Thursday, December 01, 2011By Steven H. VanderLeest
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. Genesis 2:19-20 (NIV)
The story of Adam naming the animals is within the context of God providing a suitable companion. He creates Eve immediately after this episode in the Genesis creation story. This short preamble to the creation of woman is itself an amazing tale—the act of naming is the creation of language. What an astonishing gift, what an incredible act of delegation, for God to allow Adam to name all the animals that God himself had created. I think this is probably one aspect of God ordaining humans to be stewards of his creation and also an indication that God gave humans an ongoing role in the dynamic unfolding of that creation.
The work of naming has never ended. Two chapters later, we learn that Tubal-Cain was forging tools out of iron (a natural material) and bronze (an alloy that was an invention of human creativeness). It isnít clear whether Tubal-Cain himself invented these tools and the alloy of bronze—but the mention of this specific career of an early blacksmith is notable. Tubal-Cain was unfolding the creation by putting earthly resources to practical use. The new inventions needed new names. Today, scientists continue this work of Adam and Tubal-Cain. When they discover a new star, a new chemical, or a new biological process, one of the first orders of business is to name it. Today, engineers continue this same work of naming. When they develop a new gadget, a new manufacturing technique, or a new algorithm, one of the first orders of business is to name it.
When developing a new system architecture or electronic component, I have often found it an enjoyable challenge to come up with just the right name for it, one that fits its function and evokes the right connotations, a name that has a nice ring to it. I think that joy of naming is because it is part of that creative ability that God gave us starting with Adam. Next time you need to name something, take joy in the naming: you are unfolding a little more of Godís good creation.