Sunday, August 16, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

I love the idea that Christianity, at its very core, follows the elements of a good story. In other words, to understand the appeal and embrace with brio the necessity of following Christ, we are better served understanding the elements of a good story. If, the journey to God-ordained purpose ineluctably goes through a personal relationship with Jesus, then it’s essential that we understand what that entails and why. I’ve talked before about our fascination with stories that have conflict and adventure, and how they appeal to us so much more than the uninspiring, placid storyline. In understanding why that is so let’s examine the elements of a good story: setting, conflict, climax, and resolution.

Now, I understand that there is a segment of Christianity that considers it their m├ętier to oppose any suggestion that conflict and hardship are essential elements of the Christian story, but their contention is made vacuous by their inability to explain why the heart responds to these elements of a good story and why the Scriptures are replete with such examples. To deny these elements of story as being essential to faith is to bowdlerize the Bible to suit their interpretation of how life should be. Every good story has a setting: setting gives context to the story. The setting for the Christian story is our created world in which God designed us to function as humans in harmony with others. We know that it’s impossible to be fully human on your own since, by definition being human involves interaction with others on an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual level.

Having established the setting, the next element in the story is conflict. Conflict in the story creates tension, uncertainty, and suspense. Where did conflict originate from? From Original sin. The rebellion against God explains why humans experience conflict in our lives. There is no other source that we can point to as being the origin of conflict other than rebellion against God. Addictions, loneliness, pride, war are all conflicts in the human story and our hearts respond to the conflict in books or movies because there is conflict in our lives. We understand these elements because we experience them. Next, every great story has a climax. Have you ever left a movie thinking “that was anticlimactic.”? The reason is because the story probably didn’t resolve and the biggest highlights of the movie were what you saw in the trailer advertising the movie. There was never a point of climax in the story. Climax is where a point of decision determines the end of the story.

There is a point of decision that every human heart comes to, but many go through life attempting to ignore this climax to their story. The reality however, is that Christianity offers a climax to our story. Here’s the story in a nutshell: Sin separated man from God. God created a way out for man so that his story may resolve and we may have the opportunity to be reconciled with Him: Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Man must make a decision to either accept or deny the option to seek and embrace Jesus’ sacrifice. There is a good or a bad resolution to the story depending on the decision we make. Our decisions are instrumental to the way our story turns out.

Having understood the setting, embraced the conflict, and pursued the climax, Christianity also offers a resolution to the story of humanity: Forgiveness from original sin and an eternal home reconciled with our heavenly Father. While every religion tries to offer a cynosure, none of them actually fulfill these elements that meet the requirements of the human heart as well as match the facts of reality. That’s why Christianity makes sense, because the elements of story are deeply embedded in the human psyche.


Ash said...

& the greatest part of the story from prelude to epilogue is the "character development"...if from beginning to end, there is not change, then the story itself becomes meaningless. i am grateful that it's a learning process...even if i don't like that it is one, sometimes. wink

Robert J. Moeller said...

Hey, I randomly found your blog while checking out fellow Total Truth fans who use blogger. I like your site. I am a seminary student in Chicago, and an aspiring writer with a blog of my own ( Check it out some time. Take care.

Joseph said...

Ash, I'm right there with you... on the grateful part! ;)

Robert, glad you joined the conversation, thanks for your kind compliment.