All this talk of God’s glory, and enjoying fantastic stories for His glory. Yet what is His glory?
So far in this series we’ve overviewed idolatrous “worship” through reading, then begun exploring worship of God. Stories are more than “just stories,” and that does not detract from their worth, but adds to their wonder. Furthermore, all stories are based in Scripture.
That made me realize something new. Until recently, I had been thinking of glory/worship as simple light vs. darkness. Yet it’s essential to see the Scriptural color spectrum that God uses to glorify Himself. That in turn informs how we worship Him through enjoying stories.
Seeing His glory
Scripture constantly compares God’s glory to light. John 1 says Christ was the light, evoking God’s first command in Genesis 1, and adds “we have seen His glory” (John 1:14). Look for photos online relating to “God’s glory”; you’ll find most reflect this comparison: pictures of sunrises, sunshine sparkling on the water. One ministry also uses seeing-related terms to explore His glory: shine, visible, radiance. In all the Story’s stories, God reveals His glory in light and means of light. A burning bush. A pillar of fire. Tongues of fire on people’s heads.
By contrast, literally, darkness is seen as a metaphor for God’s glory not being shown. By derivative, it is symbolic of evil. God called His people “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Such symbols hold true all the way to the Story’s finale in Revelation.
These images also reflect in our fiction. I don’t know of a story in which light represents evil and dark represents goodness, do you? (Unless a villain is disguised as an “angel of light.”)
Yet I have recently wondered if “light versus darkness” tends to appear simplistically in our imaginations. I’m not referring here to postmodernism or relativism (much less anything “race”-related) when I say that too often we think of goodness and evil as black and white. Think of it: when goodness conquers evil, which colors do we see or imagine? Inevitably white light shines and splits apart the black shadow. Only primary colors: black and white.
More often, we need to think of worship and God’s glory in living color, just as He created it. And just as we are meant to reflect His glory in all that we do, including in our stories.
Shades of white or dazzling rainbows?
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
What of our light, which reflects His Source? Do we often treat it as if we flip it “on” or “off” based on our heart motives or outward behavior? I doubt that, actually. Instead we may have in mind the image of a dimmer switch. His power flows through us, and though He is working in us, we also work to be like Him (Phil. 2: 12-13). Our worship brightens and dims. So does the light level of our creative pursuits, whether enjoying or creating stories.
Based on this view, we might ask about a story: is its glory-reflection high or low?
Consider Philip Pullman’s infamous His Dark Materials series. You could say its light is dim because of its author’s intent to slander God. But it’s not completely dark; after all, Pullman calls some things good and some bad, while using raw “materials” that God created.
Or consider a Christian author’s fantasy novel that’s written with skill in both theme and craft. Does such a story reflect God’s glory more brightly — a kind of “direct” glorification?
In either case, readers may be opening their eyes wider to see more of the story’s latent glory-reflections. Or they may be shutting their eyes to avoid seeing it (likely before going onto book-review websites to offer the indignant reaction: Eww, that was a Christian book).
Yet God made color. Especially this time of year, our eyes likely open wider to behold it! Whole sermons could be preached on the fact that God could have created trees so that in the fall their leaves would fade directly from greens to browns and grays. Those duller shades do come later, yet first comes the transformation: an absolutely breathtaking array of colors. Fiery reds, crisp oranges, golden yellows. Seeing these alone can be worship.
Thus in that sense, His glory-light is not simply white contrasted with a black background. It’s in color. A living, dazzling spectrum. Do rainbows come to mind? They came to His first:
“I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.
God’s glory is a rainbow. A spectrum of color. And in some ways, this metaphor helps us much more when considering how we worship. We don’t simply raise or lower a single light-shade of glory, nor do we “worship” in ways that we define (which could include darkness). Rather, He has created the diverse array of colors we use to reflect His glory and thereby worship Him. We cannot create a new color that did not exist. Yet we can mix, raise or lower, or avert or open our eyes wider in response, to all these colors.
Next we’ll consider the similarly diverse array of artworks and stories that glorify Him — not simply by showing light and dark contrasted and light winning, but by showing colors.
What are your favorite glory “colors”? How do those affect your favorite arts and stories?