March 16, 2006

The Author’s Sacrifice

The Author's Sacrifice  

 s assured as we are of the fact that God created the earth and all that’s in it, still the nature of the creative act itself will forever be a fascinating mystery that we will be able to study for eternity. 

And if we accept the idea that all truth is God’s truth, it’s enriching to catch glimpses of God’s infinitely larger picture in small things that we experience in the everyday. These glimpses come to us in many ways. The mystery of the creative act, for example, frequently occurs explicitly or implicitly in the stories that we encounter in popular culture.

Inkheart is a children’s book that tells of a man named Mo, a restorer of rare books who is something rather rare himself. Mo has a gift--though he considers it to be a curse--that when he reads aloud from a book, characters in the story appear in real life: literally from fictional to corporeal. But Mo seems to read only the villains, and not the heroes, into real life.

And this explains why, as long as his 12-year-old daughter, Meggie, can remember, he has refused to read aloud to her, though it takes much of the story for her to discover why. It is also why they have lived an itinerant life, as Mo accepts commissions all over the map to work in libraries of wealthy people. He is trying to avoid the vilest character he has read into life. This character’s name is Capricorn, and he came from the book Inkheart.

Capricorn has gathered a nasty cartel of characters, and he wants Mo to read into life another even more powerful character from Inkheart called “The Shadow.” In league with The Shadow, Capricorn aims to extend his power over all humanity.

In trying to thwart Capricorn’s plan, Mo has contacted Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart and Capricorn’s creator. Fenoglio, horrified by the unexpected outcome of his book, rewrites the plot of Capricorn’s life. Meggie, who discovers that she has inherited her father’s gift, reads Capricorn’s newly written narrative, and the power-hungry villain is defeated. At the same time, however, Fenoglio, the creator of Inkheart, disappears from the here and now to become a character in his own book. He has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Human existence on this earth is a living story--a metanarrative, as philosophers call it. It has a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This worldview contrasts dramatically with that of most other cultures. Some even depict the human experience as a frustratingly endless, mind-numbing cycle of events that recur ad infinitum.

But the Creator of our linear story initiated it with the inspiring hope that it would be enriching and fulfilling beyond imagination. He created us in His image. “Part of the image of God is creativity,” as pastor, author, and painter Calvin Miller has pointed out. “It’s almost impossible to think of words that describe God without using the word creative.”1

God’s creativity is confirmed repeatedly through Scripture. I fact, it is an underpinning principle of the Christian faith. “Through [the Word] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:3, 4, NIV).

But like Capricorn, one of the key characters in our human story selfishly wrenched the plot and sent it careening in an ultimately destructive direction. He wanted to take up the pen himself and become the author of his own destiny: “ ‘I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’ ” (Isa. 14:14, NIV).

And finally, as in the narrative of Inkheart, in our story the inconceivable mysteries of creation and incarnation become inextricably combined in the person of the Creator Himself. “When the time had fully come [when the plot had reached its climax], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law” (Gal. 4:4, NIV).

This is the most elegant--and astonishing--plot twist imaginable, worthy of our deepest thought. “The study of the incarnation of Christ, His atoning sacrifice and mediatorial work, will employ the mind of the diligent student as long as time shall last.”2

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, inserted Himself into His own creative story, it brought an irreversible--but glorious--conclusion to the conflict. It is a love story with a plot that is even more beautiful and moving than the original. Only the Author of our metanarrative could save us--but at a cost to Himself that changed Him forever.

1 “The Creative Life: An Interview With Calvin Miller,” Discipleship Journal, Issue 048. 
2 Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 133.

Gary Swanson is the Associate Director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department.