We’ve been looking at the skeletal structure of the biblical narrative, not because it’s our intention to bore the internet to death, but because getting at the core story will provide clues to God’s agenda for creation and humanity’s role in that drama. Whittle away the myriad details of the scriptural story, and perhaps we can focus on the main point.
So we found on a broad level that the very simple storyline of Genesis 1-2 is that God is attempting to send his life-giving glory to the entire chaos-ridden earth.
Yet, as we had seen previously, we should expect another layer to the story, namely an Agent, Opponent and Helper.
The all-important Agent: this is the figure, in most tales, who becomes the main character. Other figures are important—critical even—but the Agent is the one on whom our attention is fixed. This is the figure chosen to deliver the goods. Will he accomplish his task?
In the creation narratives of Genesis 1-2, as we saw, God had effectively erected a natural temple from which to rule the planet. His seventh day rest is all about taking up the task of making the earth run as it should.
Curiously, however, he seems to have also told someone else to govern creation:
Then God said, “Let us humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” … God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:26, 28).
This is the dynamic of agency. The Lord’s intention is to run the earth by bringing his glory to bear upon it, but he has simultaneously created agents to do this on his behalf.
The story the creation narrative lays out selects humanity as its main character, acting on God’s behalf to accomplish the goal of bringing order and peace to the entire creation. Humanity is the Agent in the story.
This is not to dismiss God by any means. Throughout the Bible, of course, the Lord is there, ever present, if not always in the foreground.
Yet human beings are his priests, made in his image. Humanity, at every turn, is on center stage. People are the main characters in every tale. Why? Because human beings have been created—and this is too often forgotten in the biblical story—as God’s Agents in accomplishing his life-giving goals.