Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Work of Christ Portrayed by John White

We have recently finished reading Gaal the Conqueror, volume two of John White’s Archives of Anthropos series. I previously reviewed volume 1, The Sword-Bearer.

I plan to review this book soon, but in the meantime, here is an extended excerpt in which White portrays the work of Christ at the cross. I thought this section was particularly well done. I was moved reading it and could not suppress a wide smile and triumphant gesturing as I read. You probably have to read the whole thing to appreciate this section, but I will try to capture it here in excerpt. A few explanations of characters are needed. Gaal is the Christ-figure- Son of the Emperor, incarnate to redeem creation. The satan figure is here portrayed as a bull (though he changes forms often in the story). John and Eleanor are the children from our world who have been transported to Anthropos. The first Regent (from the previous volume) portrays Adam. Anthropos is inhabited by various creatures, but humans only entered the world once the Regents (Adam and Eve) came. All the humans are thus descendants of the Regents. Pontificater is a winged horse (but if you read the book he is more complicated!).

“ ‘It is true that you will kill me,’ Gaal said. ‘you were a murderer from the beginning, and you are a murderer still. But when you kill me, it will be only as a knife kills a victim, a knife in the hands of a greater executioner. We both serve the interests of a higher justice – I willingly, knowing what I do, you as a fool and a liar.’
The bull roared so suddenly that John and Eleanor both jumped. It was hard to say whether it roared with rage or with laughter.
‘Justice? What is justice? Only power matters now.’ It raised its head and shook it slowly from side to side as though it marveled at Gaal’s stupidity. ‘Even now you fail to grasp reality. You are not the victim of justice but my victim. Do you hear? My victim!’
‘Not so,’ Gaal replied quietly. ‘I am the victim of the One who must be true to himself! He is the real executioner, and his alone is the sacrifice. You are nothing more than an implement in his hand.’”

“ ‘Word, words, nothing but words!’ the bull bellowed. ‘Your only weapons are the words that come out of your mouth. Justice is a word – nothing more. What can words do? I have power. You die because I choose to kill you. The game is over. You are between my hoofs. I have won! Do you suppose I do not know you, Son of the Emperor? Ho, ho! The son himself’
‘You are forgetting something,’ Gaal replied quietly.
‘I never forget anything.’
‘You forget that I am also the last Regent. As the Son I do not fight with such as you. You were my servant once. But I am not only the Son.’
The bull’s eyes had narrowed to slits. It had ceased to paw the ground. ‘Well – and what of that?’ it said.
‘You deceived and defeated the first Regent!’
‘Just as I have defeated you.’
‘And so you have ruled his descendants as a tyrant.’
‘So I have come as a Regent. I come to do what the first Regent failed to do – to overcome your tyranny and to undo what the first Regents did.’
The bull dipped its head in mock reverence. ‘And how will you do that, my Lord Last-Regent?’
‘You deceived the first Regent. You have not deceived me.’
‘But I have defeated you. What else matters?’
‘Not so. I am the last Regent, and I will give you a mortal wound. You will live for a time, and you will know you are defeated. It is not you who will defeat me. I am the one who will defeat you. I live forever.’
Then the bull roared yet more loudly, ‘Let us see!’ Lowering his head to the ground he rushed at Gaal. Gaal stood still as the black mass pummeled the ground in its race toward him. John lurched. Eleanor screamed. Suddenly the bull gored Gaal with one of his horns, tossed him high in the air and watched him disdainfully as he fell to the ground, to lie in unnatural stillness like a cursed and broken thing.

The bull raised its head and shook it, opening wide its throat and bellowing in triumph, ‘Now let the vultures pick at your bones! Your words were brave, but your strength was feeble. And as I have dealt with the Son, so shall I deal with the Emperor himself!”

[Gaal though wounded rises to finish his work by striking down the bull]
The bull had also knelt, and its head fell wearily forward. Sword in hand, Gaal surveyed it. He spoke softly but his words were clear, seeming to float through the still air to the most distant watchers with the greatest clarity. ‘Your time has come,’ he said. ‘Your power has now been broken, and death has lost its sting. For a little while you will make trouble. But your dying is now beginning.’ The bull made no sound.
Gaal placed his sword on the ground, strode to the bull and placed his right foot on the creature’s head. Then seizing the horn nearest him he tugged at it, tearing it
from the bull’s head and flinging it aside. The bull gave a roar of pain. He seized the second horn and tossed it aside too. Then he returned to Pontificater, picking up the sword which he raised above his head. Lifting his head skyward he cried with a loud voice that must have echoed among the invisible stars, ‘The task is accomplished! It is ended – done!’” (239-245)

After this Gaal does and later is resurrected. The Adam Christology, allusions to John’s gospel, and illustration of victory through suffering were great! This was a fun book to read which also was full of good theological and practical lessons.


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