Any opportunity to pause and behold evidence of God’s grace is an opportunity for gratitude, worship, and faith. Last Friday’s “Artifact Fair” was one of those moments. Student journals, art projects, teacher templates, and videos gave us empirical evidence that God is at work among us, transforming people by his grace and forming a peculiar people for his glory on earth.
One of our Core Practices is Storyline, which is all about connecting our content and learning to the overarching Story of God. A strong Storyline goes beyond simply having a catchy theme; it gives context and movement and life to our classrooms by helping us step into a narrative much bigger than the upcoming test. But Storyline can be a challenging Core Practice to grasp and implement. The purpose of this post is to clarify the concept and give you some practical suggestions for connecting your classroom content the Story of God.
Storyline Refers to Biblical Theology
When we talk about developing a classroom storyline, we’re talking about helping students develop a vibrant biblical theology. Biblical theology doesn’t simply mean “a theology based on the Bible,” though we certainly want that to be true of our theology. Rather, biblical theology approaches God’s Word as a unified story and traces the chronological unfolding of themes through the major acts of the Story.
There are several helpful ways to summarize the history of redemption; the one we’ve talked about the most outlines the Story of God through the acts of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Following that framework of the Story, we can quickly sketch a brief biblical theology of a given theme.
Biblical theology begins by asking, “What was God’s created design and purpose for this?” When God finished his creative work and he said, “This is good,” what did things look like?
It doesn’t take long to realize that things are not the way they should be. All creation “was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20) because of human rebellion. So when we’re developing a biblical theology, we ask, “How has sin distorted this? What does this look like in a fallen world?”
The climax of the Story is the coming of God’s promised Savior. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus redeems fallen humanity from the curse of sin and rescues all of creation from its bondage to decay. Jesus died, not only for my salvation (on the micro level), but to set right all that is wrong in the universe (on the macro level). So biblical theology asks, “How does the death and resurrection of Jesus redeem and transform this?”
Jesus accomplished everything necessary for salvation, and he inaugurated the Kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God has not yet been fully consummated. That means we live in the tension of the “already but not yet.” Jesus will make all things new, and in some sense, he has already started that renewal. We get to experience a foretaste of eternal life now. But Jesus has not yet returned to consummate his Kingdom once and for all. When he does, all of creation will be made new. So biblical theology asks, “What will this look like in the (“not yet”) age to come?” and “To what extent can we (“already”) experience a foretaste of inaugurated restoration in this area now?”
A Biblical Theology of Food
Following the major acts of the Story, could we sketch a brief biblical theology of something like food? Here’s a thumbnail:
Creation: Eat from any tree in the garden
- “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food… And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden’” (Genesis 2:8-9, 16).
- We only have two chapters in the entire Bible that deal exclusively with the pre-Fall world, so it’s significant that we actually find that food and eating are such central themes.
- In the garden, we see that eating is a pleasurable sensory experience (“every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food”), not a bland survival obligation.
Fall: Adam Eve ate from the forbidden tree
- “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
- Isn’t it interesting that the only revealed command from God had to do with food? Why food? As often as Adam and Eve ate, they would be reminded of their dependence on God and they would have an opportunity to demonstrate their trust in his goodness and provision by eating from the trees he gave them.
- It was through a meal that man first tried to assert his independence from God and claim his own ability to determine what is good and what is satisfying.
- Since the fall, food (or lack of it) is frequently connected with sin and suffering:
- Famines can be evidence of God’s judgment (e.g., Jer. 11:22)
- Sin and unbelief are often expressed through inability to control one’s appetite (e.g., Deut. 21:20; Prov. 23:2)
- Paul speaks of idolaters whose “god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19)
- One form of idol worship involved eating food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29 and Acts 21:25)
- Unbelief in God logically leads to the conclusion that life is meaningless; the last attempt to find meaning in life is to indulge one’s appetite around the table: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah 22:13)
Redemption: Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water who said, “Eat my body and drink my blood.”
- Throughout redemptive history, God’s saving work was celebrated through meals (like the Passover) that God’s people could touch, taste, and smell.
- When God redeemed Israel from Egypt, he provided water from a rock and manna from heaven, sustaining his people in the wilderness.
- When Jesus came, he spoke of the saving union with him in terms of eating food: “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54).
- Unless we partake of Jesus the way you partake of food, you are not saved. If you are dying of thirst in the desert and you come across a deep well of fresh, cool water, it does you no good unless you drink it. Knowing about the water does not quench your thirst. Agreeing that the water exists and affirming that it is good does not quench your thirst. Saving faith partakes of Christ. Saving faith is tasting and seeing that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).
- Now every meal we eat together is an opportunity to remind each other of our need and God’s provision in Christ.
Restoration: The consummation of the Kingdom is a wedding feast
- “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’” (Revelation 19:6-9).
- The Kingdom of God is a banquet filled with the most unlikely, undeserving guests!
- As we wait for the “not yet” of the Kingdom, we have opportunities to foreshadow the coming banquet as we share meals together and show hospitality to others around the table.
There’s so much more we could say about food and eating in connection to the Story of God, but I hope this helps you imagine what Storyline does: it brings our content to life by giving movement, development, and context. Education is not about disseminating neutral facts; it’s about connecting our knowledge of God’s world to the movement of God’s Story so that we can participate in what God is doing.
So give it a try: What do you notice when you trace a theme or topic from your classroom through the acts of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration?