all the world’s a stage

This post is a reply to some comments from the previous post…

Batman-
I am here on this side of the veil with you, so my thoughts about what lies outside of time won’t tell you anything about what may be there but rather what lies inside my own head. That being said, I also like that particular verse from Job very much and think that it gives us a way to try and imagine the perspective of one who is outside of time looking in on us. To me, the conversation between God and Job is reminiscent of an argument between the director of an enormous production and an overly ambitious bit player.

Generally a director initiates the project (and for our conversation I will assume the director in this case is also the producer as to avoid confusion and messy metaphysics) by deciding which script will be played, choosing the production staff, casting the actors (and dancers and musicians-let’s say this is a musical), and making uncountable other decisions about what will eventually be put before the audience before the the first rehearsal even happens. The director is concerned with the entire production in all of it’s aspects while nearly everyone else is wrapped up in their individual role or task (the director usually has a staff and assistants whose task is to watch over an aspect of the production and ensure that it is in keeping with the vision of the production as a whole, but only the director/producer oversees everything). Human nature being what it is, all those individuals tend to see the production as revolving around them. Costumers see everything in terms of fabrics to be mended and washed, light designers see everything in terms of colors and shadow, stagehands are only concerned with wingspace and setpieces in motion, and the prop department views actors as vehicles for carrying their masterpieces of fakery before the audience for approval. And of course, there are the actors, who think everything is about them even when they’re not in a production. How much worse their egomania when they are actually in front of the footlights smeared in greasepaint, wrapped in cheap dyed robes and carrying a wooden sword! They really believe they are kings then.

Every role is essential to the outcome. If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don’t arrive, Hamlet stalls out pretty early on. Sweeny Todd must have victims or he can’t be a killer. If Nell never emerges from her trash can ‘Endgame’ doesn’t play out quite right. Converesely, if Judas decides to not betray Jesus and instead do a little softshoe number, then the second half of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ will need to be improvised, which would be difficult at best. It is not enough for the actors to play their roles, but they must play them as written and rehearsed otherwise the entire production can fall apart. At any given moment in a show the story is being carried by secondary and tertiary characters who can drop the whole thing regardless of who the lead actor is. 

Job complains about his role to God, and God rebukes him by telling him to look at the big picture. God tells Job that the whole play is much more than this single scene; He points out the lights shining on Job and asked who aimed them, put gels on them, turns them on and off? He talks about the snow and hail He has stored above Job’s head waiting to fall down on some as yet unplayed scenes with actors Job will never meet. He asks Job to consider things that seem to have nothing to do with Job or his woes but yet make Job and his woes possible in the first place. It doesn’t take long for Job to get the message.

The problem most people have with the story of Job comes from focusing too much on it’s narrative than what the point of the story is itself. Much has been written about the implication of God gambling with Satan by torturing one of His most loyal servants. In the same way the Fundamentalist misunderstands this story by taking it literally, these critics miss the point by thinking they can understand something tangible and definable about the character and being of God from these words. The story of Job tells us something tangible and definable about the human condition by attempting to describe the character and being of God. It is not a literal transcription of a dialogue between a human being and the Creator of the Universe; it cannot be for it describes actions and events between supernatural beings that no human witnessed. This does not dilute or disperse the truth or wisdom of the Book of Job; rather, it reaffirms it. 

The God presented in the book of Job is not God fully revealed in true glory but a representation of God fully revealed in true glory. To stretch the theatrical metaphor even further, the Book of Job is not the scene where the director literally tromps onto the stage to yell at an actor; it is the scene where the director artfully tells the story of the director tromping onto the stage to yell at an actor to serve the greater story of the entire play. The whirlwind is a fan, the thundering voice comes through a megaphone, and the lightning is just great lighting, but that is what the director chose to represent himself at that time for the best dramatic effect.

To be outside of time is to be eternal. To be outside of time means to not be contained or constrained by human concepts or even physicality for that matter. The latest thinking in cosmology by people who can do math speculates about many configurations for our universe that all include the idea of it being nestled within a larger reality that has nothing to do with our continuity of spacetime. These include models that describe membranes of realities or tapestries of cosmic string that lie alongside countless other universes of spacetimes with their own laws of causality. What this means for me is that there is room enough for eternity and God, and that eternity and God are bigger than human perception can contain. We see through the glass darkly, or that is to say, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.                

2 Responses to “all the world’s a stage”

  1. Thanks, Winston, that was a great response.

    The timelessness of God is significant to me because it is informs my understanding of forgiveness that, I suspect, many Christians do not fully appreciate.

    The Bible is clear on this point — time is irrelevant to God.

    (Psalm 90:4 NASB) For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.

    [See also 2 Peter 3:8}

    Jesus also plainly asserts His timelessness:

    (John 8:57 NASB) The Jews therefore said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

    (John 8:58 NASB) Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

    In Hebrew, the “I am” denotes absolute eternal existence, not simply existence prior to Abraham. It is a claim to be Yahweh of the OT. The Jews hearing this statement understood this, and attempted to stone Jesus for his blasphemy.

    This all means that, for God, elapsed time does not happen.

    Thus, He can retroactively alter reality. And the Bible claims that He does so.

    So, when God declares that I am pure, holy and righteous in His eyes NOW because of Christ, He is not kidding. He is not just ignoring my sins, even though in my “now” I continue to experience them. He has removed my sins from me “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Reality has been retroactively altered so that my sinful condition no longer exists. It only remains for me to claim redemption with faith, itself a gift of the Spirit.

    Another passage suggests how this happens. Forgiveness is described as God’s forgetfulness:

    (Jer 31:34-35 NASB) “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

    Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name. [Emphasis added.]

    So, if you start with the premise that reality is a function of God’s will, expressed by His Word, then the forgetfulness of a timeless God does not merely exonerate, ignore or condone my sin. It eradicates my sin from reality. Never mind my own experience on this side of the sun.

    Just some random thoughts. Thanks again for your post.

  2. The problem most people have with the story of Job comes from focusing too much on it’s narrative than what the point of the story is itself. Much has been written about the implication of God gambling with Satan by torturing one of His most loyal servants.

    So true. Note that the author of Job share the story of this wager with us, but God never mentions it to Job.

    I liked your “director” analogy.

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