Our Organic God

One of the things writers talk about is creating stories organically. The alternative is to force a story to become what you want it to become by reducing it to a formula. Organic stories are the ones that seem real, that last long after you’ve closed the book, that affect you rather than merely entertaining you.

There is no one key to writing organic stories, but they must have characters that seem like real people with believable motivations, realistic emotional patterns and true-to-life psychological mechanisms for handling problems.

The formulaic characters are little more than place holders. In a formulaic romance, for example, insert heroine in page 1, the opening paragraph; slot in romantic lead in chapter 2. Almost it doesn’t matter who these people are. They will have some problem that keeps them apart for a third of the book, then they will draw toward one another only to run into a wedge that drives them further apart for another third. Then when all seems hopeless and the heroine experiences the black night of the soul, they resolve the conflict and come together. Or something like that. You get the gist. There’s a pattern, one that romance writers are taught to follow in writing seminars.

I’m not trying to pick on romances. I think westerns can be just as formulaic and so can mysteries. Character X discovers crime Y with suspects A, B, and C. You get the idea.

I don’t know enough about any of these genres to know whether there is a way to write them organically — to make them come alive and therefore to separate from the pack. I do know that readers of formulaic books have a hard time remembering if they’ve already read Busted, Bashed, or Butchered. (I just made up those titles, but that kind of title connection in a series is another part of the formula). Even by reading the back cover, readers can draw a blank. Is this the book they read? It sounds vaguely familiar, but so do the other two.

What does all this have to do with God?

I’m reading in the book of Job once more and I was struck with the fact that Job’s friends saw God as a formulaic figure. He was as good as programmed, in their minds, and had to act in manner C if person A did action B. In other words, they were not seeing God as organic — alive and relational. They were talking about Him as if He were an it, a force, a thing they could predict.

While Job was wrong to complain against God and to accuse Him of wrong doing (which is why he repented in the end), he nevertheless got it right that God is a free and independent person, transcendent, in fact, and able to act however He wants to act. He’s organic.

In the last few years some professing Christians have accused traditional Christianity of putting God in a box (or a book with gilded pages — or was that guilt? See The Shack). Let Him be organic, in other words. Well, funny thing. The most organic thing a person can do is reveal who he is. You want to know me? Let me tell you about myself so that you’re not reading your own thoughts or feelings or motives into my actions.

This, God chose to do.

Instead of embracing His story about Himself and His relationship with Mankind, however, many people, even “religious” ones, decide they get to say who God is and what He’s like. What they’re doing is “re-imaging” Him into the formula they’ve created, in the same way that Job’s friends did.

God must punish sin and reward righteousness, those men of old said. That was their formula. Consequently, they left no room for God to do anything else with an unrighteous man other than bring disaster down on his head. And since disaster hit Job five fold, he was clearly, according to their formula, an unrighteous man.

People today do essentially the same thing. God is loving and kind and forgiving and tolerant and an advocate for peace. Therefore he would never send people to hell, order the death of an entire people group, or consign the entire human race to live with a sin nature because one person ate a bite of forbidden fruit. That’s not God, they say.

Maybe that’s not the formulaic God they’ve concocted, but the organic God who is sovereign, just, and good, can do all the things He revealed in His word. And more.

Published in: on January 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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