“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, July 15, 2010

C. S. Lewis' Pattern of Reality: Summary

...For some time now, I've been working through C. S. Lewis' idea of God's plan and design for creation as a "Great Dance" (Perelandra, ch. 17), a "pattern of reality" if you will. Since it has been quite a long train of thought, a concise summary will, I hope, help to bring it all together:

God is always doing a new thing. From Himself, He "calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom 4:17) - things other than himself. The idea of each and every created thing was and is eternally present and complete in God's mind, yet created things did not have actual being in God's mind. They are something other than Him, and when He created, something completely new came to be. God is ultimate existence and ultimate reality, and when He brought forth a creation out of nothing, something groundbreaking and new happened: things existed that were other than God, the foundation of existence itself.

Within creation the pattern of new things continues. From a physical world comes conscious thought and emotion, that is, life. From living creatures comes a creature that can know and imitate God. And at each step the new thing comes in a new way; the "mode of change" itself is different, something never seen before, enriching the uniqueness and newness and beauty of the design as it unfolds. First the Son of God begotten of the Father, then the Son of Man born of Mary. First a new creation, then "out of the new creation, not a third but the mode of change itself is changed forever." In the Story of Christianity we find the same theme of new things: Scripture is saturated with the language of God making "all things new," and with Christ's death and resurrection all creation is renewed, like a seed growing into a flower.

New things are brought into being through the interrelatedness of things. A song from the relations between its notes, a story from the interdependent events that comprise it, living creatures from the intertwined structure of the physical world. This is the way God creates. "Not as when stones lie side by side, but as when stones support and are supported in an arch - such is his order." Creation is interconnected, like a great stone arch, and from this interrelatedness grows a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts - a new thing. Each stone affects each other stone just as everything God makes is related to all other things, yet each stone is utterly unique in the role it plays, just as each thing God has made is utterly unique: never does He utter one word twice.

Creation is richly layered: smaller things reflect or foreshadow greater things, and all creation reflects the light of its Creator. The whole of nature and history is telling the story of Christ's death and resurrection and reflecting the light of this great truth. Physical things are images for spiritual truths, human relationships reflect our relationship with God, and man is a symbol for God himself. In all this we see but one facet of the deep interconnectedness of all that God has made and planned.

Creation is not static, but dynamic, moving, growing in a definite direction: outwards from God, its Maker and Author, but also upwards towards God, the End for Whom all things were made. It is a Story, a Dance, a dynamic arch, a growing tree. The dynamic interaction between things is always giving rise to new designs and themes: new things that have never been before become the culmination of all before them and enter into the great arch of creation. Yet the tallest of trees comes from a tiny seed. Creation grows in the strangest and most paradoxical way: through weakness, through emptying, through the small things. It is through defeat that his victory is won; it is in his emptiness that his overflowing love and power is seen. God, in Jesus Christ, is himself the seed that died in order to unleash the tree of creation. It is here in the pattern of death and resurrection, at the very cross of Christ, that the most beautiful note in the pattern of reality sounds. Here above all other places is God's greatness is to be found.

Finally, we saw that all the facets of this pattern which marks creation are to be found in God himself. The Father is first, the Son is begotten of the Father, a new thing, an image or reflection of the first. The Spirit proceeds from this bond, and here the "mode of change" is itself new: proceeding is wholly different from begetting. Each person in the Trinity is unique in their identity and relation to the others, yet there is a deep interrelatedness between the three, and from the diversity of three comes a united whole: God is One, more than just three persons together, more than stones lying side by side. The order of God's creation, then, is also the order of His own divine nature. If there is a pattern of reality it is also the pattern of God, and if we see it in creation, this is because it is first in the Creator.

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