Drama and the humble God

Here is the third talk in our journey through Exodus as an analogy of redemption. In this talk we explore Exodus through the lens of drama.  Of course, the whole Bible is in essence a drama in that it is a narrative or story grounded in events rather than abstract ideas. So we have to discern the ideas that the story generates. And in a way that is not a closed book – simply because the ideas are about God and his work and that is eternal.

I use the legendary work of a great scholar of literature and philosophy, Edmund Burke, to unpack ‘drama’ for us and so give us the ability to go a bit deeper. A great friend of mine, Richard Buchanan, once told me that the breakthrough intellectually on any topic was the first level of declension after the big word…. So ‘drama’ is a big word, and a bit too big to do much with. But Burke’s five terms takes us one level down and gives us something to work with.

Actually I use the ‘drama’ schematic in both this talk and the next one. In this talk I look at the theological and philosophical suggestions of using ‘drama’ as the structure for a divine text. It is a pretty simple but profound idea: most religious texts present us with precepts or axioms – kind of like a rule book.

But ‘drama’ is utterly different. It is much more mysterious and leaves a lot of work up to us to figure out what is going on.

But drama that includes the divine does something else – it implies a very different conception of ‘God’ and his ‘working’ to the normal picture most of us have of the omnipotent God – and that is what I unpack in this talk.The book of Burke’s that I quote from is called “A Rhetoric of Motives” – it is pretty heavy and only for the literary minded. But the word ‘motives’ captures the essence of his theory of drama – it a genre about intent. And that really positions it as appropriate for understanding the Bible as a discourse unfolding God’s intent.

Tony Golsby-Smith

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