God’s Protagonist

20 11 2009

Now we come to the notion that gave birth to it all.  Someone asked me why God allows bad things to happen to us.  That was my senior year in high school, and I was in the middle of trying my hand at writing fiction for the first time.  My mind was on my story all day, every day, and everything that happened in my life seemed to relate to it, somehow.  What it translated to was, why did I allow bad things to happen to my characters, specifically the good ones?  The answer was easy enough.  Every event was part of the story wherein the protagonists fulfilled their destiny.  Some events were beneficial to the protagonists.  Some events were harmful.  Either way, the outcome was that good would triumph, and the main characters, the heroes, would win in the end, even if they died trying.

That brings us to our second point.  The fiction writer is the god of his world.  No one has absolute power like an author has over his fiction.  It’s as close to godhood that a person can reach.  Case in point, secular fiction, like the stuff they made you read in English literature class, is typically dreary and leaves a person wondering if life has any purpose.  After a thousand pages of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, you’d need a couple of days to get back to thinking that there really is God, who really does hold us accountable for our selfishness.  Every author, even the atheist, portrays God, and usually very badly.  Do you have any idea how a novel would read if an atheist wrote it to portray a world without God?  It would be several hundred blank pages.  There would be nothing, no one and no universe for anything to happen in.

In as much as the author attempts to make his world true to life, he attempts to portray God for who he really is (though it doesn’t necessarily mean that he does a good job of it).  Therefore, it does matter who’s works you read.  This is not about the language or the content, but the nature of the plot.

Secular fiction:

Earnest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea: A poor old hungry man catches the world’s largest marlin, which the sharks promptly devour.  Now he’s a poor hungry man with a fish skeleton.  The end.

A Farewell to Arms: A medic gets his kneecaps blown off, spends his nights in the hospital fornicating with a nurse and drinking himself into a bad case of jaundice.  She gets pregnant, and drinks until the fetus dies.  She dies during childbirth.  The end.

Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath: A poor family move to California to get jobs.  They get their low paying jobs and continue to live in squalor.  The end.

Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie: A loser drunk gets a blind date for his pathologically shy sister.  The man happens to be engaged already.  Too bad.  The end.

This is typical stuff for people who don’t believe in God, or, at least, people who don’t accept who he really is.  They attempt to portray real life.  Life happens…we’re miserable…the end.  What they think of real life says everything about what they think of God.  Tragedy happens for no reason…blah, blah, the end.  When you read their stories, you have no confidence that good will overcome.  You have no faith in the author to bring you through to a meaningful outcome.  When evil befalls the protagonist, it’s for no real reason whatsoever than because the author wanted something bad to happen to someone.

Christian fiction, on the other hand, has a certain predictability to it, most of the time.  Bad things happen to those characters, too, but the over-all impression that you get, walking away from the book is that it was not all for nothing.  Most of the time, good overcomes evil, and when it doesn’t, we start wondering why it was sold at a Christian bookstore in the first place.

Christian fiction:

Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness: A journalist and some other ordinary people struggle to overcome an evil and powerful corporation.  They win.

C. S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: A bunch of kids and a magical lion fight to free the world from an evil witch who turns the inhabitants to stone.  The lion gets killed, but the witch is defeated, and good prevails.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: what, you didn’t know he was a Christian?  You saw the movie.  An evil monster sought to control the world, and a handful of good guys defeated him.

The difference between the works of unbelievers and those of Christians, is that we trust the Christian writers to bring good out of the plot, no matter how bad it looks.  It is their aim to attempt to test our faith in them, only to reward us for holding onto hope.  When the godless writer makes things seem dim, there’s a good chance that things really are as bleak as they seem.

What, then, shall we say to real life?  Even in our case, the situation is no different.  Either we look at bad events and wonder how God is going to bring us through it, or we look at bad events and get angry.  Either we know that God works for good in all things for those who love him, or we think that he has smitten us out of spite.

Either we are his protagonists, or we’re not.  Not everyone is, you know.  We spend a few years on this planet making up our minds which way we will go, and then we spend the rest of eternity going that way.  To an eternal God, a hundred years is like the blink of an eye.  Only eternity matters.  Either we are his friends in Heaven, or we were never his friends and never with him.  He already knows which is which.  You’re not going to go to Hell with God thinking, “You know, I really thought she was going to come around some day.”

The ultimate protagonist, though, was Jesus.  He was a case of the Author writing himself into his own story so that we could know him.  He suffered his own tragedy so that good could overcome evil.  In the end, he lived, and he went to his reward.  Those who have faith in the Author of our lives know that through our tragedy there comes, ultimately, a happy ending.  Good will overcome evil, no matter what the circumstances may presently show.

I wouldn’t want to be the character of a human author.  What they go through at the behest of their authors is more than I want to bear.  The atheist complains that there is no God, or if there were, that he must be a cruel God, indeed, but then they play god in their own fiction and do far worse.  Humans make terrible gods.  They play with and torment their subjects ruthlessly.  I like the real God better.  He’s easily amused with my dull life.  Boring is good.  It means that nothing is going wrong.  I like that.

There are two things that I want you to keep in mind.  When I say “you,” I mean exactly whomever God happens to make read this thing.  The first is that every novel portrays God incorrectly, because the role of God is always played by the author.  The less godly the author is, the worse he will make God look.  The second thing I want you to keep in mind is that if you love God, then you are his protagonist; life has a purpose for you, and you will overcome.  Even death cannot keep you down if you love God.  Trust God in all things.  Keep his word in your heart like a loved lady keeps the letters of her lover.

We are all on a stage, but none of us are actors.  The script has already been written, and the end is determined, but we have not learned it.  The only question you have to ask yourself is, “Is this the sort of author whom we can trust to bring good out of an evil situation?”

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