The Human Character

Undoubtedly, when I say "the human character" you will understand me to mean something like "a character which is not an elf, which is not a hobgoblin or a fairy or an animal - a character which is a human being." And in a sense, you would be correct. It's the natural thing to deduct from such a title. But what I mean is more than that, more splendid and rather deeper than just "a human." I mean THE Human. I mean Man.

Anthropology, in a biblical light, is an unavoidable course for me, but neither is it an unpleasant one. Biblically, Man is the greatest of all creation, the noblest, the most complex: he is wildly fantastic at an essential level, the place in which rational spirit and physical body come together into a single whole. He is the lord of creation, he is the fallen king, he is the redeemed figure of clay.

But what does all this pedigree of Man have to do with writing? Well, we mustn't put the cart in front of the horse. IT doesn't necessarily have something to do with WRITING, but WRITING must have something to do with IT. As in all things, philosophy colours actions both physical and intellectual. At this point, I am discussing the intellectual, and I trust it is well worth at least a brief look-over.

From the vantage point of a Christian mind, when I handle the Human Character, I must take into account Hamartiology and Soteriology: the studies of Sin and of Salvation. These impact the Nature of the Human Character. In two diagrams we observe the ripple effect of these two truths: Man sinned, creation fell; Man was saved, creation has been redeemed. At a fundamental level, this will be an undercurrent to Christian writing both Fictional and Non-Fictional. These two circumstances are as unavoidable to Christian philosophy as Anthropology is to my own personal study. The Human Character is going to be impacted by both of these camps all throughout its tenure in any given story: at first the Human Character may be in the Wholly Sinful camp, at which points its nature is to sin; and later on the Human Character may be in the Redeemed camp, at which point its nature is to be righteous, but is still combating, from within and without, the tendencies to sin.

Now, whether the thrust of your story is to chart this course or not, you must at least touch upon the undercurrent of the Nature of the Human Character. I have read characters in stories that professed to have one Nature (a redeemed one) and acted for all the world like die-hard sinners. Why? It is possible that the author didn't take the time to look at the Nature of the Human Character, and thus failed to pull off a well-constructed, realistic representation of Man.

A lot of people tend to take the approach of observing one Nature give way to the next. And that is very good. But so many people do that I choose, myself, to take a rather different tact: I observe the two Natures in complete opposition of each other. This is also biblical, and it is a tact more sustainable over a story-arch.

For our struggle is not again flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

I have found David My servant; with My holy
oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; my arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He will cry to Me, 'You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.' I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven.

This is the Nature of the Redeemed Human Character: to do good always, to love the light and everything that is in the light, to love God and to obey him forever. This is an end to which I push in my own writing: to get a clearer glimpse through the obscuring darkness of what that Nature looks like, to break down the encroaching hum-drum roll of life and see the colossus that is the Human Character. This is not an easy thing to do. We easily lose sight of Man when we are faced with the overly large woman at the check-out at the store, or the man singing horribly off-key in the pew behind us at church. Mankind is just kind of flimsy and shabby and rather ridiculous.

But is it? Is it really? Aren't we confusing this earthen vessel for the Nature - no, the Essence - of Man? Let's go deeper. (Deeper, Jenny? Yes, deeper.) We touched on the Nature of the Human Character. Now we're going to get to the Essence of the Human Character, that which makes the Human Character what it is, and nothing else.

Throughout history, actions against Man such as murder have always been considered crimes, not against society, but against a Natural Law, a law which is fixed, immovable, which has always been, and which no one has refuted with success. Why? The Human Character is universally corrupt save where it has been Redeemed. What is to say that a wholesale slaughter of the Corrupt Human Character by itself is not a bad thing? It's because there is more to the Human Character than its mere Nature. 'Man' is not an attribute as something like 'mammal' or 'reptile' is: 'Man' is what the Human Character irreducibly is. This is his Essence. But what is his Essence? What makes it any different from any other Essence? What makes Man, even in his Corrupt Nature, to be something worth keeping around on at least a temporal level? What is it at the core of his being, unchanged by corruption, which still makes him Man?

The Image of God.

This, we could call it, is the Irreducible Minimum of Man's Existence: that he is made in God's image. Without this, he is no longer Man. This is why Man is the lord of creation. He is the best and the brightest by virtue of his archetype. This is Human. This cannot be reduced or destroyed even through his own corruption, for when a thing changes essence, it itself no longer exists: therefore, it never changed at all. All human dignity, all morality, must hinge upon Man being what he is, made in the image of God.

We're on our way out from the philosophical depths into the pragmatic application. After all that, we're coming back around to writing. How does this impact my writing? I look on the Human Character as something fantastic. Not unbelievably fantastic, not mythical: and yet having the properties of the mythical, and even ends which are almost too much to believe. This is what I like to touch on in my writing, the renewed Human Character, of which Christ is the first-fruits: the lonesome hero who is not alone, the unearthly and at the same time far more elemental figure, terrible but never afraid, the great colossus: Man.

2 ripostes:

  1. I've just found another favorite blog: the Penslayer. =) The way you words things is wonderful and I love how you penetrate to the very core of a matter. This post was absolutely fascinating and I look forward to reading more!

    ~ Liz

    P.S. Thanks for following Awake! =)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Liz! I was a little worried about this post, and hoped that I would be able to condense all my muddled thoughts into a coherent body of words. I'm glad you understood me. :P And thanks, too, for following Penslayer!