Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Author and Story
Christopher Miller, a Speculative Faith contributor, wrote an intriguing blog entitled, We Are Not Storyless! He began with the unthinkable (for a writer at least) of what it would be like if there were no such thing as story. He did not phrase the question completely in terms of stories, that is he did not just ask, What if there were no stories, but, What if there were no such thing as Story. The difference is quite palpable if one dwells on it. Stories are the concrete, sweat and tears labor of an author that could not at all be a possibility if there were no such thing as the ideal or concept of Story. When an author cobbles together characters and narrative in a plot that unfolds with a beginning, middle, and an end, which has a progression that is logical, coherent, and meaningful, he can only do so because there is Story.
The difference might be illustrated with miracles. Redemptive history as it is recorded in the Bible was relatively devoid of miracles; they came few and far between. Only during specific redemptive events, such as the Exodus, did miracles teem. They appear sporadically elsewhere in Old Testament history. But when Jesus appears, the New Testament record bubbles over with miracles. John deliberated over the seven he included in his gospel because he writes: And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30, 31. John chose the seven miracles he records for a specific reason - to persuade the reader to believe in the Son of God. We may say that Jesus performed a miracle to authenticate his claim as the God-man and to validate his message - the gospel. Or, we may say that Jesus proved himself and his message to be true by way of miracle. In the first instance, we have a specific event in mind; in the second, we have an idea of what characterizes the event. We may simply point to the act of Jesus turning water into wine on the one hand, or we may think more deeply, on the other, and ponder the supernatural character of that act and see that it typifies what is true about all such acts, that they are indicative of a person in which everything about him is supernatural.
In the same way are stories related to Story. We talk about Story in the abstract because that is where it belongs. But without the abstract, the concrete would be impossible. Without the idea of Story, there could be no such things as stories. There must be the metaphysical for there to be the physical. There must be the idea before there is a materialization of that idea in the physical world in which we live. Plato labored over the problem of form and matter, and in a way, that is what we are doing here.
Consider the question, Where did Story come from? How is it that there is Story in the first place that makes stories a possibility? The answer lies in the Triune God. Before creation ever was, there was God in three Persons. He was Story and he was the story. He was Story because everything necessary for a story resided in him - Characters, interrelation, communion. God was his own story because he was Story.
In the internal counsel of the Triune God, there was the purpose to create. With the creation, God brought story into being in a different realm. A part of that story is the creation of one who bears the image of God, and as image bearer, he has the capacity to reflect God as story-maker. It may be that story-making reflects God more fully than any other creative attribute man has. In story-making, the author is creating an imaginative world in which he purposes his characters to behave in a certain manner and for particular ends - ends that please him as the author. Christopher Miller struck at the heart of this as he, in effect, compares our authorship with the authorship of God:
As an author, I don’t ask my characters for permission to let them suffer or face evil. I know the troubles they face will ultimately be for their good. I don’t revel in the difficulty, but without trials their overcoming would not nearly be as good. We do not know what is good for us. Our perspective is two dimensional, the Author alone has the full picture.