Voices

God as author

A writer is far more involved than a watchmaker

Issue: "Food fight," May 3, 2008

When we think of God as the Creator, we usually have in mind something like a carpenter building a house or, famously, a watchmaker crafting an intricate timepiece. What if we were to imagine the Creator and His creation in terms of an author writing a book?

There is warrant for this. The Bible describes the creation as an act of God's language (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 11:3). It also describes our lives as having been written down before we have even lived them: "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16). At the last judgment, we will find that all of our deeds have been recorded in a book that will be opened, though if our names are written in the Book of Life "from the foundation of the world" we will escape the penalty for our evil works (Revelation 20:12-15; 17:8).

The old theologians and scientists spoke of the Book of God and the Book of Nature. God has written both the Bible and the created order, and human beings are obliged to read them both. That nature is a book may be more than a metaphor. Contemporary science is finding that the DNA that directs every living cell constitutes a "code" that conveys "information," and is thus not just a chemical but a language. The physical sciences used to think in terms of mechanistic particles, but now quantum physics is described as "the language of nature."

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When a human author writes a novel, the events exist only in the imagination; when God writes the universe, it exists in His mind, yes, but also tangibly and materially. Still, what difference does it make to think of God as author?

While a watchmaker is detached from the mechanism he crafts, an author is both outside his creation and his characters and intimately involved with them.

Today, many people have trouble accepting God's omniscience. How can God know what I am thinking? Well, read a novel with an omniscient narrator. Even many evangelical theologians are asking how God can know things that haven't happened yet. Well, take a novel off your shelf and leaf through to the last pages. You can find out what happens in the end. The characters earlier on in the story have no idea and must live out the plot in time. Human authors often talk about characters they invent taking on a life of their own and taking the plot into different directions. But the author is still in control.

We can each think of ourselves as the hero of our own novel. Other characters (who are also heroes of their own novels) come into our lives. We fall in love, undergo trials, and go on adventures. As in the plot of any novel, we experience conflict, turning points, and character development. We may not know what will happen next. But if we know our author-who entered into our storyline as the incarnate and atoning Christ-we can be confident that He is bringing us to a happy ending.

Comments? Email Ed Veith at gveith@worldmag.com.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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