The Story of Who We Are (Identity and the Biblical Story)
The Bible tells a story. It is a story about God’s dealings with humanity and creation. It tells us a good deal about God Himself, but it also tells us a great deal about humankind and who we are. But like all good stories, you can’t simply “drop in” to the middle or end of the story and hope adequately to understand it or its truths. In order to understand human identity (individually and collectively), we need to start at the beginning of the story.
God Created Everything (Reality)
The biblical story begins with creation, although there is some “back story” implied in the very first words of the story; “In the beginning God…” The story has a “beginning,” but the God of the Bible is there BEFORE the beginning; acting, thinking, wanting, feeling, planning, and being. We will learn much about this God as the story unfolds. For now, it is sufficient to understand that it is this God Who initiates the story and ultimately defines the characters and events that transpire within the story. If we want to understand human identity, we must look to this God and hear what He has to say about us.
It is in creation that we are also able to identify and establish some critical, foundational truths regarding humankind and our relationship to the broader creation. In fact, it is our relationship to creation as a whole that provides a good starting point for us.
It is “Good”
Even before God declared His intent to create the first humans (Gen. 1:26), He repeatedly affirmed the goodness of the non-human, created order. What can be easily missed, however, is the rationale for describing creation as “good.” What makes the created order good? Is it simply that God liked His creation? Or was there something deeper happening? Biblical scholars have recognized for some time that the reason creation was “good” was that it was good for humanity. Had humankind needed a different kind of environment, the created world would be very different. The world and universe within which we live is the way it is because it is what we need. It is “good” because it is good for us. This has two important implications for human identity.
First, this means that creation itself is an act of love and grace toward humanity. God might have created a universe that was different and wonderful in an infinite number of ways. But, the purpose behind the design of creation was the well-being of humankind. Even before Adam drew his first breath, God was anticipating his needs and preparing an entire universe that would be “good” for him. Of all the things we will ultimately say about human identity, this is perhaps the most fundamental; humanity is the primary object of God’s love and the non-human created order is an expression of that love. Every human that has ever lived or ever will live is of infinite value simply because the Creator has chosen to love him or her. This simple reality is imprinted in the “DNA” of creation itself.
Second, the goodness of creation reveals an inter-connectedness between humanity and the rest of creation. If creation is “good” because it is good for people, then we must accept the fact that we need creation to be the way God designed it to be. We need creation to be “good” in order to live our most complete and God-intended lives. Our lives are inseparably linked to creation.
This means the nature of the created order has something to say about human nature because we are part of the created order. Even before God created Adam and Eve, He created a world and universe that is defined and bound by certain characteristics such as space, time, and distinction. We will cover those topics in subsequent articles.
This article is one of a series related to identity.
Find Helping People Develop a Biblical Identity here.
Find We Are More Than We Think here.
Find Shaping Identity in the Local Church here.
Find Identity and the God of the Bible here.
Find Identity, Relationships, and Distinction here.
Find Attachments and Identity here.
Find The Power of the Individual in Shaping Identity here.
Find The Power of the Community in Shaping Identity here.
Find The Surrounding Environment and Identity here.
Find A Biblical Identity Model here.
Find Identity Development and Early Christian Education here.
Find Babies, Identity Development, and Attachments here.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.