Monday, January 7, 2008

Harsh Wisdom of the Gunslinger

Steven King clearly reads the Bible. It's imagery and meta-narrative flow through his works like the oil that is the base ingredient of the colors used by a painter. He wrestles with the great ideas of Scripture, and - occasionally - he gets some ideas exactly right.

I've been reading The Gunslinger this week, and I can't actually say that I would recommend it, though I will say that I like it. The story is bleak, empty, dirty; it confronts you not with action but with introspection, and it is one of those inward-looking moments in the book which led me to a 'new' idea.

"He fled the light and the knowledge the light implied, and so came back to himself. Even so do the rest of us; even so the best of us."

I felt like King probably spent a while on that line: in his soul and on the page. It reads remarkably like this line from the Gospel according to John, "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed." (3:19-20)

The question readily comes to our minds: Why do lost people flee that which will heal them and bring them joy?

We might think at first that the answer is simply 'their sin nature', or 'their depravity', or 'that which they inherited from Adam'. But these answer the wrong question. In fact, the question I have asked is hopelessly screwed up. Lost people do not flee the light that will heal them and bring them joy. They flee the light that will expose their evil deeds and condemn them to an eternal torment. That's what Jesus says anyway. Humanly speaking, they ought not run to God, but away.

The unbelieving man flees the darkness because there is no hope there, only pain. Salvation is grace, it is not a ladder toward the light that we must climb. No one looks at the light and sees hope unless they have been born again. Jesus says in the same passage that I quoted from before, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)

All that the dead man sees when he looks toward the light is fire. The man made alive by God sees hope and a way out. The difference between these men has nothing to do with their intelligence, ancestry, femininity, happiness, depression, or any other human condition. The difference between them is that one man is dead: dead of himself, dead from Adam, dead when he came into this world. The other man was dead but has been made alive. Both were born of water, one was born again of spirit.

And where does this Spirit come from? "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

Let me translate: God brings us to life if he wants to and when he wants to. The light looks like damnation to the dead. They won't walk toward it. They flee it. They cannot make themselves alive when they are dead (only Jesus did that) and we cannot make them alive when they are dead. Jesus brings life to the dead. God breathes into our nostrils once again the breath of life and we live. We live not before, and not until he does so.

Bear witness about the light to all, but leave the business of raising the dead to the one who has all the experience.

1 comment:

Candy Bar said...

I have to agree with your assessment of Gunslinger. I have read the book as well and am amazed at the depth and darkness of the book. I was encouraged by your comments and honest assessment.