Did the results of Tuesday’s U.S. elections give glory to God?
Based on our answer to real-life issues like that, what about non-Christians’ stories that include non-Christian notions — do those glorify God?
As discussed last week, that depends on whether God gets glory over or through something.
That’s a simplified argument. Does God get “perfect” glory in His Church? Surely not. His former enemies, we His adopted children, have many flaws — flaws His Spirit is repairing from within. Does God get “perfect” glory from His world? Many of the Psalms extol how creation sings His praises. Yet we also learn those praises are mixed with groans (Romans 8), because creation still longs to be resurrected as we do.
We may only say for certain that God gains “100 percent” glory through the righteous life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Yet from that His perfect glory ripples into creation and begins to reflect. People whom He redeems in turn work to redeem — not because we can make things perfect but because we honor His already/not-yet glorious perfections.
In order: 1) His creation, marred; 2) His perfect redemption of people whom He declares righteous yet also works to change; 3) His redemption of creation and our “subcreations.”
All throughout His glory shines, not as a single hue “turned up” or down, but a spectrum.
This leads to stories. If God’s multihued glories shine in all of reality — whether getting glory over or through an action — how do we find such glories in stories? How might this point us more toward the truth that reading stories can be an act of worshiping Him?
Glory over stories
Many people make stories based on sinful motives. How do we know? One test: if they’re human, they have a sinful nature and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). All they do will also fall short, including their storytelling. Yet still God will get glory over their stories.
Lengthy discussion after this series’ part 9 focused on Phillip Pullman’s intentionally-atheist His Dark Materials books, and the Disney film The Lion King. I’ve not read Pullman’s work, and I’ve only seen The Lion King once. But a better example may be a more-popular franchise that recently lightsaber-sliced its way to the headlines.
Does Star Wars glorify God? If we asked George Lucas, he would surely say no. He wanted to make movies and embed them with oddball pagan beliefs (even before “midichlorians”).
If we asked Christ, He might quote Scripture. What man means for evil, God means for good.
But back to the spectrum of part 9, the “rainbow” of God’s glory. What “color” is Star Wars? It depends on who is looking. Lucas may have tried to dim his films’ colors to gray shades (especially the prequels), and unredeemed people will likely not see anything beyond, much less respond accordingly. Yet for those who behold God’s white-hot glory, containing the prism of His created-colors, they can see His Story reflecting in that story:
- The vivid greens and lush blues of a world originally created beautiful and good.
- Then a dark gray explosion and billowing blacks of that good world gone wrong.
- A tingling flash of gold as a hero rises, called to join a cause far greater than himself.
- Clashes of gold against gray and black, as the hero on his journey fights against evil.
- Pooling, dark crimson as the hero faces terrible loss and seeming permanent defeat.
- And finally, crimson and gold and greens and blues overcome darkness as terrible loss suddenly turns to wondrous final victory — what Tolkien called eucatastrophe.
Any story, defined as a written or visible construct that follows this, reflects Scripture.
And contrary to some implications I’ve seen, even among speculative story fans, we should not credit man for this accidental echo of truth. Instead we credit the first Speaker for His common grace that can be heard by those so attuned by His Spirit, whose ears are open.
Glory through stories
Here’s a perennial question that’s surely buried in the minds of Christians who love stories: if non-Christians’ stories can echo God’s truth by “accident” and glorify Him, why should “Christian speculative fiction” do anything different? Shouldn’t we seek stories (or try to write stories) that only focus on story first and wait for the truths to repeat “accidentally”?
I can’t help thinking of the inherent fatalism in that well-meant perspective.
One might as well fail to share one’s faith because whether or not people come to know Christ, God will be glorified. Or fail to care for the poor, assuming God will care for them.
Only Christians have a chance to glorify God through enjoying stories, or creating their own.
As redeemed saints, ours is the optimal position. We know the Author better, thanks not to us but Him, and we know the Story better, the Story that all other good stories ultimately reflect. So why not desire to glorify/worship God more “directly” in our reading?
That is why we need Christian stories, not only accidentally worshipful but intentionally worshipful. And not merely to shout louder truth but to show brighter and dazzling colors.
This is also why we read worshipfully: because we are not fatalists. Because God glorifies Himself in splendorous ways through freely chosen, intentional, robust, joy-aware reading. Because just as with political elections, He sets alternatives before us and in effect asks, Which one? Either way, He is glorified — but we should prefer glory through, not over.
Glory by contrast
What about stories that have little light and are almost dark with the author’s rebellion?
First, it occurs to me that all too often are Christians willing to indulge in those stories because they find something “redemptive.” Sure, the movie had 95 minutes of sex scenes and one intense 15-minute rape sequence, but wow, those seconds of sunshine through the forest of trees really made me think of God’s love for diverse mankind. I understand needing to put up with some things — but why seem to prefer those stories over those with better ratios?
At the same time, we as readers provide our own light. Even if a story is one long moment-before-eucatastrophe, with the final victory never arriving, we ourselves know the victory. We ourselves in reading, even “enjoying” in a sense such a story, see it contrasted with light.
Surely this is why God includes such dark descriptions in Scripture. Judges 19 is not lovely, but it’s truthful, showing why Israel needs spiritual leadership. Its darkness is set against the backdrop of God later permitting Israel to have a king. That darkness shows this turn of the story in more-vivid gold. Yet later that color also dims, fades to a background, set over the hideous darkness of anarchy but before the infinitely brighter light of the final King.
God’s light is a diamond, made even brighter in all its intrinsic colors against black velvet.
Yet we’d be fools to stare only at darkness, or to publish a Gritty Parts Only® Bible version. (Equally foolish, I must add, would be fatalistic withdrawal from Gospel-powered politics!)
Which colors of God’s glory do you see in stories — over, through, or by contrast?