Writes of a girl in a cottage with thatch on the roof
Is it the truth?
Lives with her Grandma
Grandad and Uncle and Aunty and Mother and Pop
When does it stop?
Cannot get in a mess
She only owns one dress
I once read some good advice on designing fictional characters. Anyone can write a basic character and throw in some quirks to differentiate them from the others. He’s always chewing gum; she keeps mispronouncing words. But such a character will be no more than one-dimensional.
For a more believable character, you’ll need to explain their quirks. He chews gum because he’s trying to give up smoking; she mispronounces words because she’s spent more of her life reading than talking to people. Then you’ll have made your character two-dimensional.
Believable solidity, though, only comes with a further layer of information. He chews gum because he’s trying to give up smoking because he has an addictive personality and is short on patience, and THAT’S THE SORT OF PERSON HE IS. She mispronounces words because she’s spent most of her time reading because she has social anxiety because her dysfunctional family wouldn’t let her play with the other kids, and THAT’S THE KIND OF PERSON SHE IS.
I’ve found this advice useful in writing, but it seems to me that it’s useful in theology too. So often we isolate the events in biblical stories. Here’s a bush that burns but doesn’t burn up. That’s weird. Here’s a virgin giving birth. That’s weird. Here’s some guy coming back from the dead. That’s weird. So far, we’ve found a one-dimensional God.
Sometimes, people improve on this by talking about the connections between the stories. Here’s the Last Supper; it acts out the atonement; it also acts out the Passover. Here’s the flight to Egypt; it’s a reference to the Exodus. This gives us more of a picture, but we’ve still only seen two dimensions of God’s character.
Where’s the third dimension here? God saves the Israelites because he is faithful, and THAT’S THE SORT OF PERSON HE IS. God becomes a sacrifice because he is loving, and THAT’S THE SORT OF PERSON HE IS. And it’s as well not to hide dimensions of God’s character from yourself or others; the God we worship and proclaim must be believable to be the real thing.
I was just at Tesco. I did not previously know the checkout person.
CHECKOUT PERSON: So, that’ll be £16.48.
MARN: (long pause) What happened in 1648? I thought it was the Spanish Armada. But that sounds like it should have been in 1548.
CHECKOUT PERSON: Yeah, that’s definitely the Tudors. It was under Henry, wasn’t it? The Mary Rose and all that.
MARN: I thought it was Elizabeth. Didn’t Philip of Spain send the Armada because he wanted her to marry him?
CHECKOUT PERSON: Well, what you’ve gotta remember is, Spain as such didn’t exist at the time. There were, like, two or three different states there, and then you’ve got the Holy Roman Empire making things more complicated…
(discussion continues for a while)
More of this, please.
See you our server farm that hums
And serves HTTP?
It’s spun its disks and done its sums
Ever since Berners-Lee.
See you our mainframe spewing out
The Towers of Hanoi?
It’s moved recursive discs about
Since Babbage was a boy.
See you our ZX81
That prints the ABCs?
That very program used to run
With Lovelace at the keys.
Magnetic floppy disks and hard,
And tape with patience torn,
And eighty columns on a card,
And thus was England born!
She is not any common thing,
Water or Wood or Air,
But Turing’s Isle of Programming,
Where you and I will fare.
As we see in your creation
creeping things upon the earth,
show us, with the caterpillar,
how to reach a second birth.
As the spider spins her cobweb
patiently to catch a fly,
grant us means to share your message
in the lives of passers-by.
As you granted limbs aplenty
to the peaceful millipede,
make our feet upon the mountains
swift to reach a world of need.
As the beetle digs the dunghill
seeking where its food is stored,
teach us that this world is refuse
set against our loving Lord.