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  • Writer's pictureMark Whitten

Deus Ex Machina

God’s Modus Operandi

Think of Tolkien’s The Two Towers, when Helm’s Deep is surrounded by enemy hoards. The Kingdom of man has entered its day of demise. The fortress breached, supplies and men exhausted, women and children huddled trembling inside the keep, nowhere left to retreat.

With waning strength, Aragorn, the King of Rohan and his mighty men decide to ride out of the keep in one last, heroic, yet suicidal mission, to engrave their legacy, honor and courage in the annals of history as they ride into death.

“Yes! Yes. The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep one last time! Yes! Let this be the hour when we draw swords together! Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn!

There is but little hope. Yet hope is what makes them ride. If not in this life, the next.

And then, at the last possible moment, Gandalf and his troop of white riders, at the first light of the Eastern Sky, storm the gates of death and break the power of Evil, saving the last stronghold of the race of men.

The glimmer of Deus Ex Machina.

What is it? Deus Ex Machina (literally God from the machine) is a plot device, wherein a seemingly impossible situation or utterly unsolvable problem is resolved by an unlikely occurrence.

It happens when an author, intentionally or unintentionally writes himself into a corner and then, as only the author is able to do, resolves the plot situation to the surprise of the audience. In other words, the author plays God, heightening the climatic tension, resolving the conflict, and bringing redemption to a hopeless situation, all the while showing his brilliant ability to bring a remedy.

It may be faux pas for good writers, but it’s the gold standard of story. It keeps us, the commoners, looking for signs in our daily rambles enabling our faith to continue, yea, even grow, by day and by decade. These “coincidental” occurrences permit us hobbits to be the heroes every once in a while, albeit by sheer grace.

See the humility of God: sharing not only his brilliant game theory and inviting us to participate in it; but also His victorious glory, with those of us who are a little lower than the angels.

Without Deus Ex Machina, our literature becomes agnostic. The thing of hope dies and readership becomes a nihilistic task.

Tolkien was a master at Deus Ex Machina as evidenced in his epic tales. For example, in The Return of the King, the good folk once again find themselves facing insurmountable odds. The Nazgul, riding their horrible fellbeasts, reign terror and destruction upon the capital city of Gondor, Minis Tirith. Meanwhile Frodo and Samwise are stranded on a rock island in the midst of rising lava tides with no hope of rescue. And just as we, the audience, come to grips with the possibility of the end of all things...

...the eagles arrive.

Long forgotten in the story line. These hidden heroes arrive to save the day in one fell-swoop of dragon-slaying, hobbit rescuing glory.

Isn’t that just like Messiah?

The cross happened. The tomb was sealed. The disciples dismayed and discouraged.

And yet…Resurrection.

The author and finisher of our faith (always ten thousand steps ahead) seems to enjoy the drama.

Our faith, in the fray of impossible situations, fuels His propensity for dramatic deliverance.

The hope of mankind a sort of cauldron of joy for the one who loves to come through for the people that He loves.

He who enters the house of time from any door or window of His choosing, laughs when little, evil people think they have won the day.

In truth, He allows the drama to reach its perfectly planned pinnacle at the proverbial last minute (when hope is stretched as thin as a thread) to allow faith to rise, to test the hearts of men, to trap the wicked in their wickedness, and to offer final moments of mercy to those who might repent.

He is indeed, later but never late.

And isn’t this where we find ourselves in the world today.

A stolen election. Fraud on every side. Justice thwarted. Backroom betrayal and corruption behind every corner. The hope of the Republic teetering on the edge of becoming a memory. The blood of the unborn crying out. The church compromised and trembling. Patriots and saints sighing in unbelief and tattered faith, yet hope…

Call it conspiracy. Or game theory. Or what have you. The drama is setting itself up nicely. The Author has written Himself into a corner.

In unfortunate truth, most, being wearied and worn-out by such a traumatic year, have already capitulated, resigning themselves to retreat in hopes of fighting another day.

Enter Deus ex machina: God’s modus operandi to shame the wisdom of the “wise” and the misaligned mockers, while exalting those “fools” who held-out for hope.

As we head into January and beyond, let us be the ones who hold-out for hope, knowing that God does not ignore the sincere and repentant prayer of those who seek justice, righteousness and liberty.

Though some may think our President a scoundrel, he is nevertheless the scoundrel that God sent. Let us trust the plan, and participate in perhaps the greatest reclamation of liberty and justice the world has yet to see.

Thus, in this day of days, forget not Deus Ex Machina.

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their chains in pieces And tear off their fetter from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”

Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

~Psalm 2

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