God as a Character in His Own Play

March 28, 2008 | 15 comments
By

C.S. Lewis compared Christ’s birth to Shakespeare writing himself into one of his plays. He was attempting to explain the traditional Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.

I don’t care much for that metaphor, though the life God lives is far beyond and perhaps incomprehensible to our veiled and mortal lives.

Then I read a comic strip that does something along the same lines. It was crude in places and vulgar in others. I do not precisely recommend it. I only say that while I winced in places I also understood better the relation between creator and created.

The comic is here.

15 Responses to God as a Character in His Own Play

  1. Lincoln Cannon on March 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Perhaps Jesus was God’s avatar in his own computed world.

  2. Latter-day Guy on March 28, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I agree. I enjoy many of Lewis’s comments about the incarnation, but they don’t feel completely satisfying in an LDS context. Do you think that this stems from our rejection of creatio ex nihilo and our differing view of man’s creature-status?

  3. Adam Greenwood on March 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    That’s it, LdG.

    On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of writers say that their characters resist the plans the writer had for them and even surprise the writer with the actions they take. Sounds silly to me, but if Lewis felt like that his metaphor makes more sense. I’m not a writer.

  4. Kirk Reid on March 28, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I have problems with CS Lewis. I think he ultimately ‘sat on the fence’ and I dislike his fitting his belief system to casually suit his mood. Saying that, I keep a doc of favourite quotes in front of me each day to keep me minded of wisdom, and one of them is his:

    “A man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that, however angry he gets, he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage the next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it” – Mere Christianity

    This quote and keeping it mindful, has genuinely helped me avoid some bullish, superficial and foolish responses to the challenges of life.

  5. matt b on March 28, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Throughout the Institutes Calvin frequently describes this earth as “the splendid theatre of the world;” an ongoing play that can give both God and ourselves aesthetic joy, which at its most sublime melds into the spiritual. Marilynne Robinson says this is an aspect of our relationship with deity that’s often overlooked. Indeed.

  6. Adam Greenwood on March 29, 2008 at 11:24 am

    the theatrical aspects of our relationship with deity

    Its hard to understand the temple ceremony, especially the interactions of deity with deity, without some appreciation of the aesthetics of theater. Maybe the same goes for the idea of dispensations. Dividing history into a series of acts, each with its own meaning or central idea, but building up to the final act which combines them all, is as much a ritual or a symbolic idea as it is a practical one.

  7. Ray on March 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Well said, Adam.

  8. Chris on March 30, 2008 at 4:28 am

    I think that this metaphor is really the only way of conceiving God’s relationship to his creation that makes sense, from a Calvinist perspective. From an LDS perspective, of course, it doesn’t work nearly as well. But the LDS do still have a concept of foreordination that suggests prescribed roles to be played by “star” actors, so maybe it’s not entirely inappropriate.

  9. Ellis on March 30, 2008 at 10:23 am

    “On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of writers say that their characters resist the plans the writer had for them and even surprise the writer with the actions they take. Sounds silly to me, but if Lewis felt like that his metaphor makes more sense. I’m not a writer.”

    Writers who say this do not mean that their characters literally have a will of their own. They mean that the lives they create for them must go in a certain direction in order to be consistent within the framework of the fictional dream they are creating. Sometimes that is a direction they hadn’t initially intended. They know perfectly well that characters are their own invention and that they can change them at will. It sounds really good though to pretend that fiction somehow creates itself. It is really hard work.

    C. S. Lewise’s explanation only works if you believe God the Father and God the Son are one and the same being. If you don’t believe that, then it doesn’t ring true.

  10. Adam Greenwood on March 30, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Writers who say this do not mean that their characters literally have a will of their own.

    I would like to think that, but I’m pretty sure many writers aren’t being as metaphorical as you say.

  11. Ellis on March 31, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Adam, Are you suggesting they are suffering from psychosis?

  12. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Them who the muses would exalt, they first make mad?

  13. Kingsley on April 1, 2008 at 1:25 am

    “He proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s father and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.”

  14. Randy B. on April 1, 2008 at 10:45 am

    He returns on 4/1. Go figure.

    Welcome back, Kingsley.

  15. Adam Greenwood on April 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Let the calf be slaughtered and the banquet laid. Huzzah!

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.