18 January, 2010

Deity Development

Peter Bodo doing an analysis of Andre Agassi's autobiography said,
This is an extraordinary book on a number of levels, starting with the fact that it reads like fiction. In a good novel, the characters reveal themselves; what you need to know about them is conveyed in their actions and words, without a lot of explanation by the author. Andre's book takes the same tack.

All sorts of things fell into place when I read that quote.

Novels are about getting into the skin of the protagonist, without necessarily even knowing it happened. The protagonist makes a decision, and you know why without being told. You smell the things she smells or do the things he does, and you know exactly what you were feeling while you were there. You don't have to be told about yourself and you don't have to be told what the protagonist is thinking.

I wonder if maybe God hasn't written a textbook, a history, or a theology. Yahweh's given us a novel. And He's the Protagonist!

The many things this means are just beginning to open up to me. Do you want an example? The Bible cannot be Googled. Take Hamlet for example. You can google up great quotes from Hamlet and you can pull up Cliff Notes on it, but you can only experience Hamlet by riding the ride. You've got to strap yourself in and slowly go mad with unrequited jealousy to "get" Hamlet. Google might tell you what you'll feel, but you'll never feel it on Google.

My favorite Bible search engine accidentally insulates me from the Bible!

And theology? It takes on the same role as any other form of critique. It can elevate my opinion of the story, but not my experience of it. I can only know God by experiencing Him.

And that lines up well with my experience of life with this God. There've been no seatbelts on my life, no guardrails at the cliffs, and no way to take His foot off my gas pedal. I don't know which of us has been crazier at some points. I only know He's kept all the promises He made and broken every one my Sunday School teacher made for Him.

This life has been hard.

And so has His book.

I've known the Bible since I was a tiny bugger. There are a lot of men and women who know it a far sight better than me, but I've known it! Those Sunday School teachers told me it was a roadmap that would take me safely to heaven. They told me it'd keep me out of the ditches. Upside down at the bottom of some cliff, though, I couldn't help but wonder from which ditch I'd been saved, and whether I mightn't have been better off with Google Maps.

But what if the Bible really is a novel, and not a roadmap to all places theological and moral? If that were true, then I'd need to ride it more than study it. If it were a novel, then I'd have a chance to enter into what it is for God to be God. I'd know Him, and maybe even His Son Whom He sent.

At the beginning of the novel, I'd form initial impressions of God. Then some twists would come, and I'd learn more from how He reacted. I'd learn from both His tone of voice and His actions. Then there'd be some surprises and outright shocks. Eventually, I'd decide how to relate to this God. I'd enter into His story, or I'd reject it. I'd be feeling what He feels, or I'd be bored.

To call this increasing flavor for God, "character development," seems a little profane, but that's what it is. God is slowly unrolling His character to us in scripture. I'm going to call the process, "Divinity Development." From before the first word of creation until after the last prophecy is fulfilled, Yahweh IS but our sight of Him changes with every word.

I'll try to give a flavor of the way the Bible reads in my next post.


Kansas Bob said...

I thought of something a blogger friend once wrote:

"The purpose of reading the bible is not to know the bible. The purpose of reading the bible is to know God."

I like your idea of seeing the image that folks have of God develop from the beginning of Genesis to Revelation.. developing from Creator.. to tribal God.. to Savior of the World.

In Jesus we no longer see a shadowy image of God but see an incarnation that most religious people missed.. who knew that God would be so loving and compassionate. :)

Missy said...

This is the third time this has come up in a week, hmmm...

I was asked on Sunday last whether the Bible was science, history or something different altogether. The teacher proffered the last option, and then began to expound on Genesis as the introduction of the main characters in God's novel. I've thought this for sometime, so I'm glad to see people I've come to love and respect talk about it. I don't feel so crazy.