C. S. Lewis and his friend J. R. R. Tolkien felt that story could often communicate truth far better than propositions. I have never read a more gripping account of the fall of humankind than is described in Perelandra, which is a space fantasy book by Lewis. And who can forget the unsettling view of hell in The Great Divorce, as a place of utter isolation where people build their homes further and further away from one another.
In our Biblical Narrative course, which looks at the Bible as a single story of the activity of God in our world, we recently reviewed Christopher Booker’s seven basic plots of literature. And wonderfully, we can see elements of each plot not only in books and film but also in Scripture and in the life of Christ. Consider the quest, in which the hero embarks on a journey to obtain a great prize that is located far away. We easily see parallels in The Lord of the Rings, but also in the lives of Moses and Paul. Paul alludes to it when he speaks of a great prize and finishing the course. And Jesus leaves heaven to enter a fallen world to win everlasting life for others.
And there is tragedy. Is it not only in the narrative of the unbending policeman in Les Misérables, but in the life of Saul, a “most likely to succeed,” who came to a shuttering end.
In both the movie Frozen and in the parable/story of the Prodigal Son we see the plot of a voyage and return, where a person journeys to an enticing far-off place, only to discover that it is home where there is safety. And perhaps a favorite is the rebirth, where a person finds themselves in a bad place or under a dark power but is released by the selfless, loving act of another. We see it all in the wonderful WWII series, Band of Brothers, the delightful Beauty and the Beast when Belle kisses the Beast. But is it not also the story of The Good Samaritan, or Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, or Joseph saving his family from starvation? Surely Jesus, who by a selfless act of love, frees us to re-unite with our Creator.
Christ’s Story Is Our Story
The seven plots, reminds us that “there is nothing taken you but such as is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV 1978). These are basic plots because they are common to the human experience. And thus, since we have a high priest who has experienced all that we have experienced, we meet Christ is every place, in every plot.
Who has not made what felt at the time like a fatal mistake, a.k.a. a tragedy, or traveled to a far country relationally, geographically, or even mentally or emotionally only to find it unsatisfying, thus the voyage and return? Have we not all been freed in some way by the loving act of another, experiencing rebirth; and have we not all yearned for what seemed like a far off, perhaps unattainable righteous goal, like a quest. We find them in literature, in film, in Scripture, in the life of Christ, in the lives around us, and in our own lives. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth,” says Jesus. These are not idle words. For we all journey.