Thinking just a bit about God giving Adam the role of naming the animals. Never really thought much about this. It has always just made sense in a father-letting-his-son-have-the-pleasure kind of way. But being asked by Andy Crouch to consider this with more intention and depth I’ve come to realize that, really, this event is more akin to God making room Adam’s creativity. God could have named the animals Himself, just as the book says, and just given Adam a manual for how to maintain. But He doesn’t. What He does do before stepping back, though, is provide the raw materials required to conjure Adam’s creativity. Crouch describes it like this:
And this is what we see, subtly in Genesis 2 and more clearly in Genesis 3: In order for humankind to flourish in their role as cultivators and creators, God will have to voluntarily withdraw, in certain ways, from his own creation. He makes space for the man to name the animals; he makes room for the man and the woman to know one another and explore the garden. He even gives them the freedom, tragically but necessarily, to misuse their creative and cultivating capacities. God is always willing to be present, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, but he is also willing to grant humankind their own cultural presence. Without this gracious carving out of space, they would never be able to fulfill their destiny as divine image-bearers
The idea of God stepping back—actually withdrawing His presence—is admittedly a little new to me. But what makes a lot of sense in this respect is His tolerance for mistakes. That is, this makes it absolutely clear to me that He can deal with our mistakes; our messes; our questions; and dare I say given my conservative heritage even our disobedience. Although I don’t think this is necessarily conditional, I am compelled to add that our objective is significant. If our desire is to live with abandon, delighting in creation in addition to justice and righteousness and lovingkindness—if we’re living as the image-bearers of the one true God and out of the new heart He has given to us—then He is more than willing to redeem all of our “stuff” and make it work for good. In short, God gives us room to create. He is willing to let go of the bike and run alongside.
At the heart of the message lies what we make out of the word we’ve been given. Do you insulate yourself and hold on to what you’ve got? Or do you begin each day risking everything? How we answer these questions will say alot of about how we will ultimately look back at the question Gandalf puts out there in The Lord of the Rings: “The only question is, What are you going to do with the time you’ve been given?” It could be that we live too safe. It could be that we’ve become too soft. It could be that we’ve forgotten how to live as kings and queens in the Larger Story. Perhaps we have failed to accept our birthright. Although Eden’s lost, there are certainly elements of our original fingerprints that can be re-captured with a step in the right direction. He has given us—you and me—what we need. Now God is saying to us, “Name the animals.”