Stage Two: Subject Matter


I’m Chow Non Phat, and me and my intelligence team are evaluating the story in your Bible through McKee’s eight stages of story.

So, here is Stage Two…


One of Robert McKee’s Amazing Books

Powerful stories will not grow in arid ground. A setting must be prepared. So once the reader/audience is in sight, storytellers build their tales from the bottom up, starting at the foundations of their story’s world, preparing for the telling step by step. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

Subject matter for a story contains three major components: a physical and social setting, a protagonist, and a core value. Life offers the storyteller an infinite variety of each. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

PRIME PRINCIPLE: BALANCE 

A story takes place at a specific time in a specific physical and social world. As the telling begins, the PROTAGONIST’S life is anchored in a core value that rests in a state of balance.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

And you can see, by the following descriptions from McKee, how story begins with a balance – which then gets upset…


In McKee’s description, this is what a story is: a human being is living a life that is more or less in balance. Then comes the “inciting incident.” (McKee borrows the phrase from “Theory and Technique of Playwriting and Screenwriting,” which was written in the late forties by John Howard Lawson, the first president of the Screen Writers Guild, and an inspiration to McKee.) The protagonist reacts, his life falls out of balance, and he now has had aroused in him a conscious or unconscious desire for whatever it is that will restore balance—“launching him on a quest for his object of desire against the forces of antagonism.”

The Real McKee, by Ian Parker, The New Yorker, October 20, 2003

So what is a story?

Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes. It begins with a situation in which life is relatively in balance: You come to work day after day, week after week, and everything’s fine. You expect it will go on that way. But then there’s an event—in screenwriting, we call it the “inciting incident”—that throws life out of balance. You get a new job, or the boss dies of a heart attack, or a big customer threatens to leave. The story goes on to describe how, in an effort to restore balance, the protagonist’s subjective expectations crash into an uncooperative objective reality. A good storyteller describes what it’s like to deal with these opposing forces, calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions, take action despite risks, and ultimately discover the truth. 

Storytelling That Moves People, A Conversation with Screenwriting Coach Robert McKee by Bronwyn Fryer,Harvard Business Review, June 2003

Story is a whole other mode of thinking. Story is rooted in causal logic. A story is X happens, and in reaction to X, Y happens, and because of Y, Z happens. The story is a dynamic way of understanding life as a dynamic of positive and negative changes of value charge, driven by the forces of conflict in life, in an effort to restore the balance of life. And so a story begins when something throws life out of balance, and everything to restore the balance discovers the truth of life, which is that there are forces in opposition to you that will resist your efforts to restore the balance, counteract your effects, even reverse your efforts. As you struggle through that, eventually you will be able to know enough truth to be able to restore balance.

Thinking like that means thinking in stories.

HOW SCREENWRITING GURU ROBERT MCKEE TEACHES BRANDS TO TELL BETTER STORIES, Fast Company, October 22, 2013



Who is the Protagonist in the Story in the Bible?

Subject matter for a story contains three major components: a physical and social setting, a protagonist, and a core value. Life offers the storyteller an infinite variety of each. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

This question grabbed our attention. Could your God – who is the Great Storyteller – also be the protagonist in the story?


Look what McKee wrote…


The protagonist need not be human. It may be an animal, BABE, or a cartoon, BUGS BUNNY, or even an inanimate object, such as the hero of the children’s story The Little Engine That Could. Anything that can be given a free will and the capacity to desire, take action, and suffer the consequences can be a protagonist.

Robert McKee, Story

And we began to see this possibility even more when we saw how the protagonist is also known as the “core character”…


 Cast design is best imagined as a solar system of planets, satellites, and comets (supporting characters) in orbit around their sun (the story’s core character, aka protagonist or hero), burning at the center.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

It’s clear from the following comments that your God is the protagonist/core character in the story in the Bible…


Many individual human stories make up the plotline of the Bible, but there is one overarching story or metanarrative that encompasses these individual stories. The central character or protagonist of this story is God. He is the one in control, and the “big story” of the Bible is what God does in human history and beyond it. God’s main actions fall into categories of creation, providence (oversight of events), judgment, and redemption or salvation. The most common label for this story is “salvation history.”

Leland Ryken, Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible

God is the central character.

Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality

When we consider the biblical storyline as a whole, our over-prioritization of our human relationships looks absurd. The Bible begins with a Being so powerful that His words command non-existent things to exist, and they obey. It presents to us a Being so holy and just that He once drowned every person on earth, sparing only the eight people who still looked to Him. This book is full of examples of God punishing the arrogant and blessing the humble. And the Bible concludes with visions of a terrifying future judgment, where every person is cast eternally into either a place of perfect pleasure in union with God or a place of ultimate pain apart from Him. 

God takes center stage in every story of Scripture. He is the Creator of life, the Judge, and the Savior.

You and Me Forever, By Francis Chan and Lisa Chan

The protagonist in the Bible’s overarching story is God. He is the central character, the one whose presence unifies the story of universal history with its constantly changing cast of human characters. Roland Frye comments:

The characterization of God may indeed be said to be the central literary concern of the Bible, and it is pursued from beginning to end, for the principal character, or actor, or protagonist of the Bible is God. Not even the most seemingly insignificant action in the Bible can be understood apart from the emerging characterization of the deity. With this great protagonist and his designs, all other characters and events interact, as history becomes the great arena for God’s characteristic and characterizing actions.

The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, By Leland Ryken, Tremper Longman III

Any reading of Scripture across the canon leads to one undeniable conclusion: this is a God-centered universe. From the opening verses of Scripture, God alone is presented as the primary actor, the sovereign Creator, the Sustainer, Life-giver, and Redeemer. He is the central figure of the story who alone is independent, self-sufficient, transcendent yet personal, magnificent in all of his perfections, utterly glorious, and worthy of all of our love, devotion, and praise.

God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity, Stephen J. Wellum, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Spring 2006)

Stories are unified around a central protagonist, and so is the Bible.The characterization of God is the main concern of the Bible, and it is pursued from beginning to end. All other characters and events interact with this great Protagonist.

Leland Ryken, “The Bible as Literature Part 2: And It Came to Pass: The Bible as God’s Storybook” BSac 147:586 (Apr 90)

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible presents a story—a narrative in which God is the principal figure who relates himself to creation and the human family.

Love in the Form of a Servant, John W. Eddins, Jr., Faith and Mission (Fall 1983)


Your God is the Active Protagonist

If the story in the Bible is to fit with what Robert McKee calls a story of “classical design,” then your God needs to be an “active protagonist.”

Look what McKee wrote…


CLASSICAL DESIGN means a story built around an active protagonist who struggles against primarily external forces of antagonism to pursue his or her desire, through continuous time, within a consistent and causally connected fictional reality,to a closed ending of absolute, irreversible change.

Robert McKee, Story

And our team has no doubts about this now. Here is just smidgen of things we found in relation to this…


‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.

Jeremiah 32:17-19

God is an active player in the Story. He does not sit silently and idly by. He is the storyteller, but he is also a player in the drama. He shows up.

Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality

[A]lthough God is a God of peace, he is also one who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). He is the God who is continually working (John 5:17). And even though heaven is a place of peace, it is a place also of continual praise to God and service for him.

Thus, God’s peace can be defined as follows: God’s peace means that in God’s being and in his actions he is separate from all confusion and disorder, yet he is continually active in innumerable well-ordered, fully controlled, simultaneous actions.

This definition indicates that God’s peace does not have to do with inactivity, but with ordered and controlled activity. To engage in infinite activity of this sort, of course, requires God’s infinite wisdom, knowledge, and power.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

Theo-drama is an attempt to make the form of my theology conform to the subject-matter of theology. Christianity is not a system of ideas. It is not a moral system. So, what is it? It is an action; it is news of what God has done. The Greek word “draō” means “I do.” So, “theo-drama” simply means “God doing.” Christianity is about God doing. It is about God sending his Son, God creating and redeeming. I would argue the essence of Christianity is this drama of God. God is not representing a story outside himself. What we see happening in history is a dramatic enactment of how God is in eternity. God is eternally Father, Son, and Spirit. What we see acted out in history is a dramatic rendering in history of the way God is in eternity. On a couple of levels, drama is powerful and comes very close to the essence of what is actually going on. The gospel is news that God has acted and that is dramatic.

“The Spirit does not minister anything else but Christ”: Kevin Vanhoozer on Pastor Theologians, Doctrine, and Cultural Literacy, Permanent Things, The Annual Journal From the Center For Public Theology, Issue 1.1, 2019

Wilder has written that “God is an active and purposeful God and his action with and for men has a beginning, a middle and an end like any good story.”

….

Stories have pattern and design, and in this way also believers’ lives have a narrative quality. Their lives have the beginning-middle-ending shape of a story. They are progressing toward a goal. In fact Christians have already read the last chapter of their story, even though they have to wait to read the intervening chapters.

“And It Came to Pass”: The Bible as God’s Storybook, By Leland Ryken, Bibliotheca Sacra 147 (April 1990)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

God always takes the initiative in this love relationship. This is the testimony of the entire Bible.

Experiencing God, by Henry & Richard Blackaby

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:30-31

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.

Nahum 1:2

But there is another sort of jealousy–zeal to protect a love-relationship, or to avenge it when broken.

….

From these passages we see plainly what God meant by telling Moses that His name was‘Jealous’. He meant that He demands from those whom He has loved and redeemed utter and absolute loyalty,and will vindicate His claim by stern action against them if they betray His love by unfaithfulness.

….

One further point, however, must be made, if we are to view this matter in its true light. God’s jealousy over His people, as we have seen, presupposes His covenant love; and this love is no transitory affection, accidental and aimless, but is the expression of a sovereign purpose. The goal of the covenant love of God is that He should have a people on earth as long as history lasts, and after that should have all His faithful ones of every age with Him in glory.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God

First Commandment (20:3-6): You shall have no other gods

In the rest of Scripture, the expression “other gods” refers to the wooden and stone idols of the nations around Israel. It does not refer to actual divine beings, that is, “gods” as such (Dt 28:36). The expression is common in Deuteronomy. The reference to such “gods” does not then assume the actual existence of divine beings, or gods, alongside the one and only God of Israel. It merely acknowledges that the other nations worship wooden and stone idols as their gods.

This commandment teaches that God is a jealous God; that is, he will not tolerate anything short of wholehearted worship. He is a personal God and will not be satisfied with anything less than a personal relationship with men and women whom he created in his image. To worship an image of God (idol) rather than God himself violates God’s purpose for the creation of man and woman in his image (Ge 1:26). Thus God’s will as expressed in these commandments is consistent with his purposes in Creation.

John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch As Narrative

So, you may want to pay attention to this as the drama in America unfolds…


Overall, the book’s lesson is that only a severe God would be worthy of worship, but such a God would be severely redemptive and thus vigorously transformative in a manner that overturns business as usual in religion, theology, philosophy, and related disciplines.

Paul Moser, The Severity of God


The Need for An Empathetic Core Character

Those needs and wants of the audience are interesting, but also troubling for our team, because of what it could mean for the future of the Party.

You see, Robert McKee opened our eyes to a way of seeing how, if Christianity is the story we are in, then your God is deeply connected with human beings…


A core character must be empathetic; she or he may or may not be sympathetic. The difference between these two is this: Sympathetic means “likable” – an amiable, companion ate person the target audience might want as friend, family, or neighbor. Empathetic means “like me” – an innate trait shared by both the core character and the target audience.

Sympathy is optional, empathy essential, for this reason: Audience involvement hinges on an act of personal identification. No matter how charming, attractive, and sympathetic a character may seem, an audience will not connect on good looks alone. Rather, the psychological bond of empathy only develops when an audience subconsciously identifies with a positive human quality emanating from within the character. This quality becomes the story’s center of good.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

The PROTAGONIST must be empathetic; he may or may not be sympathetic.

Sympathetic means likable. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, for example, or Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their typical roles: The moment they step on screen, we like them. We’d want them as friends, family members, or lovers. They have an innate likability and evoke sympathy. Empathy, however, is a more profound response.


Empathetic means “like me.” 
Deep within the protagonist the audience recognizes a certain shared humanity. Character and audience are not alike in every fashion, of course; they may share only a single quality. But there’s something about the character that strikes a chord. In the moment of recognition, the audience suddenly and instinctively wants the protagonist to achieve whatever it is that he desires.

Robert McKee, Story

And what makes a story good?

“Well, there are a long list of characteristics that make a story bad,” McKee says. “There will be no conflict. There will be no surprise. There will be no empathy.”

He says that, of all characteristics of a story, empathy is the most important.

“The irreducible step is to connect on an empathetic level,” he says. “It can’t be just charming. It can’t just be sympathetic. It’s not a matter of likability. The audience must connect on some subconscious level that this story is about me.” Meaning them. Not you.

Every Brand Has a Story: A Conversation with Screenwriting Legend Robert McKee, By Jake Sorofman, Gartner For Marketers, June 23, 2016

The Empathy Imperative

If your target audience member does not sense a mutual humanity between herself and your story’s core character, she will not care, not listen, not identify, not be moved to act. Empathy is absolute.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace


The moment a story appears in front of audience members or readers, they instantly and instinctively inspect its value; charged landscape, seeking an emotional door into the story, a place to stick their empathy. They sort the positives from the negatives, the goods from the bads, the rights from the wrongs, the things of value from the things of no value; Everyone searches for a center of good because, in his heart of hearts, everyone instinctively sees himself as good.

….

Ideally, the storyteller places this center of good within the protagonist so that a positive human quality emanates from within the core character and captures the audience’s personal involvement.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

So… there is a natural connection between the human audience and the Active Protagonist in the story in the Bible… because, if Christianity is the story we are in, God made human beings in his image and likeness …


Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

And it wasn’t an indifferent act on his part… 


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

This means that, if Christianity is the story we are in, there is a deep connection going on between human beings and your God…


[M]an is a personal being, and, as we have said, he is so by virtue of his having been created in the image of God who is fully and absolutely personal. The stamp of the divine image upon man’s constitution means that there is a vital and immediate, “built-in” relationship between man and his Creator. And this, inevitably, is a personal relationship by which man’s being as person is established and fulfilled. The I-Thou relationship within the unity of the trinitarian Godhead is the ground and the source of human personality, through which man has knowledge of himself in an I-Thou relationship with his Creator.

Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, The True Image

Pretty empathetic!


So then… of all the things God made,we most reflect his divine nature, because we are his image and likeness. And the central connection is also, therefore, deeply relational…

[T]he central meaning of the creation of human beings in God’s image is a preset potentiality for fellowship both between God and human creatures and among human creatures themselves.

John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch

God created beings in God’s own image of conscious free agency to enable those beings to sustain loving relationships with God and with each other.

Paul K. Moser, WHY ISN’T GOD MORE OBVIOUS?: Finding the God Who Hides and Seeks

This means your God is a profoundly empathetic protagonist…


By taking the interrelationship of these two dimensions, the human and the divine, as the starting point, one understands better why it is that man has unassailable value: he possesses an eternal vocation and is called to share in the trinitarian love of the living God. This value belongs to all without distinction. By virtue of the simple fact of existing, every human being must be fully respected. The introduction of discrimination with regard to human dignity based on biological, psychological, or educational development, or based on health-related criteria, must be excluded. At every stage of his existence, man, created in the image and likeness of God, reflects “the face of his Only-begotten Son”. This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration — intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is always a good, for it “is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory.”(Evangelium vitae, 34)

CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions

Yet nothing in the entire universe, vast as it is, is as beautiful as the human person. The human person alone is shaped to the image of God. This God loves humans with a love most powerful. It is this God who draws us, erect and free, toward Himself, this God Who, in Dante’s words, is “the Love that moves the sun and all the stars.”

Awakening from Nihilism: The Templeton Prize Address, by Michael Novak, First Things (August 1994)

One of the most important affirmations of biblical anthropology is that every single human being is created in the image of God. This means that there is a unity to the human race. We all bear the imago Dei. Even beyond that we share a common descent. We all spring from our first parents Adam and Eve. The biblical story only makes sense and we can only rightly understand the gospel if those for whom Christ died are all sons of Adam.

The Table of the Nations, the Tower of Babel, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb: Part 1, by Albert Mohler, AlbertMohler.com, February 24, 2015

The Jewish and Christian story is that God created the whole cosmos so that somewhere in it would be a creature with whom He could share His love or His friendship. And to human beings He offered His friendship, as to no other creature. That’s why human beings have a dignity beyond any other creature. That’s why the death of a cockroach or a fly presents no moral crisis-no wrong against the natural order, in which all things come to be and then perish. Yet the untoward death of humans is somehow a violation of the order of things.

Another Islam, by Michael Novak, First Things (November 2002)

Who are we under these stars, with the wind on our faces? What should we do? What may we hope?

The Jewish and Christian reply to these questions of the soul is that humans are created in the image of God — not in the sense of being a painting or an icon of God, but in the sense of having inner capacities (insight, judgment, love) that we share with Him.

It is in coming to understand our own identity that we come face-to-face with the God Who summoned us into being, and Who propels us onward. Socrates gave intimations of this route when he began his inquiries with the imperative “Know thyself!”

Who am I? One who bears the Source of all intelligibility in all things within me. To humble me.

Michael Novak, No One Sees God

And, if Christianity is the story we are in, then it looks like the human connection with God as the empathetic protagonist shows up in all sorts of ways which are very meaningful.

Consider creativity – which is so essential to story…


I live in a thought world which is filled with creativity; inside of my head there is creativity. Why? Because God who is the Creator has made me in His own image and that carries with it creativity. In my head there is much creativity, there is imagination, because I am made in the image of God.Being made in the image of God, I can go out in imagination beyond the stars. This is not only the Christian, but every man. Every man is made in the image of God and, therefore, every man in his imagination is not confined to his own body. He can go out beyond the stars in his imagination, and can change something of the form of the universe starting with his thought world as an artist, poet, engineer, or gardener. Moving from our thought world in our imaginations, we can change the form of the outward world. Is not that wonderful? I am here and I am able to impose the results of my imagination on the external world.

He Is There and He Is Not Silent: Part IV: The Christian Answer in the Area of Epistemology” by Francis A. Schaeffer, BSac 129:513 (Jan 72)

Human creativity, both mental and biological, is the image of the Trinity.

Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith

And all this raises another fascinating question. Is there a connection between our need and love for story, and God as the empathetic protagonist in the story?

After all, if he is the Great Storyteller…


Storytelling — (Laughter) is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.

The clues to a great story, by Andrew Stanton, TED2012, Filmed Feb 2012

One of the books that influenced me early on in my studies was called He Gave Us Stories, by Richard Pratt. In the book he points out how God communicated to us originally and primarily in stories. …. Pratt was quite right. God gave us stories.

….

God has full wisdom and perfect understanding of us. He knows exactly what we need. So he gave us stories. The Bible is one grand story by, from, and ultimately, about God. What we have stumbled upon here in the Bible is the greatest story of all time.

Stephen J. Nichols, Welcome to the Story

I believe, like any other tool that God gave us, that storytelling is a tool that God gave us. He put the ability to follow a story and to be intrigued and drawn into the story, he put it into everybody, just like he put a conscience in everybody. It’s this thing that we know how to do. Because God taught us how to do it.

Taylor Robinson, in Truth and the Power of Storytelling with Taylor Robinson, by Larry Alex Taunton, LarryAlexTaunton.com, August 3, 2015

The more deeply we understand God’s unfolding purpose for humanity and the world, the more deeply we’ll understand God’s unfolding purpose for our lives. That’s because the only way to make any ultimate sense out of our individual life stories is to understand how they fit into God’s one unfolding story revealed in the Bible. God means for this story to so captivate our minds and hearts, that we’re drawn, by his Spirit, into its plot to find our vital place in it.

You Are Here: Finding Your Story in God’s Story, by Steve Childers, Pathway Learning, January 29, 2014

That, in fact, is (I believe) one of the reasons why God has given us so much story, so much narrative in scripture.  Story authority, as Jesus knew only too well, is the authority that really works.  Throw a rule book at people’s head, or offer them a list of doctrines, and they can duck or avoid it, or simply disagree and go away.  Tell them a story, though, and you invite them to come into a different world; you invite them to share a world-view or better still a ‘God-view’. That, actually, is what the parables are all about.  They offer, as all genuine Christian story-telling the does, a world-view which, as someone comes into it and finds how compelling it is, quietly shatters the world-view that they were in already.  Stories determine how people see themselves and how they see the world.  Stories determine how they experience God, and the world, and themselves, and others.  Great revolutionary movements have told stories about the past and present and future.  They have invited people to see themselves in that light, and people’s lives have been changed.  If that happens at a merely human level, how much more when it is God himself, the creator, breathing through his word.

How Can the Bible Be Authoritative? By N.T. Wright, Vox Evangelica, 1991

All this had led us to wondering if there is some connection between the human desire for an archplot and your God being an empathetic protagonist.

Robert McKee, in his book, Storywrites the following…


As story design moves away from the Archplot and down the triangle toward the far reaches of Miniplot, Antiplot, and Nonplot, the audience shrinks.

….

[T]he audience shrinks for this reason: Most human beings believe that life brings closed experiences of absolute, irreversible change; that their greatest sources of conflict are external to themselves; that they are the single and active protagonists of their own existence; that their existence operates through continued time within a consistent, causally interconnected reality; and that inside this reality events happen for explainable and meaningful reasons.…. This vast majority of human beings cannot endorse the inconsistent realities of Antiplot, the internalized passivity of Miniplot, and the static circularity of Nonplot as metaphors for life as they live it.

Robert McKee, Story

So why – why are people like that?

Why do people want an archplot?

If Christianity is the story we are inwhat if it has to do with the simple, but astonishingly powerful question…

Who are we, here in the story?

You see, if Christianity is the story we are in, and… the Christian God is not only the Active Protagonist in the story but also the Empathetic Protagonist, then, it means at the deepest level of human identity… people are ultimately like him!

And maybe that is why they want an archplot.

Because, if Christianity is the story we are in, it’s connected to our foundational human identity.

It flows from the very nature of who we are.

As Robert McKee says…


Culture is a quarter inch thick. Human nature is bottomless.

Robert McKee, Quoted in The God of Story: An Interview With Robert McKee, By Alec Sokolow and Tony Camin, Vice, July 1 2014

You can see why this is so disturbing to us.

Because, as we’ll explain elsewhere, if Christianity is the story we are in, then our version of the story – the one which the Communist Party of China embraces — is out of touch with foundational human identity.

So, our minds began to open even more. And we came to see this…



Can Human Beings Also Be Protagonists in the Story?

If your God is the protagonist in the story, is it then even possible for human beings to also be protagonists in the story?

Or at least in their own story?

Well, it looks like McKee says that it is…


A story may, on the other hand, be Multiprotagonist. Here, unlike the Plural-Protagonist, characters pursue separate and individual desires, suffering and benefiting independently: PULP FICTION, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, PARENTHOOD, DINER, DO THE RIGHT THING, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, PELLE THE CONQUEROR, HOPE AND GLORY, HIGH HOPES. Robert Altman is the master of this design: A WEDDING, NASHVILLE, SHORT CUTS.

On screen the Multiprotagonist story is as old as GRAND HOTEL; in the novel older still, War and Peace; in the theatre older yet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Multiprotagonist stories become Multiplot stories. Rather than driving the telling through the focused desire of a protagonist, either single or plural, these works weave a number of smaller stories, each with its own protagonist, to create a dynamic portrait of a specific society.

Robert McKee, Story

And then Paula found some material which connects with that…


I went home and began to reread the Bible. In the light of these realizations, I understood it in a new way. This great story each life was telling, this story of the spirit all flesh was telling: here it was, beginning, middle, and end. The Bible was the story God wanted to tell us about himself – about himself and us.

Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing

The Bible sees the universe as made by God. It also tells a story of God’s dealings with humans.

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age

What we’re doing is telling the macro story of the Bible. We start out by saying, “What is the Bible? It’s the story of God and us. Now let’s tell that story.”

The Bible—Fun?, Guest: Phil Vischer, FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript, September 10, 2012

Yet, the Bible stresses both the sovereign and personal nature of God, one who is complete in himself from all-eternity yet also the one who is love, who speaks, and who is truly personal.

God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity, By Stephen J. Wellum, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, (Spring 2006)

We must approach the bible as a story– The story of God, and God’s people throughout history. …. [T]he bible is a story about God and his heroic love for his people….

Brian Hardin, Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You

It seems reasonable to suppose that the author of the Pentateuch set out to give readers a single and complete historical story. The Pentateuch is neither an anthology of isolated stories nor a complete collection of laws. It is a book that tells a story that ultimately centers on one’s relationship to God. 

John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch

[O]ught it surprise us when the divine storyteller enters into his story? What else could he do? What else would we expect from him? For this world is the story that God is telling: it is the revelation of his very being. Our world pulses with his life; we exist because he dreamt us up. Human storytellers create with ink on paper; the divine storyteller creates with matter on space and time. Human authors tell their stories through imagined characters; the divine author tells his story through humans.

God Is the Author Who Enters His Story, By Andrew Shanks, The Gospel Coalition, June 9, 2013

Yet the Bible is a single unit, bound together by the theme of God and His relationship to humankind. Each book, section, paragraph, and verse works together with the others to reveal God’s truth. That’s why Scripture is best understood by relating its individual parts to the integrated whole. 

Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible, By Howard G. Hendricks, William D. Hendricks

The story begins with God’s design for his creation and its attendant blessings (Gen. 1-2). The story of blessing gives way to the story of sin and the cursing of the creation (Gen. 3-11) The good, blessed creation unravels as Adam and Eve’s sin leads into exile away from the paradise of God’s intimate presence. What was once blessing has now become a curse. The key question now is, How will humanity be restored to right relationship with God? How will the curses be removed so the blessings of God may be restored? The rest of the Bible explains God’s answer to that crucial question. ….  More than anything, God wants a restored relationship.

The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology, by C. Marvin Pate, J. Scott Duvall

So, it looks like the story in the Bible isn’t limited to one protagonist.

And once again, we realized that, if Christianity is the story we are in, we had to be like McKee, and think more broadly…


Robert McKee: The term “ground rules” is inappropriate when talking about any aspect of writing, Inciting Incident included. As I’ve said many times: Art forms have no rules; all art is guided by principles. Rules are rigid. They say, “You must do it this way!” Principles are flexible. They say, “This form underlies the nature of the art and is conventional in practice. However, it may be bent, broken, hidden or turned upside down to serve unconventional uses that may enhance the telling. ”Rules are objective applications that require no feeling for the story’s characters or events; their use is justified by their traditional function and their comfortable familiarity to the audience/readers. Principles require a deeply subjective understanding of a technique’s effect forward and backward along the timeline of a story’s events. A principle guides the writer’s use of his materials – motivations, characterizations, coincidences, settings, flash-backs/flash-forwards, set-ups/pay-offs and the like – in terms of their effect on both characters and audience/readers. A rule is microscopic; a principle is macroscopic.

An Interview with Robert McKee, by Debra Eckerling, StoryLink, August 18, 2009


The Status of Humanity in the Balance of the Story in the Bible

Happiness is not only a hope, but also in some strange manner a memory … we are all kings in exile.

G.K. Chesterton, The Thing

That’s a crazy idea the Chesterton guy is putting forward, right?

Well, here is another one…


If God Exists, You Can Know His Love Personally

On the other hand, if God does exist, then not only is there meaning and hope, but there is also the possibility of coming to know God and His love personally.

Think of it!

That the infinite God should love you and want to be your personal friend! This would be the highest status a human being could enjoy!

Does God Exist?, By William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith

So, now let me tell you about something Paula Wong showed us, which is very relevant to both the past and present drama of humanity.

“Comrade Chow,” she said, “if Christianity is the story we are in, what if this insight from Stephen Prothero points to something bigger going on in the story?”

And then she showed us this…


What is required in any relationship is knowing who the other person really is.

Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One

“I love that book,” I said. “If I could only take one book with me on a long trip, it would be that one. But, what are you thinking?” I asked.

“Well, I may have seen something,” she said. “I’ve become a fan of the famous American writer, Tom Wolfe. And he’s so into status.”

And she read Wolfe’s description of status…


[H]is own standing, his own rank, in the eyes of others and in his own eyes.

Tom Wolfe, The Human Beast, Jefferson Lecture, National Endowment for the Humanities, May/June 2006

And then she read us these…


Wolfe’s nonfiction and fiction alike treat status competition as the mover of just about all human actions.

Where Tom Wolfe got his status obsession, By David Price, Nieman Storyboard, July 5, 2016

Today, no less than in Wolfe’s grad-school days, the lure of what Weber termed “status honor” is all around us. If anything, the age of the Internet has opened up frontiers of status competition undreamed-of half a century ago. Thanks to social media, people edit — sorry, “curate” — versions of their lives to friends and strangers and compete for a dopamine-releasing tally of “likes.”

Where Tom Wolfe got his status obsession, By David Price, Nieman Storyboard, July 5, 2016

Status anxiety is a particularly American disease, and one of the great American subjects. …. Not having enough, not being contented with your lot by comparison with the successes of others — these are the unforgiving aspects of the American dream.

Measuring Up, By John Podhoretz, Weekly Standard, September 22, 2017

“So,” said Paula, “what if there is a connection between the Society/Political genre and something they call the Status genre? What if we need to look into this?,” she asked.

“Please, explain,” I replied.

Of course, Paula herself had already begun to look into it. So she began to take us down a road which has opened our eyes to a different way of seeing.

And it begins by looking again at how the Society/Political genre mix shows up in the story in the Bible…


The Society Genre

These are stories that are most driven by big ideas. That is they are often used to present a particular point of view/argument for political purposes.

….

Political: is the struggle for power. Its core value is power/impotence and the core event is the revolution where power is either lost or gained.

Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

And consider again how the balance in the story fits with this…


[T]he protagonist holds reasonable sovereignty over her existence – until something happens that radically upsets that equilibrium.

We call this event the inciting incident.

Robert McKee, Dialogue

Then Paula showed us something about the status of human beings in the balance of the story, before the inciting incident in the garden took place…


Through commissioning human beings to govern all land animals, birds and fish, God sets them apart from all other creatures and gives them a royal status. By repeating this point twice within three verses, the author of Genesis underscores the divine delegation of authority to humankind to rule over the earth.

The second reason for believing that Adam and Eve were commissioned to be God’s viceroys is less obvious to modern readers. The concept of royalty underlies the expression ‘image of God’. In the ancient Near East, in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, the phrase ‘image of God’ was commonly linked to kings. The king was the living ‘image of a god’.

….

To be made in the ‘image of God’ is to be given regal status. As well as ruling over other creatures, the first human couple, as God’s representatives, are instructed to be fruitful and fill the earth.

….

Again, knowledge of the ancient Near Eastern background sheds further valuable light on this instruction to fill the earth. In the ancient Near East a rulers image was set up in distant parts of his kingdom in order to indicate that his authority reached there. As images of God, human beings are to perform a similar function. Taken in conjunction with their holy status, Adam and Eve are to be fruitful so that their descendants may, as priest-kings, extend God’s temple and kingdom throughout the earth. This was God’s blueprint for the created world.

Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem

In contrast, however, to the Ancient Near Eastern political theory, Genesis 1 confers this authoritative status of God’s image to all human beings, so that we are all kings, given the responsibility to rule as God’s vice-regents over the earth. God has called humanity to be his vice-regents and high priests on earth. Middleton draws the conclusion that this conception of all humanity having a royal function as God’s image is articulated in conscious opposition to the social structures of Mesopotamia.

As we step out on to the stage of life, we are to understand that the blessed God crowned all of us, not just the kings and priests who rule us, to reign with glory and honor and dignity. …. In other words, humankind is created to establish the rule of God on earth.

Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology

And she then showed us something else, which really caught our attention.

It turns out the simple story question…


Who are we, here in the story?


…connects directly to the status of sovereignty…


The significance of the word “image” should be connected to the divine purpose for human life. Von Rad has made the analogy that, just as kings set up statues of themselves throughout the border of their land to show their sovereign domain, so God established his representatives on earth.

Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing

The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.

……


In this discussion it would be best to focus attention primarily on the meanings of the words “image” and “likeness.” As we have seen, these terms had quite clear meanings to the original readers. When we realize that the Hebrew words for “image” and “likeness” simply informed the original readers that man was like God, and would in many ways represent God, much of the controversy of the meaning of “image of God” is seen to be a search for too narrow and too specific a meaning. When Scripture reports that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), it simply would have meant to the original readers, “Let us make man to be like us and to represent us.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

As image-bearers, human beings have all those endowments necessary to re-present and be representatives of God, and to accomplish the tasks placed before them and exhibit the relationality into which they were meant to live, such as endowments of reason, self-determination, moral action, personality and relational formations. In this sense, the image of God is straightforwardly ontological. Even if we functionalize the image or treat it in largely relational terms, something that I am loath to do, it is still true that a thing’s functional abilities or relational aptitudes are determined by its kindedness. Thus, even the functional, relational aspects of the image of God have ontological implications. There are two ways to accomplish such functionalization. First, the image of God can be taken in the representative sense according to which humankind was made to represent God in his activity of ruling on the earth on God’s behalf. Second, the image can be taken in the relational sense according to which it is constituted by certain important interpersonal relationships with God and other persons. It should be obvious that either approach presupposes the ontological understanding. Something can represent God in the way just specified only if it has certain powers and attributes apt for carrying out the appropriate representational activities. And an entity can stand in certain relations and not others depending on the kind of thing that entity is, and an entity flourishes in certain relations and not others depending on the sort of thing it is.

J.P. Moreland, The Recalcitrant Imago Dei

Hoekema defends and develops a view of the image of God in which humans are seen to be made by God with certain structural capacities (to “mirror” God) in order that they might function in carrying out the kinds of responsibilities in relationship he has given them in particular to do (to “represent” God). The stress, then, is on the functional and relational responsibilities, while the structural capacities provide the created conditions necessary for that functioning to be carried out. Furthermore, Hoekema describes the relational elements of this functioning in terms of how we are to relate to God, to others, and to the world God has made. So, God has made us a particular way, and has done so in order for us to function in this threefold arena of relationality, and this together constitutes what it means to be created in the image of God. Hoekema summarizes his view as follows:

The image of God, we found, describes not just something that man has, but something man is. It means that human beings both mirror and represent God.

“Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God,” Bruce Ware

And so, you can see why this has our attention. If Christianity is the story we are in, then our status was astonishing.

Seriously. And look what else Paula showed us…


The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.

Psalm 115:16 

And, we come to that book again by that Prothero fellow– all this means he is really is on to something…


What is required in any relationship is knowing who the other person really is.

Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One

And that insight connects with what Robert McKee says… 


Culture is a quarter inch thick. Human nature is bottomless.

Robert McKee, Quoted in The God of Story: An Interview With Robert McKee, By Alec Sokolow and Tony Camin, Vice, July 1 2014

So, as we go through this report, you’ll see why the simple story question, “Who are we, here in the story?”, is so essential.



How Your Sense That Something is Wrong Fits With the Story in the Bible

So, one day, as we were exploring your story, Paula suggested we begin to try and see, if somehow human frustration with the way life can be so wrong fits with the Christian story. And sooner than we expected, McKee began to open our eyes.

As Chinese spies, we may be your enemies, but as fellow human beings, this insight from McKee has been so helpful…


Culture is a quarter inch thick. Human nature is bottomless.

Robert McKee, Quoted in The God of Story: An Interview With Robert McKee, By Alec Sokolow and Tony Camin, Vice, July 1 2014

We’re all facing such trouble. Something is wrong with the world.

Then Paula caught our attention when she showed us how this connection between Stage One and Two in story…


Identifying the consumer’s unfulfilled need in Stage One leads to the first step of Stage Two: identifying the core value that best dramatizes the solution to this problem, the cure to this pain.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

And then she connected these dots …


What the world’s religions share is not so much a finish line as a starting point. And where they begin is with this simple observation: something is wrong with the world. In the Hopi language, the word Koyaanisqatsi tells us that life is out of balance. Shakespeare’s Hamlet tells us that there is something rotten not only in the state of Denmark but also in the state of human existence. Hindus say we are living in the kali yuga, the most degenerate age in cosmic history. Buddhists say that human existence is pockmarked by suffering. Jewish, Christian, and Islamic stories tell us that this life is not Eden; Zion, heaven, and Paradise lie out ahead.

Religious folk worldwide agree that something has gone awry. They part company, however, when it comes to stating just what has gone wrong, and they diverge sharply when they move from diagnosing the human problem to prescribing how to solve it.

Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One

And look at this… 


It is clear to most people that the world is not the way it ought to be. Something has gone terribly wrong, and everybody knows it.

Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality

And they feel it…


And to understand what went wrong, Paula helped us see that we had to see the setting and the balance in the story…


Powerful stories will not grow in arid ground. A setting must be prepared. So once the reader/audience is in sight, storytellers build their tales from the bottom up, starting at the foundations of their story’s world, preparing for the telling step by step. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

Subject matter for a story contains three major components: a physical and social setting, a protagonist, and a core value. Life offers the storyteller an infinite variety of each. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

PRIME PRINCIPLE: BALANCE 

A story takes place at a specific time in a specific physical and social world. As the telling begins, the PROTAGONIST’S life is anchored in a core value that rests in a state of balance.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

And you can see, by the following descriptions from McKee, how story begins with a balance – which then gets upset…


In McKee’s description, this is what a story is: a human being is living a life that is more or less in balance. Then comes the “inciting incident.” (McKee borrows the phrase from “Theory and Technique of Playwriting and Screenwriting,” which was written in the late forties by John Howard Lawson, the first president of the Screen Writers Guild, and an inspiration to McKee.) The protagonist reacts, his life falls out of balance, and he now has had aroused in him a conscious or unconscious desire for whatever it is that will restore balance—“launching him on a quest for his object of desire against the forces of antagonism.”

The Real McKee, by Ian Parker, The New Yorker, October 20, 2003

So what is a story?

Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes. It begins with a situation in which life is relatively in balance: You come to work day after day, week after week, and everything’s fine. You expect it will go on that way. But then there’s an event—in screenwriting, we call it the “inciting incident”—that throws life out of balance. You get a new job, or the boss dies of a heart attack, or a big customer threatens to leave. The story goes on to describe how, in an effort to restore balance, the protagonist’s subjective expectations crash into an uncooperative objective reality. A good storyteller describes what it’s like to deal with these opposing forces, calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions, take action despite risks, and ultimately discover the truth. 

Storytelling That Moves People, A Conversation with Screenwriting Coach Robert McKee by Bronwyn Fryer,Harvard Business Review, June 2003

Story is a whole other mode of thinking. Story is rooted in causal logic. A story is X happens, and in reaction to X, Y happens, and because of Y, Z happens. The story is a dynamic way of understanding life as a dynamic of positive and negative changes of value charge, driven by the forces of conflict in life, in an effort to restore the balance of life. And so a story begins when something throws life out of balance, and everything to restore the balance discovers the truth of life, which is that there are forces in opposition to you that will resist your efforts to restore the balance, counteract your effects, even reverse your efforts. As you struggle through that, eventually you will be able to know enough truth to be able to restore balance.

Thinking like that means thinking in stories.

HOW SCREENWRITING GURU ROBERT MCKEE TEACHES BRANDS TO TELL BETTER STORIES, Fast Company, October 22, 2013

So, since we have already begun to look at the protagonist and core value in the story, let’s go here next…



The Physical and Social Setting

Here is some of how McKee describes the physical and social setting for a story…


Two dimensions structure a story’s space: (I) Physical-the horizontal landscape and every object on it. (2) Social-the vertical hierarchy of a society’s pyramid of power and the possibility for movement up or down.

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace

If, conversely, you feel that you need to provide your readers with exposition about history, characters and setting in order for them to grasp the importance of your Inciting Incident, then this exposition – well-dramatized, of course, perhaps even building into a set-up subplot – must start the telling.

Robert McKee, Story

How much understanding of setting, history and character does an audience/reader need to know prior to the Inciting Incident so that when it arrives it will have its full effect? In some stories nothing; in some stories a lot.

An Interview with Robert McKee, by Debra Eckerling, StoryLink, August 18, 2009

So, to see the physical and social setting in the story in the Bible, let’s begin first with these insights, because it helped us understand why your protagonist created human beings in the first place…

God’s purpose in creation is to associate other knowing beings – angels and men – with His inner life. This purpose never changes. … The cosmos finds its purpose through its relation to the initial design of God in inviting rational beings to participate in His inner, Trinitarian life.

James V. Schall, On The Unseriousness of Human Affairs

What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God.  …. What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God. …. What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives Him most pleasure? Knowledge of Himself.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God

So, you can see the physical and social setting in the following explanation from this T. Desmond Alexander guy, who has helped us see so much…


Genesis opens by recounting how God creates an earth, into which he places a human couple, Adam and Eve. This first earth…. is designed to be a divine residence, for here God intends to coexist with people. However, the divine plan for this first earth is soon disrupted when the human couple, due to their disobedience, are driven from God’s presence. The complex story that follows centres on how the earth can once more become a dwelling place shared by God and humanity.

T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem

So, we began to recognize something about the social setting…



The First Human Love Story

Once we came to see how one of the genres in the story in the Bible is a love story, our team wasn’t surprised to find the first love story among humans in the balance of the story.

But what did surprise us was how God the Great Storyteller advanced the first love story through surprise/turn.

As we explored the balance in the story, we noticed there was one thing lacking…


The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

But notice how God proceeded – by creating a gap for Adam to experience…


Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Genesis 2:19-20

And this caught our attention as a connection between Stage One and Stage Two…


The Lord God has identified Adam’s need, but he now delays providing for that need. Instead he parades before Adam members of the animal world that he “had formed” (NIV) in order that the man might confer upon each a name. What does this have to do with Adam’s need for a companion? This incident allows us to appreciate Adam’s loneliness. The delay was to teach Adam a lesson. Thus God brings the animals by and asks, “What is the name of this?” “An ox.” “And of this?” “A camel.” “And of this?” “A donkey.” “And of this?” “A horse.”

It is most likely, in light of the context, that the Lord brought the animals by in pairs. One of the Jewish rabbis pictures Adam standing there as God paraded the animals by in pairs (male and female). Adam says, “Every one has a partner, yet I have none.” The Lord was promoting or cultivating or fostering, or arousing in Adam a desire for a wife. He was showing him his need. The animals are creatures, but they are not “helpers.”

The Divine Blueprint For Marriage (Genesis 2:18–25), by David J. MacLeod, Emmaus Journal, Summer 2006

So how does your God close that gap?

With turn and surprise for Adam…


So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Genesis 2:21-22

And how does Adam respond to God’s dramatic surprise for him?


The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:23

So, look at this comment on that, which Paula showed us…


In verse 23 we have Adam’s ecstatic response. It is the first time in the Bible that we have the actual spoken words of a human being, and it is poetry. Specifically, it is the first love poem. Adam ecstatically bursts into poetry, “This, at last, is bone of my bones.” The noted Jewish commentator, Cassuto, paraphrases, “This—this female, at last a helper corresponding to me.” Let us not miss Adam’s great sense of joy, the joy that should grip the hearts of all who fall in love. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Adam, after the disappointment of looking fruitlessly through the animal parade, sees Eve and assures the Lord, “This turn hath made amends.” He “forgives” the Lord immediately for the delay.

The Divine Blueprint For Marriage (Genesis 2:18–25), by David J. MacLeod, Emmaus Journal, Summer 2006

And notice how in the very next verses it looks like the core value for marriage is set out….


That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:24-25

And, we saw this, and wonder if in some way those verses were a setup for the massive change which humanity experienced as a result of the inciting incident…


Christian belief and practice in relation to marriage is based on the words of Jesus. They were revolutionary when first proposed and no less so now. It is a high ideal, a union indissoluble to death, wife and husband equal in responsibility and worth, a partnership exclusive and fruitful. This was a challenge for the Jews of Jesus’s time, when a man was allowed to divorce his wife and remarry. Jesus explained that Moses allowed this because of their “hardness of heart,” but it was not what the Creator intended. For the early Greeks and Romans who received the doctrine, this new concept was even more radical. The faithfulness demanded of the husband seemed bizarre and even unmanly, and a prohibition against divorce and remarriage absurd.

The Crisis of Marriage, By Grazie Pozo Christie, RealClearReligion, October 15, 2015

And when we saw this, it helped us begin to see more clearly how this story was tied together…


Modern Christians often seem uneasy with the Bible’s account of creation. As a result, we miss the important truths embedded there. At the heart of the Christian story of creation is the fact that God is good, and the Maker of all things. Therefore, all of his creation has an inherent goodness. At the center of the creation account stand man and woman, made in God’s own image and likeness. In Genesis, humanity crowns the created world as a final, perfected expression of God’s love. In a sense, our love for each other, which is most obviously shown in the covenant of marriage, is a reflection of God’s own identity. God himself is a communion of love in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and this is the divine joy that God created us to share in.

Fire On The Earth: God’s New Creation and the Meaning of Our Lives, by Charles J. Chaput, First Things, July 23, 2010


The Physical Setting

So, your God gives Adam just what he needs and wants. And, it all takes place in a place…


What we have in the Bible, says Wendell Berry, “is a story and a discourse about the connection of a people to a place.“Since by God’s design we too are emplaced people, it’s in attending carefully to how those who came before played their parts that we will embrace and live in our places well. Those ancient stories and songs and sayings will have more to say to us once we are properly focused on discovering God’s path for this life in this place.

Glenn Paauw, Saving the Bible From Ourselves

And look how it fits with what your Schreiner guy wrote…


God’s kingdom certainly consists of his rule over angels and human beings, but the emphasis on rule must not blind us to the truth that there is also a realm. History does not take place in an ethereal sphere. God created the entire universe, and the lordship of God and his relationship with human beings take place on earth. Place matters in this story.  …. The drama of God as King and human beings as his subjects is worked out in history and in a certain place.

Thomas Schreiner, The King In His Beauty

And the Desmond Alexander guy shows how the place of place shows up in the progression in the story as it moves from beginning to end…


By providing a closely matched beginning and end, the opening chapters of Genesis and the final chapters of Revelation undoubtedly frame the biblical meta-story. …. Whereas Genesis presents the earth as a potential building site, Revelation describes a finished city. Underlying the construction of this city is the expectation that God will reside within it, sharing its facilities with people from every nation.

Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem

And notice how the following passage, near the very end of the story in the Bible, fits with where it first began, in a place


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4

And here’s a strange thing.

One of my team members showed us a popular song in America which caught our attention because of the connection in it between relationship and place, which is highlighted by the chorus…


Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

So… If Christianity is the story we are in, then — is it possible there is something going on in human beings — ways we reflect a deep desire —which we don’t quite see clearly?

Look what else one of our team members found…  


These, as we have seen, are the two oldest questions, those concerning identity and place.

Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power

For thousands of years, philosophers have argued about the nature of the soul and the body – and how they relate. Christians believe that God created both the body and soul, and that one day Jesus will redeem both. The Apostle’s Creed, the statement of the Christian faith recited around the globe weekly for seventeen centuries, puts it this way: “I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” What’s crucial here, at least for our purposes, is that God cares not only about immaterial souls but also about the material world. We’re not spirits, zipping about. We’re bodies, too. And that whole complex -body plus soul – is always in a particular place, at a particular time. We’re right here, right now. ’ 

Place matters. 

How often do we pause to take stock of that? 

Ben Sasse, Them

Few things are more enraging to people than to have their identity or their sense of home stripped away.  They will die for it, kill for it, sing for it, write poetry for it, and novelize about it.  Because without a sense of home and belonging, life becomes barren and rootless.  And life as a tumbleweed is no life at all.

Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Wow. So, if the United States of America ends up breaking up, you can imagine the pain you will experience.

And now, let’s look through the lens of story to see what went wrong in the story we are in – if Christianity is the story we are in.

The next stage in story which we will look at is Stage Three, which is called the ‘inciting incident’…


Definition: The inciting incident launches a story by upsetting the equilibrium of the protagonist’s life and throwing the story’s core value either positively or negatively, but decisively, out of kilter. This turning point initiates the events that follow and propels the protagonist into action. 

Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace