Stories in Eternity
By Anthony Casperson
To be honest, I had planned on writing a different blog this week. One more in line with the topic of the past couple. But there was a question that I’d been thinking about for a while. (And maybe having a more light-hearted blog might be good too.)
Though it is currently only speculative, I thought of what stories tend to encapsulate and began to wonder what they would look like when the fullness of Jesus’ kingdom arrives. What kind of stories will we tell in the eternal state? Or in more common parlance, what kind of stories will we tell “in heaven?”
You see, a common way to categorize stories is based off of the type of conflict contained within. Three are often cited for this categorization. Person vs. Person. Person vs. Nature. Person vs. Self.
(Sometimes, you’ll see another two types of conflict [Person vs. Society and Person vs. Technology], but they can be subsumed by the other categories. For example, Person vs. Person can include a large number of people that would be described as society, or even a sentient technological entity that maintains a sense of personhood.)
Is there an obvious Big Bad that opposes the protagonist? Or is there a person who wants the same thing as the main character, but both can’t have it? These represent Person vs. Person. The plot largely revolves around the conflict between the primary protagonist and another person or group of people.
Does the world around the main character act as the primary means of opposition? Do they have to survive various hardships brought about by the impersonal environment, even though the natural world seems to have a sinister vendetta against the protagonist? This is the Person vs. Nature type of story. The tale involves taking on nature itself, whether that be a blazing desert, an arctic wasteland, a deserted island, or the flora and fauna contained within.
Has the protagonist become their own worst enemy? Is there some lie in the main character which they believe so strongly that it must be dealt with? Here we have Person vs. Self. When the primary antagonist isn’t external at all, but rather the protagonist’s own internal monologue, understanding of themselves, or believed deficiencies.
Though many a story has taken aspects of two or all three of these types, there will always be one of these conflicts that act as primary driving force of the story. But do you see what the problem is about this description of story when it comes to the eternal state?
Conflict is necessary for stories, as we understand them.
But when Jesus’ kingdom comes in its fullness, there will be no more sin. No selfishness. No lies. No conflict. There will be no lack of resources. Nature itself will be remade into its perfect pre-fallen state. And our bodies will be in the same resurrected perfection that Jesus had on the third day after his crucifixion.
If conflict is the main driving force of plot in every story we tell here and now, and in the eternal state conflict will be gone, then what type of stories will we tell when we get there?
Will we learn that there can be conflict-less story? As if it’s just been our sinful understanding that has necessitated the opposition invading all tales. Will we continue to tell stories with our understanding of the conflict of the “old world” even though the new has come? We have all experienced the pain of this world and the strife of it. Or will we cease to tell stories altogether? The need for them having been lost.
While I’m not sure about the first two options (or if there is another option I haven’t thought about), I can say with relative confidence that the final option of stories finding their end is not the way it’s going to be.
Human beings are storied creatures. We tell stories. We get together and share our experiences with others. A part of our hearts, our desires, our being itself is shared when we relate to one another in this way. It’s a major manner in which we learn and teach the truth of the world.
And let’s not forget that the universe and everything contained within is a part of the story of God. He made it all with his Word as he spoke this tale into existence.
So truthfully, I have no idea about the answer to my question of what stories will be like in the eternal state. Though, the questions lead us to interesting places of thought.
There’s no grand truth I want to teach through this question. And no call to action as we come to the end of this blog. Just a question that we’ll have to patiently await until the day arrives.
And then we’ll have a new story to tell.