Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Redemption, Damnation, and Metaphor

A bit of groundwork for a book review I'm hoping to post next week...


All good story is really either about redemption or it's antithesis–damnation. And oddly enough often done unintentionally on the author's part (another of those fascinating quirks of the creative process). But an honest author–even if he is rebellious–cannot avoid it. It just happens. As part of the way in which God has made the world it is the vast pattern by which everything else is shaped–the deep running vein in the rock of creation.

Granted, sometimes the message is skewed, i.e. the characters seem to “achieve” the redemption through their own merits or actions. Though this interpretation can sometimes itself be a little skewed. In other words, “achievement of redemption” is often just that, a reverse image of reality, but sometimes, on a careful rereading, it can turn out to be something quite different–particularly taken on a symbolic level. Still, in the best stories, the redemption comes from outside the character–a lightning stroke, an unexpected act of grace and mercy.

Now, in real life, no man can save his brother or give a ransom for him, but within the confines of a story's world every character carries a burden of meaning greater than himself. Because of this–and because of metaphor–brother can pay for brother. The imaginary world of the story shows us the tangible grace in ours–helping open our eyes not only to transcendent realities, but to the small mercies given us every day by those around us. And of course, ultimately, in a well-written story (returning to the great pattern and transcendent realities) it gives us a glimpse of Christ–the friend who spent his life, the brother who paid the costly ransom, the bridegroom who redeems his bride. In flying from damnation, redemption often confronts us in odd, startling, unforeseen ways.

All of this is played out in concrete time and space and as an ongoing process; ultimate redemption and ultimate damnation taking place in the actions and decisions of everyday characters. And in the best stories they are played out side by side. Safety is not seen as safety when danger is non-existent or invisible. Redemption comes into its fullness when the alternative stands, in all its terror, immediately opposite.


  1. So true! I love it when people who do not believe in God find it impossible to avoid His influence. Whether in books or music, actions or moral decisions, they cannot escape the fact that He exists - they cannot break free from the pattern of His world.

    1. Yes, yet another and a powerful instance of our good God's well-ordering of all of His creation... :-)


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