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Living on a Star

If we once realize all this earth as it is, we should find ourselves in a land of miracles: we shall discover a new planet at the moment that we discover our own. Among all the strange things that men have forgotten, the most universal and catastrophic lapse of memory is that by which they have forgotten that they are living on a star.

-G.K. Chesterton, The Defendant

Behold! A new heavens, and a new earth. One of the beauties of the ‘already, not yet’ aspect of the Kingdom of God, in Christ, is that the new birth really does introduce us to new heavens and a new earth. They have not yet been consummated, not yet finally recreated, but we ourselves have; and so we relate to them in a new way. When you get new eyes, everything begins to look different.

Creation as Story: A Narrative Wrench in Mechanistic Gears

The Whimsical Christian, by Dorothy Sayers, is an intriguing book to say the least. I have written about a couple of her books, The Mind of the Maker and Creed or Chaos?, in the past. My posts on The Mind of the Maker (HERE, HERE, and HERE) still rank among the most read on this blog.

Creed or Chaos? was a bit of a let down, but for good reason. The Mind of the Maker is hands-down one of the best books I have ever read. I read the book almost by sheer accident, having found it in a thrift store and knowing nothing about it other than the fact that I had come across the name of Dorothy Sayers in relation to C.S. Lewis.

The book was tough sledding. I felt as though I slogged through it. There were times when I just wanted to stop reading it, but I just never stopped. And the end result was life-changing. Sayers’ analogy of God and the creative mind of man is a game changer. I will not get into specifics at the moment, but I use things I learned from that book almost every week in one way or another.

There have been two game changers in The Whimsical Christian: the essays Toward a Christian Esthetic and Creative Mind. I will deal with both in due time, but for now I want to record one particular line of thought from Creative Mind.

In my defense of God as creator, I have often pointed out that the biblical record is that God created man and woman, along with the earliest plants and animals, along with every rock and grain of sand, in mature form. We do not know precisely what that ‘mature form’ looked like, but we know that the earliest apple tree did not spring from a seed; rather, it sprung, in maturity, wholly from the creative decree of God. If you looked at Adam, you might have said, ‘He’s probably 20 or 30 or 180 years old, who knows?’I do not have a strict opinion on the age of the universe, but I have sometimes joked that God may have just created the world the way he did to mess with our scientists. Again, that’s a joke. But Sayers actually gives winsome teeth to a similar idea – if the world is younger than it appears, it is simply a part of his craft as an artist:

It was scarcely possible to suppose any longer that God had created each species – to quote the test of Paradise Lost – ‘perfect forms, limb’d, and full grown,’ except on what seemed the extravagant assumption that, when creating the universe, he had at the same time provided it with evidence of a  purely imaginary past that had never had any actual existence. Now, the first thing to be said about this famous quarrel is that the churchmen need never have been perturbed at all about the method of creation, if they had remembered that the Book of Genesis was a book of poetical truth, and not intended as a scientific handbook of geology. They got into their difficulty, to a large extent, through having unwittingly slipped into accepting the scientist’s concept of the use of language, and supposing that a thing could not be true unless it was amenable to quantitative methods of proof. Eventually, and with many slips by the way, they contrived to clamber out of this false position; and today no reasonable theologian is at all perturbed by the idea  that created was effected by evolutionary methods. But, if the theologians had not lost touch with the nature of language; if they had not insensibly fallen into the eighteenth-century conception of the universe as a mechanism and God as the great engineer; if, instead they had chosen to think of God as a great, imaginative artist – then they might have offered a quite different kind of interpretation of the facts, with rather entertaining consequences. They might, in fact have seriously put forward the explanation I mentioned just now: that God had at some moment or other created the universe complete with all the vestiges of an imaginary past.

I have said that this seemed an extravagant assumption; so it does, if one thinks of God as a mechanician. But if one thinks of him as working in the same sort of way as a creative artist, then it no longer seems extravagant, but the most natural thing in the world. It is the way every novel in the world is written.

Every serious novelist starts with some or all of his characters ‘in perfect form and fully grown,’ complete with their pasts. Their present is conditioned by a past that exists, not fully on paper, but fully or partially in the creator’s imagination…

-Dorothy Sayers, Creative Mind, from The Whimsical Christian, pp. 106-107

The argument is simple: Every novel contains a story. Every story exists as a complete ‘creation’ within itself. Nothing outside of that creation can be said to truly exist within the story. Yet for every story there is a back story: it could be the exposition, or it could simply be things the author is presupposing in order to create the story. The bottom line is that the novel often begins with a fully mature character who appears in complete maturity. This maturity may include many warts and flaws, but those warts and flaws are purely a result of the imagination of the author and their cause may or may not be part of the narrative. They may exist purely in the mind of the author and therefore never enter into the actual ‘revelation’ or into the ‘creation’ itself.

Notice also that Sayers uses a ‘poetical’ reading of Genesis to actually argue against the scientists. When folks today attempt to postulate Genesis 1-3 as poetic, it is usually for the opposite reason. Interesting.

Sayers says that applying this type of thinking to our ideas about creation could be entertaining. Indeed.

She pins down most of our problems as ‘creationists’ to our assimilation of modern scientific categories. We, like so much secular Scientism, tend to view the creation as mechanistic. We have taken the watchmaker argument and reasoned that God actually made a watch. Instead, we should be more concerned with the fact that God has made an artistic story. We should consider the words of the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, whom she quotes: “God created the world by imagination.” He imagines and speaks; and things imagined become reality. “…Even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).

In this framework, of God as Creator in the sense of God as Artist, doctrines like predestination and divine providence are no longer abstract philosophical notions, but essential elements of his art. Of course an author predestines his characters; of course he causes circumstances to develop in a certain way in order to accomplish certain preordained ends. Of course he allows the drama of evil to enter the story, how else could there be a story? And of course he creates mature worlds with the appearance of age. That’s what artists do. He just gets to do it with real dirt, whereas we can only put ink on paper that comes from the real trees he has created.

Throw a narrative wrench into the mechanistic gears. The results could be entertaining.

On Meteor Showers

I read about the meteor shower expected to be visible (in the southern United States) starting at about the time this post is published. I just walked outside. It’s overcast, so it’s a no go. But it leads me to story time:

I have only seen one meteor shower in my life, but it was a memorable one. Tonight I decided to do some research via Google and discovered that it was likely the Geminid Meteor Shower of 1998. I narrowed it down to this time frame, because I know that I was still in high school and that it was during December or January. This seems to be the only date that fits. The timeline I found puts the shower on the morning of December 14th of that year.

In the early hours of that morning, between 4 and 5am, I boarded a john boat along with two of my friends for a morning of duck hunting in the muddy Mississippi River Bottoms of Northeast Arkansas. It was still quite dark; and, as always, we used a spotlight to guide our journey through our normal ditch (as we call such bodies of water back home).

It was very cold; according to another site I found, it was certainly below Freezing. Because it was cold, I followed my normal practice of lying down in the bottom of the boat in order to shield myself from the wind. And as I lay there, I looked up to behold the marvelous sight of fireballs shooting across the sky. At the time I thought they were shooting stars (I had never seen a meteor shower. In fact, I didn’t know what a meteor shower was). There were dozens of them during our half hour boat ride. We hardly said a word about them afterward. I think we said a few things like, ‘Boy, there sure were a lot of shooting stars this morning.’ That was about it.

At that time I was not a Christian. I knew nothing about God. I had hardly darkened the door of a church, and the times I had done so had been when I was a very small child (I couldn’t remember them). But that morning, though I said little about it to my friends, I experienced true awe for the first time. That meteor shower has stayed with me through the years. I can still see it in my mind. Every time, like today, I hear of an impending meteor shower, I begin to long for the experience anew. But, alas, like tonight, I find an overcast sky.

When I first read Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis, this was the first experience that came to mind as Lewis recounted his own experiences of Joy. A forgotten (for many) or non-experienced (for most) meteor shower in December of 1998 opened up to me the world of awe and wonder. This post is my way of giving a late ‘Thank You’ (almost 16 years late) to the One who stretched the shining dust across the sky and put me in place to see it fly.

I pray that someone else has an experience like that this morning.


When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-5).

Medicine Men and Telekinetic Power

Chestertonian gold:

I count no man large-minded or imaginative who has not sometimes felt like a medicine-man.

– G.K. Chesterton, On Man: Heir of All Ages, from In Defense of Sanity, p. 244.

I make my living in a pharmacy. We cycle through a crop of teenage part-time workers every couple of years. I like to ask them whether they consider the pharmacy to be in the business of magic. Think about it: you give people pills as they either get better or they get high; their lives are saved or their lives are ruined. Either the pill does its job or they have an allergic reaction and break out in red dots. If you put that into a fairy tale you’ve got magic. We have been so desensitized to the wonders of daily life that we don’t even see the wonder. When everything is filled with wonder then nothing is wonderful.

I have watched my children go from stationary, to scooting, to crawling, to walking, to running, to roller-skating; I’ve seen them go from gagagoogoo to busting out logical sentences. I remember when they didn’t know what an ‘A’ was, and now my oldest is reading novels. I didn’t say abracadabra, but apparently every word I said was a magic word.

Sometimes, without even thinking, my body just starts doing things – things like typing.

My daughter asks me, How do you type so fast? I just do it.

I learned to do it and now I do it.

But how do you know where are the letters are? They’re out of order.

I don’t know, I don’t think, I just do it.

So simple really. I use a mind that I can’t even locate to invisibly communicate to the ‘memory’ of my fingers (is there actually such a thing as muscle memory? Where can you find it? Do your fingers really even have muscles?) and I just start typing away, 80wpm.Is it telekinetic? If not, then what is it?

If there is anyone with telekinetic power in the audience, please raise my hand; or raise your own.

Perhaps I feel like a medicine man because I am one. But I think I would feel like one even if I wasn’t. You name it, and I’ll tell you there’s something magical about it. Now grow up and be a kid again. Go to a science museum, go to Chuck E. Cheese, to to Toys R Us, go on a nature hike; I don’t care, just do it. Do not come back until you have walked into a pharmacy and sensed the sheer ludicrousness of it all.

Jonathan Edwards’ Fountain Analogy of Creation

Thus it is fit, since there is an infinite fountain of light and knowledge, that this light should shine forth in beams of communicated knowledge and understanding; and, as there is an infinite fountain of holiness, moral excellence, and beauty, that so it should flow out in communicated holiness. And that, as there is an infinite fulness of joy and happiness, so these should have emanation, and become a fountain flowing out in abundant streams, as beams from the sun…
…The diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence, was rather a communicative disposition in general, or a disposition in the fulness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself…
Therefore, to speak strictly according to truth, we may suppose, that a disposition in God, as an original property of his nature, to an emanation of his own infinite fulness, was what excited him to create the world; and so, that the emanation itself was aimed at by him as a last end of the creation.

A Dissertation Concerning the End for which God Created the World, from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Banner of Truth), p. 100 (Read it for free HERE).

Summary: God’s glory relates to his fullness (in Hebrew it denotes weight). By way of analogy, God is brimming with beauty (holiness), love, and joy; and this love, beauty and joy, as it were, overflows into the act and substance of creation.

The danger here is Pantheism. If God is like a fountain, and creation is the overflow of that fountain, then creation itself is God (as though God were extending his being into creation). This is where the analogy fails. The point to make here is that God’s way of overflowing is through speech.

  • Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Jesus says that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Mat. 12:34, Luke 6:45). In Greek, the word abundance here indicates an overflowing. The abundance of the heart overflows into the speech of the mouth. Whatever the heart is full of tends to come out in words. Using Edwards’ analogy, and relating it to Jesus’ words, the true analogy becomes clear. Out of God’s abundance he speaks creation into being. It is the overflow of his heart (who he is in himself) coming out of his (metaphorical) mouth.

Thus we avoid pantheism. The fact that creation is the overflow of God does not mean that it is God. Rather, creation belongs to God in the same way that our own speech belongs to us. Our words reflect who we are and our words belong to us. God’s words, which make the worlds, reflect his fullness (glory) and they belong to him.