“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

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dance and Story of Creation

...So where are we? To summarize the last few posts, all of creation is interconnected like a vast web or like an archway of many stones. New and greater things are always growing from what came before, and these things are reflected and magnified in the lesser things. Images and symbols of greater things abound, and creation itself bears the image of its Maker. This pattern of layers and symbols adds a depth and richness to everything God does. The light of the Creator in the things he creates is reflected and refracted in a million different textures and colors. In all this there is no repetition - the greater and lesser things, the new things and the first things, the ways in which one thing bears the image of another, images of images and layers upon layers - every facet of reality, every ray of divine light is utterly unique. And God, as the origin and source of all these wonders, is worthy of praise.

In all this, and especially in "new things," there is a characteristic of the pattern that is easily taken for granted. Creation is dynamic, moving, growing. The pattern we have seen is not one of static, unchanging balance, but of explosive growth. This is perhaps the least speculative part of my musings on Lewis' "pattern of reality." Why? Because it is the basic framework that Christianity assumes.

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that it is a story (see these posts), and that means not only change but growth: progress in a linear direction.* Other religions teach that certain virtues are valuable or describe the purpose of man and his place in reality, but they do not always describe a beginning or origin to reality, or an ultimate purpose towards which all things tend. Christianity, however, describes reality in story language: there is a beginning, a linear series of events, and a final purpose, and in this story one finds the answers to all the great questions (the meaning of life, the problem of suffering, the fact of existence, etc.). The point, then, is that according to Christianity, all things come from some origin (God) and are moving and growing towards some end purpose (given by God). In my view, this is a beautiful truth about the way God structured reality, and by no means to be taken for granted.

Reality is moving in a direction: explosively outwards from God, the origin and seed and fountain, yet always "further up and further in," forwards towards God, the end for which all things are made. The direction of growth in the Story is defined by the Creator.

One might also describe creation as a "Great Dance," as Lewis does in Perelandra: “In the plan of the Great Dance plans without number interlock, and each movement becomes in its season the breaking into flower of the whole design to which all else had been directed.” The layers and interrelatedness of creation, its growth and unfolding as a story - all this is like the intricate movements of a dance.

Or one could speak of creation as a seed growing into a tree: from seemingly small and simple beginnings it grows explosively, always outwards and upwards. Each of these images communicates something about the pattern and theme that is present in all God's works. It is an unfolding story, a beautiful dance, a growing tree, a musical masterpiece, and in all things the Author, the Designer, the Great Orderer is guiding the motion and growth of his great work.

*The idea of change and linear growth raises interesting questions about the nature of time. It seems to me that time may be an essential characteristic of creation. Consequently, if time is a physical phenomenon, like space and matter, this would necessarily imply a physical framework for all of created reality, including "spiritual" realms beyond our world. God, however, must in one sense remain eternal and "outside of time," while in another sense He has of course entered time in the person of Christ.

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