do,” now all of those things are tainted by consequences. You know, the work that we do in the world is now full of toil, full of thorns and weeds. The work that we do to both bear and rear our children now is full of pain and brokenness and conflict and struggle—you know, repeating that struggle between we who were meant to be the children of God, and the conflict that we brought into our relationship, that being repeated into our relationships with our children through the generations. And so, we see all of those things that were intended in that triad of relationships—man with one another, man with God, man with creation, and even God with creation—this is another part of that interesting mystery, that when our relationship as humanity broke with the Father, we also failed to serve in our place, as representatives of creation to the Father presenting it as our good work, our worship to Him. And so the amazing piece of this theology, that our relationship with Him and its brokenness also broke something of the way that the Father relates to His creation.

So if you drew that triangle in the first part of our story, where there was this unbroken triangle between God at the top, creation on one side, man on the other side, and then that circle going back from man to man—in all of those lines, if you drew it in pencil, you could erase a part of it. Or if you drew it in something more permanent, maybe just put an X to represent that each of those connections now is broken.

And, of course, we’re talking about the news. We see the brokenness everywhere. We see how our efforts within creation, to try to figure out what it means to steward all of these things that we’ve discovered, that we burn, that we use up—we see that that is broken, that our best efforts still are not complete enough, our knowledge isn’t complete enough. We see the ways that man, just over and over again, we see how man’s relationship is broken with one another in countless, horrendous ways. And we see the ways that we continue to rebel against the authority of the Father and seek to put anything else in His place that we possibly could. And we talk about things like idolatry and source idols and the things we serve instead of our good, good Father. And so that is all throughout the news. We could stay all day there, but that’s not what I want to do.

Yes. And just a few more brief thoughts on the Fall that I want to draw out, from what you were just saying Kelsey, the fact that even our attempts at goodness, even our attempts to fix things, our attempts to be righteous in this place of the Fall—before Redemption, they are tinged with sin. They’re tinged with selfishness and brokenness, and often even the things we do to try to fix the world end up having unintended consequences that might even make things worse. We see that in the news today all the time, that as we’re trying to unravel this tangled web of sin and brokenness, sometimes we just make the knot, the chokehold of sin, all the tighter.

And so again, how we apply this story point of the Fall to the news—you touched on it, but also it gives us an answer to that why question. We ask, why is there suffering? Why is there war? That comes up so often. It might even be on the lips of your children or students looking at hard news stories. And we can point to this part of the narrative and say, “Man chose something other than God.” And all of us, in our hearts, make that same rebellious choice.

It’s a desperate situation, if we’re left in that piece of the narrative. And it’s one where, this is, I think, so helpful to our ultimate understanding of what the Lord’s desire is for man now, is to recognize the despair without Him—not only as individuals, but the despair of creation, the despair of those who don’t know Him. It is important for us to not run away from those broken aspects of story, just to move through to Redemption or Glory, or to just camp out in the goodness of the things of Creation. It is vital that we face the depths of depravity in our own selves, and in any news story, that we might more abundantly understand the next pieces of the story, or all of the pieces of the story that hang together.

There’s this beautiful hermeneutic we were encouraged to apply to all of scripture, which is the Lord’s Special Revelation of course for man. But that I realize also, by His grace, applies when we look at all of life, all of the world. And that is this hermeneutic, that everything in the word reveals something of the person or the work of Christ, or man’s need of it. Again, by God’s grace, if we look through the lens of grace, we can see that that’s the same for His General Revelation, that all of the things that we read in this world, all the things that we observe, they can reveal to us something of the person or the work of Christ, or of man’s need of it. So we camp out sometimes in those aspects of the Fall and Rebellion, to recognize the deep, deep need of man for the redemptive work.

This place of the Fall is crying out for what comes next in the story. And just so that we don’t lose this thread of St. Augustine—in Creation, we saw that man was posse peccare—I don’t have that great Latin pronunciation you do, Kelsey—but able to sin. And in the Fall we see that man is now non posse non peccare, not able to not sin. We are incapable of not sinning. And that, I think, is a really concise way of framing this dilemma that drives us now into the next point of our narrative.

But we’re not going to go there quite yet. Instead, we are going to take some time to sit in this tension, where things have not yet been resolved. And we will explore the next two points of this Redemptive Narrative in a future episode, in part two of this exploration. But for now, we’re going to just sit in that tension.

It is so good for us, as students of the word, to sit in the tension. And part of how we unfold that further and understand or come to grips with it, is when we ask the type of reflective questions that allow us to think of where we’re positioned, or think of where a piece of scripture is positioned within the greater narrative. We ask: What piece of the narrative am I in right now? Has the Fall already occurred? Are we still longing to see Redemption come and waiting for Messiah? We ask these questions, for example, if we’re in the middle of Jeremiah, or one of the other minor prophets, or the historical books that paint the picture of the exile and the longing that is felt by Israel. We ask, where is this placed in scripture? What scripture has come before, and what scripture comes after?

This, if you're familiar with the Five Common Topics, is actually a reflection of the relationship portion of those topics that Aristotle brings out as we have these dialectic conversations, exploring the cause and the effect of history. So we’re going to find that in that place, that tension of the moment, and experience more of what those characters were experiencing, as we live to a greater fullness and understanding of that best of stories in which we live.

And as you approach stories in the news, really any story, you can bring in some of the questions that arise from the parts of the Redemptive Narrative we’ve explored today. Where in the story do you see the goodness of creation? Where in the story do you see the dignity of humans as image-bearers of God, being respected or disrespected? Where do you see fallenness? Where do you see the need for a Savior?

Parent, teacher, mentor of kids and teens: We live in that portion of history where the Savior has come. But we live in a different type of tension while we await His return. We’ll talk more about that in the next episode. But for today, let me remind you: He has equipped you for the work.

Show Notes

When we encounter stories in the news, we frame them as part of a bigger picture, an overarching story. For Christians, it’s the Redemptive Narrative. But what is this “Redemptive Narrative?” And how does it impact the way we view the news?

Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week's downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study

We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at newscoach@wng.org. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.

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