Christian God Figure & Deus ex Machina
March 14, 2021 at 5:11 pm #126087Tabitha@tabitha
How do you deal with divine intervention in a plot if you have a (Christianity-based) God figure? On one hand, you don’t want deus ex machina ruining conflict. On the other hand, wouldn’t God’s nature be such that He would intervene in an epic conflict? Obviously in our world, when the stakes were world-altering, He did intervene by sending Jesus as a human.
(NOTE: I realize a secular site isn’t as helpful with a question on Christian orthodoxy, but this article framed some of my questions. https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GodsHandsAreTied)
"Those who look to Him are radiant with joy." --Psalm 34:5March 15, 2021 at 5:06 am #126098Taylor Clogston@taylorclogston
Would you say that God intervened in a Deus ex Machina way in WWI or WWII?
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 15, 2021 at 9:47 am #126101claire@claire-h
God is all powerful and nothing happens outside his control… He is working in all things to carry out his purposes (providence). So I’m a little confused about what you mean by God being bound by his nature to intervene. Are you saying that he has to show up and work miracles? If so, I would contend that God is already actively involved in the world and events (he’s the Creator after all). He is always intervening, only people refuse to see it.
Not sure if that helped. Feel free to elaborate more on your question!
a flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it.
it just blooms.March 15, 2021 at 1:25 pm #126102Rose@rose-colored-fancy
Hi Tabitha! Great question!
I can only tell you what I’ve seen myself, and what I’ve found satisfying or the reverse. Please note that it’s only my opinion, not a rule by any means.
I think you shouldn’t use miracles to completely solve the conflict, even though that is entirely possible. But if you want to use a miracle, for theme reasons, you still can, if you make the miracle smallish.
Don’t entirely fix the problem, just fix a small portion of the problem to give the characters hope and the opportunity to solve it themselves. That way, you can use the miracle for theme reasons without it feeling fake and Deus Ex Machina.
Or you can write it so it gives the characters a chance, but it’s still difficult and they still have to overcome their flaws.
To give an example:
If your MC is in the middle of a big battle, he got separated from everyone else and he’s wounded so he can’t make it to his friends. He’s entirely hopeless and the enemy will kill him if he stays there much longer. A Deus Ex Machina would be if the enemies were blinded by heavenly light and ran off en masse after he prayed. Of course, things like this have happened in the bible, but it’s a bit unsatisfying for plot reasons.
Another possibility of a miracle is that one of the wounded men near him scrambles up and offers him just enough help that he can make it to safety. It’ll be hard for him since he’s wounded and they still have to get there. If you want to make it very clear that it’s a miracle, you can have him turn around to thank the other soldier and he’s disappeared. That’s perfectly possible, but not entirely necessary.
(Note, I just made this up on the spur of the moment, you could doubtless think of better examples.)
Miracles can strengthen some themes, but don’t use them to obliterate conflict. Personally, I will forgive a Deus Ex Machina-esque-thing as long as it ties into the theme and doesn’t entirely fix all their issues in one page.
I hope this was somewhat helpful!
"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." The Tale of DespereauxMarch 15, 2021 at 2:10 pm #126103Arindown (Gracie)@arindown
@tabitha This is such a good question…and one that I have puzzled over too.
My advice would be to go over what you want to teach your reader before writing the scene.
For example, in the Wingfeather Saga, Janner feels like the Maker (God) has deserted them as he watches evil destroy his world. At the climax, the Maker doesn’t directly intercede and kill the villain, but He uses people/circumstances to make the final victory. I think the important thing is that Janner learned that God is there, even when He seems silent.
Depending on your theme, it might be appropriate to have God resolve with conflict in different ways. As we see in the Old Testament, He taught his people by direct intervention (parting the Red Sea), but now days He tends to teach us in more subtle ways (answering prayer through people around us).
Hope that helps (and that it made sense😄).
Not all who wander are lost.March 15, 2021 at 3:36 pm #126105Tabitha@tabitha
Thanks for the answers and the recommendations to clarify my question (since that helps me figure out solutions as well).
My concern is not that readers will be disappointed the human MC didn’t solve the problem. My concern instead is that readers will be left wondering why the deity didn’t solve the problem. Have you ever heard people ask why the eagles didn’t fly Frodo to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings? I want to have a good explanation for why the simple solution didn’t happen.
In some fantasies, deities don’t intervene because they have squabbles amongst themselves or are selfish and don’t care about humans. (Think Greek mythology.) However, that explanation won’t work in my story since The Deity in my story is concerned and powerful.
However, what I think I hear some of you saying is that I ought to look at how God intervenes in our world as an example (such as in World Wars I and II or in “small” everyday miracles), and that maybe I shouldn’t be too scared to use divine intervention in my story.
(NOTE: I obviously have no claims on how God chooses to intervene in our world. I just want to try to be true to His nature in my fantasy world. So it’s more that I as an author am “bound to showing His intervening nature” than that He is “bound to intervene”).
"Those who look to Him are radiant with joy." --Psalm 34:5
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