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 Post subject: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:03 am 
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As Christians, we believe the only means of freedom the guilt and penalty of one's sin is to be redeemed by Christ through his death and resurrection. This redemption is accessed by grace through faith in Christ.

I have a character who is from another world. There, God has never and will never incarnate. This character commits murder and betrayal, on such a level as to plunge the entire world into misery and chaos, and subsequently dies.

After his death, he is brought back to life, and given a series of tasks which he must complete. When he completes them, he is cleared of his guilt and the penalty, by divine fiat.

Is it unwise of me to portray this mode of redemption, when I think that no amount of good actions could ever clear a person (in this world) from the guilt of sin? I include in my fiction as part of an exploration of other ideas (the meaning of obedience, for example), and because of the drama it enables. But is it unwise or wrong for me to portray it in my fiction?

To be clear, he is cleared of guilt by a divinity who I use to represent the true God, who did incarnate in this world. That is to say, in my fiction, God does clear him of his sin without any direct reference to the work of Jesus.

Would it make any difference if I now divulge that my redeemed character is not a human, but a spiritual being, as old as any other non-God spirit?

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:03 am 
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Yes, I think this is unwise. In my view, it is a model of salvation that is widely held because it is superficially plausible, but would require extensive and deep changes to our understanding of God, ourselves, and the spiritual Laws of Nature (so to speak) if it were actually truly possible. If you're willing and ready to explore the implications of "why can't God just forgive sins without propitiation?" ... proceed very cautiously at your own risk. Here Be Dragons. :)

Reiyen wrote:
I have a character who is from another world. There, God has never and will never incarnate.

By "another world," do you mean "another universe" (a la Narnia), or "another planet"?

Reiyen wrote:
Would it make any difference if I now divulge that my redeemed character is not a human, but a spiritual being, as old as any other non-God spirit?

As you've stated your idea so far, no. If the category of beings to which he belongs is established as having the ability to be brought back to life, and you establish that the penalty for crimes among them is death plus restitution-labor, that is so far not entirely unreasonable (cf. Coriakin). If at some point---preferably before completing his labor, IMO, for various reasons---God imputes righteousness to him, that's still somewhat problematic, but less so than having the forgiveness come as a result of his own works.

OTOH, if anything making him a purely spiritual being may introduce a whole new set of problems: we human beings are made so that, once regenerated, we can repent, but an angel, demon, or other purely spiritual being, not being (as Lewis puts it in The Screwtape Letters) "amphibians," doesn't seem to have that capacity. (On the gripping hand, the best reasoning for that that I can come up with is inductive, so introducing a category of spiritual beings capable of repentance would complicate cosmology but wouldn't contradict anything in Scripture as far as I can see.)

Reiyen wrote:
an exploration of other ideas (the meaning of obedience, for example)

What about obedience are you thinking that this would illustrate? Because my understanding is that apart from Christ, without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for a human being to fully and willingly obey God. If, once God makes him righteous (and changes his nature?), your character wants to and finds himself able to obey God's commands, that would be a worthy theme, but that feels like rather the reverse of what you've described.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:50 pm 
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If you have not read them, yet, I suggest C.S. Lewis:

Out of the Silent Planet (1938)
set mostly on Mars (Malacandra). In this book, Elwin Ransom voyages to Mars and discovers that Earth is exiled from the rest of the solar system. Far back in Earth's past, it fell to an angelic being known as the Bent Oyarsa, and now, to prevent contamination of the rest of the Solar System ("The Field of Arbol"), it is known as "the silent planet" (Thulcandra).

Perelandra (1943)
set mostly on Venus. Also known as Voyage to Venus. Here Dr Ransom journeys to an unspoiled Venus in which the first humanoids have just emerged.

Both offer insight into worlds where the Adamic Fall does not apply (from a Christian perspective).


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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 5:54 pm 
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Perelandra is the first thing that popped in my head when the exploration of obedience came up.

“I think He made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are his will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless he bids you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?”

I also recommend The Story in the Stars by Yvonne Anderson for an interesting, well-written, exploration of salvation/faith being extended to aliens as well as humans.

Your redeemed character being not human makes me feel like he's somewhat the equivalent of "what if Satan or a demon wanted to be saved" but doing works to do it... :/

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:14 pm 
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I think it's worth pointing something out that's invaluably relevant to all Christian fiction, or any fiction with a theme/message: You do not (and probably shouldn't) try to encapsulate the whole of our existence with God in one book. It is okay, in the process of trying to focus on a particular theme, to simplify other elements.

For example, in my spare time I've started developing a book that's meant to be an allegory of the Kingdom of God. I am specifically focusing on some falsehoods regarding Satan, his rule over the earth, and our own authority, so I am designing the fantasy world around those elements. In the process, I will end up simplifying other elements.

For example, to make sure the book isn't too overt and feels like a genuine adventure novel, I may have it that "God" is a literal line of kings--instead of just one that's been around for centuries, since making him this eternal king would make the world more mystical and possibly too obviously religious. Having my God-figure be human, simply the most recent one in a line of many, isn't accurate to what He truly is, but the facet of God that I am venerating is that He is a King, and He owns the earth, and Satan essentially staged a mutiny. Making "God" a human King and "Satan" a human rebel serves that function in the story, and because it serves the story, the message as a whole will be better received. It would be a disservice to the important message I am trying to convey to go out of my way to make sure I clarify EVERYTHING about God's personality--not to mention, that's probably impossible and would make writing the book a real chore.

The same goes for any other theme. What message are you trying to convey? You want to make sure that you aren't conveying a gross error--using my book as an example again, having "God" be a king that's just as evil and flawed as "Satan" would undermine the theme. But you are not responsible for the whole of anyone's spiritual existence. In fact, you will likely do them more good if you plant a seed that will fester and grow, instead of trying to force them through a whole spiritual regeneration in one book. It's the same with witnessing to people; sometimes it's far more effective to leave an impression on someone and let it grow, than it is to sit them down and try to walk them through the entirety of the Gospel in five minutes.

Two other things to consider: Is the fact that the "sinner" had to "work" for his redemption the main theme of the book, or is that just an off-shoot of the plot and you're really talking about something else? If your actual message/theme is something else, then the superficial plot constructs are less critical. Secondly, what verbiage surrounds the man's journey? There's a big difference between "God" telling him explicitly "Do this and then I'll forgive you" and the man being given a mission and, along the way, finding redemption.

Something that all Christian writers need to keep close to their heart when they're writing: Don't lose the forest for the trees. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in worrying that we're going to give the wrong impression and cause someone to stumble that we forget that, well, our impressions ARE imperfect. None of us know the full extent of God's reality. Take Luther, for example. He had some very, very holy revelations that were absolutely needed, but he also got some things grossly wrong. If God waited until we had a perfect revelation before we shared with others, He'd have to wait until we got to heaven!

Focus more on what you're giving to people. The story that you want to tell and the message that you've truly set out to deliver. Focus on delivering that with passion, and the rest of the worries will settle themselves.

With that in mind, as far as my personal opinion goes, I don't think you have an issue here. From a storytelling perspective, you are dealing with someone who is not human and is not from earth and is dealing with a God who did not come down in the same way. It is so far removed and so fantastical, that to me the whole plot is a metaphorical adventure, and should not be taken literally or even as a strict allegory.

From a spiritual perspective, I think sometimes we as protestants get so wrapped up in making sure we ain't Catholic--trying to remove ourselves so far from any appearance of working for salvation--that we swing in the other direction and make it as though there is no work involved in a spiritual life. A truly fulfilling spiritual life is a lot of work. God did not give "to be ruler over cities" to all of His servants--only the ones that worked profitably. While salvation itself cannot be bought, because it is a heart mentality, that does not mean a Christian life does not involve work or that God does not reward work. To be perfectly honest, if there was a book that showed someone having initial faith (the part that's free) and then going on a journey actively wrestling out their spiritual issues and growing deeper, I think it would do a lot of good to a lot of people. It isn't saved once and you're perfectly spiritually mature. it's saved once and then start walking!

Something you can do in your book specifically is make it clear that, at the end of the journey, it wasn't the physical tasks that changed him as a person. They were important to the physical world, sure--they broke a curse or made restitution or whatever. But what truly changed him as a person--what made him "arc" as a character--was how he reacted and matured along the way. But he could have just as easily gone through the tasks numbly without any emotional effort on his part. Instead, he's going to invest, search himself, work out issues, and grow closer to the God-figure. That's where the redemption comes in.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:21 pm 
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atpollard wrote:
If you have not read them, yet, I suggest C.S. Lewis:
Both offer insight into worlds where the Adamic Fall does not apply (from a Christian perspective).
I love those books. I just listened through most of Perelandra for probably the 4th time. But your bringing them to my attention as models for considering the nature of fallen non-human beings or unfallen beings is helpful, as I had not thought to look to them as examples.


Thank you, Miss Sparks for reminding me of that quote. I may have to relisten to that part of the book with my character in mind.

In my current headcanon, when my character's old powers are restored (after having completed his assigned tasks) he knows that proper balance still cannot be restored, as thousands of deaths are still on his hands. He therefore takes himself to the Lid on hell, and begins to cast himself into it. Only after he has begun to pass through that gate does God take him back out, say he is now perfectly obedient, and put him back into full service.

(Composed prior to Lt. General Hansen's post, but submitted anyway because hers is really long and will require too much response from me right now).

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:27 pm 
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Thanks, Lt. General, for your thorough response.
Thank you especially for your reminder to consider what the overall message of this story is meant to be. I haven't given that recent enough consideration. I will have to give that more reflection and allow it to have a guiding role, instead of my more aimless "What will be really epic if I wrote it...?" approach.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2017 9:51 pm 
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Excellent words, Lt General! Very true about it being impossible to encapsulate everything, especially as pertains to our existence with God.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:04 pm 
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Reiyen wrote:
Thanks, Lt. General, for your thorough response.
Thank you especially for your reminder to consider what the overall message of this story is meant to be. I haven't given that recent enough consideration. I will have to give that more reflection and allow it to have a guiding role, instead of my more aimless "What will be really epic if I wrote it...?" approach.


Actually, you're not completely off-base there. While you can't go so far as to "Michael Bay" the whole thing--"Lens flare! Explosions! Why? BECAUSE I'M A MAN!! BOOYAH!"--it is important to take into consideration what makes your story "cool." The entertainment and art value of your work is just as important as your message. If you have a moving and theologically correct message, but boring or uninteresting delivery, no one is going to swallow your pill. So while you don't want to add an element just because it's "epic" when it doesn't serve the plot, you won't be led astray if you are consistently focused on making an interesting, entertaining, colorful, and dramatic story.

Using my as-of-yet-unwritten book, I may make the God-figure a line of kings because it's dramatic and adds appeal. Who doesn't love a good story about royalty? It appeals to us, more so than an eternal figure beyond time that we have trouble understanding the nature of. I may make that choice for aesthetic reasons as much as I do plot and theme.

All of that to say, if you put due focus on writing a good plot--a plot that is both complete and entertaining--then the theme will largely sort itself out.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:28 pm 
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We as teachers will be judged more strictly. I don't have an eloquent way to say this, but any god that we show that is contrary in nature to the one true God ought to be exposed in their falseness. Reiyen, you've already stated that you believe that no amount of good works on our part could ever justify us in the sight of God. Divine fiat would undermine the necessity of Jesus' death; if God could lower his standards so that our works could save us, then Jesus' death was worthless. God hasn't lowered his standard but is making perfect those who trust in him, for without holiness no one will see God.* With your readers in mind, would it be helpful to them for your story to depict a successful attempt by a sinful being to justify himself by completing a laundry list of moral actions? Even if they held to proper theology - and not all of your readers will - your story wouldn't point them to Jesus or help them treasure him. It would give self-sufficiency a divine commendation within your story world.

You could, however, use your story to expose just how hopeless is self-justification. It's a powerful delusion that gives me false confidence in my strength of will while further entangling me in the same pride that condemns me in the first place. Not in a thousand lifetimes could I ever amass enough good deeds to wash away my evil ones, because even my "good" deeds would be tainted by motives that are all at their core anti-God. * I don't know if you watched "Live, Die, Repeat" - I think it was more reincarnation than time loop in that movie and I'm not willing to suggest that- but some version of that movie where the guy is trying to justify himself and just can't (pun!) would be interesting.So often I've thought along the lines of, "If I knew things were going to turn out this way, I would have never -", while in reality, my sins repeat themselves well enough without all the daily resets.

Instead of having to jump through hoops theologically, you could show just how broken and sinful we are, how futile are our self-righteous efforts, how desperate we are for a savior.

*I know that you know this, but it clarifies the statement and somewhat solidifies my scattered thought processes.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 6:46 am 
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Question: This list of tasks--how is your character given the assignment? Does "God" give it directly to him? What does "God" say when he gives him the assignment? Does he tell him it's for redemption? Or are there other plot reasons why he needs to do this particular list?

I ask because the language used will play a big role in the theology. To over-simplify, if this character, say, unleashed some beast out of "hell" and has to go on a series of tasks to recapture said beast, while he might find spiritual redemption as part of the journey, there's some very specific plot reasons why he has to do the list of tasks. If you spill milk, you need to clean it up. There is nothing theologically incorrect about someone having to work to repair some of the damage they did.

On a similar note, even though we can't buy our redemption, that does not let us off the hook regarding anything God commanded us. Even though our works aren't buying our salvation, that does not mean we get a free pass if God tells to do something and we decide to be lazy about it. So if your character was explicitly commanded by God to do these lists of tasks, he absolutely needs to do them, even if forgiveness itself is a free gift.

That said, it's not at all unusual for God to wait for there to be some kind of motivated action on our part before He manifests the deliverance. For example, the ten lepers were not healed until they started the journey to go see the priest, as Jesus had commanded them. The Red Sea was not parted until Moses raised his staff. Etc. So even through your character may already be forgiven in spirit, God may wait until He sees physical sign of repentance before the physical healing (i.e., getting his powers back) flows.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 3:28 pm 
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Lt. General, he is never told that he would be redeemed by any of this stuff. He is brought back from the dead with no memory of what it was like during that time, and given tasks by a messenger who is known to receive his commands more or less directly from God. He then proceeds to screw up the first one by trying to reignite his spiritual powers (instead of doing as he was told), almost all of which he has lost. This only makes things worse, and gives him a much longer series of tasks to perform, which ultimately leads him to his own death.
The tasks he is given have something to do with the evils he did only in the sense that he led a lot of other beings to fall, and he did in fact release a sort of demon on the planet, and he has to rectify wrongs caused by the other fallen spirits. He is never told that doing all this will give him back his power or status.

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 Post subject: Re: Alternative Modes of Redemption
PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:29 pm 
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Reiyen wrote:
Lt. General, he is never told that he would be redeemed by any of this stuff. He is brought back from the dead with no memory of what it was like during that time, and given tasks by a messenger who is known to receive his commands more or less directly from God. He then proceeds to screw up the first one by trying to reignite his spiritual powers (instead of doing as he was told), almost all of which he has lost. This only makes things worse, and gives him a much longer series of tasks to perform, which ultimately leads him to his own death.
The tasks he is given have something to do with the evils he did only in the sense that he led a lot of other beings to fall, and he did in fact release a sort of demon on the planet, and he has to rectify wrongs caused by the other fallen spirits. He is never told that doing all this will give him back his power or status.


That sounds like a rowdy good adventure with a lot of good morals about not taking shortcuts and owning up to your mistakes. I don't think it sounds at all like he's "buying" his redemption. Write it! ^_^

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