The Perfect Plot: Philemon, Hebrews 1 – 2

Forgive Your Brother. Hierarchy: God, Son, Angels, Man, Beast.

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.”
Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)

I have always liked my fiction and movies to be messy, leading some of my friends and family to label my tastes “dark.” I certainly wouldn’t deny that assessment – I loathe squishy rom-coms and neatly tied plots. Grittiness tends to win out for me, even though I avoid gross out violence of any kind (from war to torture porn, it doesn’t really matter – not a fan). I like plots that are complex, even esoteric – I want to search for the meaning rather than having it handed to me on a platter.

In essence, I’m a 2001: A Space Odyssey kind of guy – not Interstellar (which was objectively garbage).

The Bible has a classic good vs. evil plot with little gray areas in large swaths, but more complexity the closer you look at it. God created the universe but favored one planet – Earth. On it, He put humans who were meant to tend the planet, as long as they would remain faithful to their Creator. They sinned, and for a long, long time, everyone kept sinning. Then, God decided to send a perfect example of man, who was also God Himself, in the form of Jesus to save all of us.

I think that would be a nifty little Amazon description for the Bible. Maybe.

But there’s one thing that the New Testament keeps mentioning that puts a bit of a wrench in the story. God planned it all to happen this way before time was even created. So He knew that creating man would lead to their fall, knew that they would one day need to be saved, and knew that things would one day be righted again into perfect harmony. In essence, He has created Earth as a testing ground for man – who is worthy of paradise and who is not. And He’s God so, He can do whatever He wants.

The “dark” critic inside of me goes… then why do it at all? Doesn’t this seem like a strange story that begins at stasis and returns to that same stasis? Couldn’t God just smush the Devil with his pinky, if He is all-powerful?

The religious answer is “count it as one of the mysteries of God.”
The atheist answer is “SEE, THIS is what we’re talking about!”

After a brief read of a brief book (sorry Philemon, I have 20 entries left and I just have to move on), I started to read Hebrews, which aims its sights on both the certainties and mysteries of God. We hear about the “Son” (meaning Jesus) and how he is fully human, yet above the angels, perfect in creation and practice. Then, the writer mentions God’s plan – that from the beginning of time, He planned to send the Son to Earth to suffer, so that grace might be made available to those who seek it, thus destroying the Devil’s power over death. Jesus was sent for humans (referred to as “Abraham’s descendants”), not angels, which is a distinction that is notable for how specific it is.

So in two chapters, we got the Devil, angels, the Son, and all of humanity. We got the beginning of an explanation as to how God’s plan works, and what we should expect from it.

This book will be both complex and yet classic, and we’ll see if my ambivalence holds.