Wednesday, December 9, 2009

World Building Part 7

The God Man

That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved — St. Gregory the Theologian (also known as Gregory of Nazianzus)

This beautifully succinct statement by St. Gregory sums up the dogmatic necessity for understanding Christ to be both God and Man. If He is not God, then we have no means to be healed. If He is not Man, then we have not been healed.

Thus, in a fantasy setting, the Christ figure must emulate perfect divinity and perfect humanity. This means that He cannot become a God either through His excellence or by God descending upon Him. This scenario does not assume the totality of human nature — it ignores conception, growth in the womb and childhood. Therefore, all of these things would be left out of Christ's salvific activity. All of our experience and existence must be assumed in order to save it. This includes death.

The Cross

Psalm 22, written some 300 years prior to the invention of crucifixion, describes in detail Christ on the cross. Christ tells His disciples multiple times that He must be turned over to the Gentiles to be killed. In iconography, the Nativity depicts the manger as a deep, dark cave; His bed as a tomb; and His swaddling clothes as a burial garment. In other words, the whole point of the Incarnation is the crucifixion — the Christ must die in order to destroy death.

In terms of a fantasy world, we must understand the metaphor of the cross:
The message of the cross is folly to those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us on the road to salvation it is the power of God. — 1 Corinthians 1:18

Crucifixion is a heinous means of killing someone. It is designed to torture and kill slowly over several days. The amount of stress it puts on the body is extreme and it takes advantage of our own instinctual desire to survive in order to prolong agony. It was a death sentence reserved for the lowest of the low — outsiders and criminals. The Romans wouldn't dream of subjecting a Roman citizen to such a death because it was too horrible and too humiliating even for someone who betrayed the Empire.

God, in the person of Jesus Christ, was not only willing to subject Himself to such humiliation and horror, but transformed the instrument of death and torture into a symbol of everlasting life.

Thus, the cross need not be a cross in terms of a fantasy world. In fact, I would argue that we have lost the sense of divine irony that is the cross — we no longer see it as a device of extreme torture — and that using another device would actually more effectively communicate the true meaning of the cross. The holy symbol of those who follow the Christ is the instrument of torture used to kill the Christ. For example, in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan is shaved, tied down upon a rock and killed by a knife. The holy symbol could be any combination of these instruments — the knife, the rock, or the ropes.

Of course the ultimate purpose of the crucifixion is the resurrection, the ascension into heaven and the enthronement at the right hand of the Father. Our human nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, is participating in the divine nature of God right now.

In terms of a fantasy world, this is the mechanism by which divine magic works. Clerics join themselves to the Body of Christ — the Church — and through their ordination have direct access to the power of God. Divine magic is a metaphor for the miracles of God worked through the people of God. The pseudo-Christian overtones of Cleric spells in 0e represent this quite well. It is all made possible because the Christ died and then took our humanity with Him to sit in glory and the right hand of the Father — in our humanity, we have access to His divinity.


  1. Thought provoking post.

    There has been an number interpretation of Fantasy Magic. In real history magic is virtually indistinguishable from religion. But in Fantasy many RPGs choose magic as force to manipulate much like how science manipulates our own the unseen world of electricity, light, and atoms.

    Divine Magic with a such a premise is the aid provided by God in manipulating this force. But dealing with magic in of itself doesn't involve going against God as this premise assume it part of the natural world.

    This doesn't preclude the existence of outright miracles by God that defy all the known rules.

    This is how I choose interpret magic in my setting the Majestic Wilderlands. Those have faith have an inherent advantage in manipulate in manipulating magic.

    In most RPGs what we would consider miracles in our world is an everyday occurrence in the world of Fantasy RPGs. I am not comfortable with the idea of God giving away miracles as an everyday occurrence.

    Luckily most RPG Magic system work well with the idea of magic as a natural force and that they are limited enough that true miracles can be used in the game and recognized as such by the players.

  2. Rob,

    Indeed, RPGs have long allowed and encouraged this interpretation of magic. My goal for this project is to expand beyond that and introduce another option for building an RPG world. In so doing, I am operating from not only personal experience with miracles, but with the living tradition of the Church.

    Creation is fallen. It is humanity's role to cooperate with God to restore it. As such, miracles are not the exception, but rather they are normal. In the experience of the Church, miracles occur every day. Through our cooperation and participation, God is working all the time within HIs creation. He doesn't give away miracles as if they were a limited commodity, He just allows us to experience reality as He intended it to be. Divine magic in a fantasy RPG is a simple way to represent this reality.