Faith in Play #2: Portals

This is Faith in Play #2: Portals, for January 2018.


I’m going to begin this with a bit of a theology lesson, continue with a some words from a song I wrote a few years ago, and then tie it back to our fantasy and science fiction stories and games.

One of the things that is confusing for many Christians is the idea of being saved, in the ongoing sense. After all, the Bible sometimes suggests that we were saved, at some past moment when we repented and turned to Christ, and then sometimes that we will be saved, at some future moment when either we die or the world comes to an end and we land in heaven with God, but sometimes that we are being saved, right now, in the present as an ongoing process. We might justly ask which is true, but we can see in that case that it is not at all unreasonable for all three of those statements to be equally true: at a moment in the past we were rescued, and God’s continuing work is moving us from lost to saved, so that in the future we will be among those rescued.

What really confuses, though, is the notion that we are already in heaven. That’s a bit of eschatology (that is, the study of last things) which a lot of people just say isn’t so, and yet the fact is that we are new creations, and thus part of the new creation, which is the thing that comes into existence to replace the old creation, and that’s why it’s confusing—until we get the eschatology straight.

Before Jesus came, most Jews had a pretty straightforward concept about what we would call the end of the world. We then were living in something sometimes called “this present evil age”. Those who believed that a Messiah, an anointed deliver from God, was coming believed that upon his arrival he would end “this present evil age” and usher in “the age which is to come”. One of the reasons many Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah was that after He was gone “this present evil age” was still around. Yet what the New Testament tells us is that is certainly true, that Jesus did not yet end “this present evil age”, but He did begin “the age which is to come”. Those who turn to Christ are immediately brought into the Kingdom of God, the Age Which Is to Come, in a word, Heaven. We are already there. The weird part, though, is we are also still here, in this present evil age. That is, we have existence in two worlds, two universes, two dimensions at the same time. The process of salvation, that aspect of “being saved” now, is a process of removing you from this present evil age (or if you prefer removing the present evil age from you) and making you more and more part of the Age Which Is to Come. Eventually you will no longer be part of this world at all; eventually this world will be eliminated, and no one will be part of this world—but everyone who has already become part of the Age Which Is to Come will continue in that world. That is the transformation that is happening to us.

A few years ago I recognized an aspect of this that I captured in a song in which the chorus—the very short and simple chorus—says Passing through the portal to the new world. It also says

Leaving this wicked old world behind
Changing my heart, renewing my mind;
Oh! And did I fail to mention
I’m traveling to a new dimension?
Passing through the portal to the new world.

Crossing the bridge, the bridge is a cross;
All that was gain I’ve counted as loss
No, it’s not my imagination,
I’m moving into the new creation,
Passing through the portal to the new world.

I’ve come to say goodbye.
You needn’t ask me why:
I’ve turned my eye
To the new world,
To the new world

Passing through the portal
I become immortal,
Passing through the portal to the new world.

And by now you should see the connection.

What I realized was that all those portals—the wardrobe and painting and others in Narnia, and particularly the doorway to the stable (although the wood between the worlds is a wonderful name for one); the dimensional gateways, the star gates in Stargate, even the versing in Multiverser—are all wonderful metaphors for this aspect of moving from one universe to another, of leaving behind the old world and becoming part of the new world. That’s what we are doing. Everyone else is imagining doing it, sometimes hoping to do it, but we are really experiencing it.

That’s an interesting discussion point, if nothing else.

Previous article: Reintroduction.
Next article: Javan’s Feast.

3 comments

  1. Bryan says:

    Regrettably, I gave away my copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, so I can’t quote him directly. Nevertheless, he speaks of a common feature in most (he would say “all,” but I’m skeptical of such a claim) fiction: the Crossing of the Threshold, in which the hero leaves the ordinary world to enter a “special world” where the adventure occurs. Near the end of the story, they pass back into the ordinary world, but the final test is yet to come. After triumphing over this final test, the hero returns home with The Elixir, which transforms the world itself or grants the hero the mastery of both the normal world and the special world.

    The mystic in me can’t help but wonder if this seemingly-universal pattern in our stories is, in fact, an echo of the only Real Story there is?

    • I’m not sure how to respond to that without one of those “thumbs up” buttons, but I tend to agree.

      C. S. Lewis somewhere suggested that all the mythologies of the world were intended to prepare people for the truth.

      I read somewhere that when Christianity reached Great Britain, the leading druids came to hear the message, and having heard it they returned and announced that the truth had arrived and they would no longer be leading druidic rituals, which were to be replaced by the new faith. I think of that whenever I hear of people trying to discover and revive druidism.

  2. Dawnita says:

    I totally agree. I spent a lot of my early years as a homeschool mom totally avoiding anything mythical or magical. Some of it was because I had been raised in the new age and needed a major house cleaning. Our study of Biblical Creation brought a lot of myths and legends back with a new perspective. After immersing myself and the children in the Bible for about ten years, a pastor reintroduced Tolkien and CS Lewis to us. I was able to see it in a whole new light. I’m very careful to make sure we compare everything to scripture, but we’ve definitely found that God can use anything to make his point. I’m really enjoying these studies.

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