The Cosmic Drama: From Setting to Conflict
In the last post, we looked at the way the present world points us to a spiritual reality. Our present world is a shadow that is passing by. To shift the metaphor, our world is also a stage and we are players on it. But many of us don’t realize we are players in a much larger drama: a cosmic drama, and we are neither the director, dramatist, nor lead actor.
While God’s drama doesn’t begin with “once upon a time,” it opens in a similar way. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”
God is the first person to use creativity, and, therefore, the author and authority on it. God didn’t create because he was lonely or sad or bored. Out of the abundance of his eternal happiness, God unveiled the stage in his theatre: the universe. And there were no flaws in his work. He was pleased. And he was glorified.
Yet, God wanted more than a stage, for a drama has actors. So God created man to perform in his theatre. He stood out from among all creation; he was made like God; he was created in the image of God, or in Latin the imago Dei.
The Image Bearers
But what is this image we share with God? Consider Dorothy Sayers’s important work The Mind of the Maker. Before answering this question, she summarizes what Christians have said in the past on this issue and then suggests her own idea based on the context of Genesis 1. She draws our attention to the point that leading up to the statement that man was made in God’s image, we don’t have “detailed information about God” just a description of what he’s done (22).
Looking at man, he [the author of Genesis] sees in him something essentially divine, but when we turn back to see what he says about the original upon which the “image” of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, “God created.” The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things. (22)
So, according to Sayers, what it means to be created in the image of God is that we have a longing and ability to create. While I’m not ready to say this is only what the image means, I find her answer intriguing.
Sayers is quick to admit that God and man create differently: God creates from nothing and his image bearers from what already exists. To put it another way, we create because we are in the image of the Creator. Our creativity is imitation.
The idea of imitation is something you can find throughout many of the great Western thinkers such as Homer, Plato, Aristotle. But I’d like to quote Lewis who argues that imitation is a distinctly Christian concept.
In his essay, “Christianity and Literature” from Christian Reflections, Lewis argues that:
In the New Testament the art of life itself is an art of imitation: can we, believing this, believe that literature, which must derive from real life, is to aim at being ‘creative’, ‘original’, and ‘spontaneous’. ‘Originality’ in the New Testament is quite plainly the prerogative of God alone; even within the triune being of God it seems to be confined to the Father. (177)
Our work is a reflection of our Maker. Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” I think when we create, God smiles.
The Creative Task
In the Garden, God granted his image-bearers the creative task of ruling the land, equipping them with an imagination to envision and build beautiful and magnificent things. As God walked with them in the Garden, like a wise Director alongside his actors, they knew the stage and story and glory was all his.
Calvin writes, “After the world had been created, man was placed in it as in a theater, that he, beholding above him and beneath the wonderful works of God, might reverently adore their Author” (Commentary on Genesis). Designed as supporting actors, Adam and Eve were neither jealous nor resentful, but joyful as they danced in God’s theatre to his warm pleasure.
But, as so many stories go, something terrible and unexpected happened.
From stage left the wicked antagonist slithered out; this was the same character who many years before had grown jealous and resentful of God’s priority on stage. Cast out of the heavens for rebellion, Satan was determined to hurt God by destroying his theatre and poisoning his actors.
I can imagine the script reading something like this. (Of course, this is an embellished fictionalization. I was not there. I was not born yet.)
THE COSMIC DRAMA
SATAN in the form of a serpent enters from stage left and approaches ADAM and EVE, whispering and slithering.
From off stage I’ve been listening to you, and I’m concerned.
Why is that?
It’s a little selfish, I might say.
This massive drama. No energy spared on the set, lighting, characters. All of this…
SATAN draws their attention to the LIONS wrestling and the DEER giggling in front of the set: the blinding orange and purple sunset through the fruit trees.
for himself? For his own pleasure?
And glory. Yes.
Who else might it be about?
At ADAM’s voice, two LIONS moan and wander over to him and in unison and squeeze him between their torsos. ADAM laughs and runs his hand through their manes, and one LION gnaws on his hand. Both LIONS purr to let ADAM know their pleasure.
I have a different story.
Who says God must get all of the glory from this theatre, steal the spotlight, occupy center stage?
The LIONS turn toward the serpent; in unison, they stop purring and start growling. ADAM calms them with his palms.
God is hiding something from you.
What could that possibly be?
You are brilliant and think too lowly of yourself. You see, I’ve watched you sing, act, and dance, weave stories for the animals, cultivate magnificent gardens, and even--
We only do what Father taught us.
And what a job he did!
But I just wonder…Oh, that won't help.
SATAN turns and starts to exit stage left.
After a moment, SATAN turns back towards them.
If you don’t deserve a little more time on the stage, telling your story, choosing your entrances and exits, crafting your dialogue.
The drama’s far better with God writing and directing it.
SATAN lowers his head and then slithers closer to ADAM and EVE, ascending up to their faces. The LIONS grab ADAM’s hands in their teeth and try to pull him back. ADAM dismisses them, and the LIONS back up and lie in the grass, covering their heads with their paws.
Did God really say that?
The LIONS whine.
Do you really believe him?
End of Scene.