Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Allegory of God

An allegory of God – I recently read the post of a young man who has decided to leave the Christian faith of his parents because of too many “inconsistencies” with the God of the Bible. He created an interesting allegorical view of God as both the author and superhero of the great story of life. Superheroes have great powers that necessitate great responsibility. Since God is the ultimate super-hero and author of the story of life, He has a responsibility to rid the world of evil (the only great responsibility sufficient for a character of such divine capabilities). You can see why this “straw man god” is easily taken down and abandoned.

Well, what if there’s a different allegory . . . something that attempts to balance how life really works, but still letting God remain the main character and author?? I see it more like this. God is never the author who stands outside the story. He is in control and He does know the end from the beginning, but He has not wound up the clock of history and then let every event proceed as if the other characters have no significance at all, just chapters in the author's story that will happen this way or that way because they have to. He is not the all-knowing one who pushes the little characters wherever He wants. Could he? Probably! But does He? Clearly not! Rather, God is intimately connected with the human characters—His friends and image bearers. Yes, He is the superhero, and the one who deserves all the praise and attention. But, like any good superhero, He uses all of His powers for the good of the weaker humans. Should we praise Him? Yes! But does He smite us if we don’t? No . . . well at least not right away.

Now there is no doubt that the most powerful character in any story will ultimately win. Similarly, the God of the universe (our superhero) will win in the end. This just goes to show you that God will one day rid the world of evil and stop all opposing forces, but the question is why not NOW or better yet why not BEFORE NOW? Why at any point in the history of this world was evil let in? Well, this is where the human characters in the story retain a true measure of autonomy and agency. It’s like they were placed in a story, but it’s one of those choose your own adventure stories. Yes, the author knows the end and will make sure the appropriate end is arrived at eventually, but He lets humans make real FREE decisions. Decisions to either reflect the superhero in their daily lives or try and be their own superhero. Don’t worry the real Superhero will come in and save the day eventually.

Now the important thing we need to remember about our little allegory here is that it is supposed to reflect life as accurately as possible. That means, we cannot ignore the supreme reality of good and evil. Superhero = good! False superhero = evil. It is like God is true harmony and beautiful music and anyone who plays His tune gets wrapped up in the true good. False superheroes want to play their own tune, but since they do not have true Superhero power, their music stinks. It is ugly, painful, and needs to be put to a stop (thanks Tolkien for this picture). Again, reality sets in. We are not talking about some crazy music teacher slapping the hand of a student pianist who played a wrong note! We are talking about life and death, good vs. evil, submitting to the Authority of the universe vs. Rebellion against the Cosmic Good! Rebellion deserves more than a slap; it must be destroyed. Now I know people get really frustrated when good/powerful/loving Superheroes destroy rebellious traitors . . . well actually I don’t know anyone who has any problem when this happens in stories we read. But it seems everyone has a problem with God when He chooses to punish the rebellious.

The thing about our Superhero is he usually gives people decades to repent, years to experience good things (not just deserved sickness, pain, etc.), and God even lets a few others get hurt in the process while maintaining a stay of mercy upon the rebellious. God is very patient, not wanting anyone to perish. Similarly, every superhero movie has the good guy give the bad guy at least one more chance. I think our Superhero gives people chance upon chance upon chance. Let’s say for a moment that our Superhero chooses to save some rebellious traitors and others He continues to allow further rebellion. Is our Superhero unjust? Yes, it is extremely gracious to save some rebellious sinners, but is it wrong if He chooses to let others experience the due course for their actions. Is it unfair? Maybe it shows that the Superhero has a limited focus on His saving actions, but no one can say it is unfair to punish enemies.

Not only that, but in our story, the Superhero comes down to earth and rather than inaugurate a totally just war against His enemies, He dies for them! Most people expected God’s first coming was going to be a bloodbath, but God chose to play out His Superhero movie in a two act play. Act 1 entails the Superhero demonstrating and living out a holy, gracious, humble life for all humans to emulate. His way of living gets Him killed and instead of retaliating, He says that this is exactly what He has hoped. This Superhero knew the only way to truly save the humans he had written into the story was to die for them. They had no chance on their own . . . they needed superhero strength and decision-making and love, but instead of seeking the superhero, they played their own tune. The punishment for their own way of living was death and the only just way our Superhero could welcome back traitors was to die for them. Now that someone has died for them, all they need to do is claim their reward (which means embracing the Superhero and following Him faithfully). Truly our Superhero is super and that’s why Act 1 got written into the story.

But there will be an Act 2 and it seems the only appropriate thing to do would be to say, “Superhero, I need your help. I get it that I am a rebellious person who has played the wrong tune for way too long. Help me and protect me from the great final battle You will inaugurate against those who have chosen to ignore Your plan. Thank You that You are powerful and that You know the end from the beginning.” The Superhero wins (He will ultimately fulfill His great responsibility of rooting out all evil), human characters get to make their own real decisions and thus have dignity and true personhood, and the Author got the story right the whole time (without giving away too many snapshots along the way, but just a few to give us hope).

No comments: