Christians in the Arts Issue 3: Deus Ex Machina

I’ve heard several different pronunciations of this term, but I believe that it translates to “god from the machine”. This is a term used to describe a plot device when gods, supernatural events, or characters suddenly show up with little buildup within a story and resolve the main characters’ problems, instead of the characters solving their problems themselves.

If you are looking for examples, look no further than the sudden appearance of the Eagles at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I’m sure you’ve heard the argument saying that if Frodo, Gandalf, and his friends had access to eagles that could fly them away from Mount Doom, then why did they not use these eagles to fly them there and drop off the ring from on high? The website How It Should Have Ended shows this ending, and all the Internet has made fun of this type of ending as well.

The reason why I bring this up is many Christians look to their own faith for inspiration for the arts. The problem is that the entire precept of Christian faith is Deus Ex Machina. After all, humanity is a fallen creation that is unable to achieve salvation on their own, which is why Jesus had to die for all of humanity.

There are a lot of Christian works where characters have many problems, often from their own doing, and then get receive the gospel at the end. This is a Deus Ex Machina as the main character’s problems seem to go away in a happy ending.

Personally, I appreciate adding elements of the Christian faith to any work, and I honestly don’t care if they are done correctly. I’ll explain what I mean in another entry, but I believe that what makes a good story is believable characters. Real people have to face their problems on their own, and they have to solve certain problems on their own. Although the salvation one cannot be one without Jesus, that still leaves life.

I’ve seen good examples of shows where characters who have Christian values and still have to deal with real life problems. Tyler Perry has been doing films about this for years, and even though his Madea series might be underused, the other characters in his films deal with struggles. Personally, I wish more Christian people would address Tyler Perry’s films as Christian works, but I get the feeling that they don’t like his addressing of unwanted pregnancy and broken homes that are a real part of life.

When a writer creates a story, they are essentially declaring themselves the god of the universe that they have created. I highly recommend not using anything in that universe that the real God does not use. You might think that Jesus being raised from the dead is a Deus Ex Machina, but this does not “come out of nowhere”, but it is everything that the Old Testament was leading up to. Even the Bible showed the consequences of that, and showed how it affected people. At no point did any miracle solve any problems, but often created more. This is why I support any work that can handle the intervention of God realistically.

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