The Power of the Plot

The Writer’s Design: Navigating the Right Path

So, what about PLOT? Did your God design plot to be powerful too?

A great place to start any inquiry about any part of story, is Robert McKee…


To PLOT means to navigate through the dangerous terrain of story and when confronted by a dozen branching possibilities to choose the correct path. Plot is the writer’s choice of events and their design in time.

Robert McKee, Story

As we thought more and more about the story of America, and the story of each individual in the world, Paula alerted us to the importance of the power of plot. Because, if your God is the Great Storyteller, we ignore it at our own peril.

Plot pulls you in. And it opened our eyes.

If Christianity is the story we’re in, then your God is the designer of that story, right? So, it’s he who makes these “choices of events” choosing between not “dozens”, but billions of branching possibilities in the story of humanity.


In some literary circles “plot” has become a dirty word, tarred with a connotation of hack commercialism. The loss is ours, for plot is an accurate term that names the internally consistent, inter-related pattern of events that move through time to shape and design a story.

Robert McKee, Story

Plot matters.

But remember, when you’re in the middle of a story, you can’t know the plot. Only the omniscient writer of the story knows how he is weaving together the events of a story through time to create his masterpiece.

So, then, look at this passage we found from your Bible …


It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Proverbs 25:2

… and think about this in relation to the following insights about plot from this fascinating article …


Plot is the unfolding of a hidden design; the promise that all will eventually be revealed.

Plot is not just a sequence of connected events (in this sense, every TV drama or novel equally has a plot). It is something rarer: the unfolding of a hidden design. Plot involves the laying of clues, the implicit promise to the reader or viewer that the true significance of what we read or see is not self-evident, but will eventually be revealed. A good plot exploits not just suspense, but also a kind of retrospective curiosity. When we know that a story has a plot we find ourselves asking not so much, “What will happen next?” as, “What has already happened?” The hidden design has, we trust, been contrived by an author, so when we enjoy a plot we are enjoying being manipulated by him or her.

….

In fact, a good plot is one of the highest arts. … If it remains internally consistent, we are much more likely to feel gratified.

….

Plot activates our confidence in design, our faith that the creator of a narrative knows what he or she is doing from the first moment.

Whatever next? How plot grips us, from Dickens to Line of Duty, By John Mullan, The Guardian, 14 May 2016

So… it looks like, if Christianity is the story we are in, your God is up to something with story, a story in which everyone…everyone has a place…


God means for this story to so captivate our minds and hearts, that we’re drawn, by his Spirit, into its plot to find our vital place in it.

You Are Here: Finding Your Story in God’s Story, by Steve Childers, Pathway Learning, January 29, 2014

That makes me feel so small…and so big at the same time. Could it really be possible that there is a special place for me? A place where I fit?

Our stories teach us that there is a place for us, that we fit. They suggest to us that our lives can have a plot. Stories turn mere chronology, one thing after another, into the purposeful action of plot, and thereby into meaning.


If we discern a plot to our lives, we are more likely to take ourselves and our lives more seriously. If nothing is connected, then nothing matters. Stories are the single best way humans have for accounting for our experience. They help us see how choices and events are tied together, why things are and how things could be.

Daniel Taylor, Ph.D., The Healing Power of Stories

These thoughts are blowing my mind. Are you baffled too?


Baffled that we are not the authors of our own stories, we find to our surprise that, rather than trivializing our lives, the triune terms of this particular story enlarge us, even as they tie us to a particular place and time…. [The incarnation] makes it possible for us to take our own history seriously, even to receive ourselves and others as actors in a temporal drama in which God is not far away but, rather, is as close as the plot and narrative that he unfolds and brings to completion.

The Significance of the Doctrine of the Trinity for the Life of the Local Congregation, Thomas W. Currie III, Insights 111 (1995)

So, I’m an actor in a temporal drama? This God of yours, the Christian God, has designed and is unfolding this plot? I know I keep saying it, but I’m blown away. Are you beginning to understand why Paula found it laughable that you might think that when we called your God the “Great Storyteller”, it was somehow diminishing to Him?

Speaking of your God unfolding his intricately designed plot, let’s turn now to a theological concept we discovered recently (though I’m sure you’re quite familiar with) called “progressive revelation”…

We’ll start with Lightner’s definition…


By progressive revelation, I mean the gradual unfolding of God’s truth throughout history as recorded in Scripture. In other words, progressive revelation emphasizes more development or enlargement of early truth than was given in the Old Testament. In the process of time, God gave more information about things that He began to reveal in the Old Testament.

Progressive Dispensationalism, By Robert Lightner, Conservative Theological Journal, April 2000

So, what if Progressive Revelation could be more simply understood as God, the Great Storyteller unfolding his intricate plot in the story of humanity?

Because if you saw that, maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to cut off the Old Testament from your God’s grand plot?


There are great stories in the Bible…but it is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story…The Bible has a storyline. It traces an unfolding drama. The story follows the history of Israel, but it does not begin there, nor does it contain what you would expect in a national history… If we forget the storyline…we cut the heart out of the Bible.

Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament

Ouch. Cutting out a heart is messy business.

Matt Slick spells it out nicely…


Progressive revelation is the teaching that God has revealed himself and his will through the Scriptures with an increasing clarity as more and more of the Scriptures were written. In other words, the later the writing the more information is given. Therefore, God reveals knowledge in a progressive and increasing manner throughout the Bible from the earliest time to later time.

What is progressive revelation and is it scriptural?, by Matt Slick, Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Damick sees the brilliance of the author of your orthodox story…


While there is an Old Covenant and a New Covenant, we can see a gradual process of God revealing Himself throughout the Old Testament, finally being fully revealed and fulfilled in Christ.

Andrew Stephen Damick, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Progressive Revelation doesn’t diminish your God or his authority.


Progressive revelation is a concept that nearly all evangelicals accept, even though the term was first coined by liberals in their polemic against conservative views on Scripture. Defined as “the fact that God progressively revealed himself in event and in Scripture, climaxing the events with the death-resurrection-exaltation of Christ and climaxing the Scriptures with the closing of the canon,” progressive revelation is a concept thoroughly consistent with an inductive analysis of Scripture’s claims to authority.

Genetic Defects or Accidental Similarities? Orthodoxy and Open Theism and Their Connections to Western Philosophical Traditions, By Chad Owen Brand, BEYOND THE BOUNDS: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, EDITED BY JOHN PIPER, JUSTIN TAYLOR, PAUL KJOSS HELSETH

Progressive Revelation is about change. And change is so important. Without change, there is no story. What would static revelation even mean in story?


As we have already stated, the Bible is a progressive revelation, that is, a genuine story that moves and changes as opposed to a static revelation that is the same from start to finish. Neither the final shape of things nor the means of getting there are revealed in toto at the beginning of the story.

Glenn Paauw, Saving the Bible From Ourselves

So, if Christianity is the story we are in, then it does look like God the Great Storyteller is up to something with story.

And we’re amazed — and pleased — with how rare it is for Christians in America to give it much thought at all.

Why are we pleased?

Well, if you’ll read this whole web site, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of it all, but it looks to us like your failure to think more broadly about the power of story has greatly diminished your ability to engage in the democratic process. And your democratic process depends on robust discourse. So, as long as the conversation in America is closing down, your failure to engage in the conversation effectively may end up destroying your country from the inside out.

I know that’s a mouthful, and we’ll get to it all in good time.

But for now, we’ll leave you with this…


A good plot exploits not just suspense, but also a kind of retrospective curiosity. When we know that a story has a plot we find ourselves asking not so much, “What will happen next?” as, “What has already happened?”

Whatever next? How plot grips us, from Dickens to Line of Duty, By John Mullan, The Guardian, 14 May 2016

Wow. That makes your Bible, both Old and New Testaments, really, really important to your God’s plot in the story of God and man.