The Fifth Act

I ran across an old blog by John Mark Hicks, a Bible professor at Lipscomb. John Mark has all kinds of connections here at Denbigh. His father was the preacher in the church where Lynn grew up, so they’ve been friends forever. John Mark and I were old camp buddies, and we were at Freed together. John Mark held a seminar for here at Denbigh several years ago, and Lynn and I have him at Pepperdine for several years now. You can read some of John Mark’s works at his web site.

In his blog, John Mark compares our lives as Christians today “living out biblical theology” to a troop of Shakespearean actors performing a play. The analogy isn’t perfect, but then no analogy is. I thin this one does a good job capturing our task as people who live in God and under the Bible.
Our life in Christ is analogous to a group of Shakespearean groupies who have newly discovered a five act play by Shakespeare. It was previously unknown. But the problem is that the last act is missing. We only have the first four acts. The last act is lost. Suppose, however, these scholars, actors, etc., want to perform this play. How can they perform it without the last act? They will have to improvise. In order to do so, they have to "live and breathe" the works of Shakespeare. They will know all his other works, thoroughly know this present play, understand how his mind works, etc. With their "Shakespearean mind" they write and perform the final act as they imagine Shakespeare would have written it.

The analogy is.... We have Scripture which bears witness to the mind of God in Christ. We have the first act-Creation. We have the second act--Israel. We have the third act--Christ. We have the fourth act--the early Church (Acts & the Epistles). We are the fifth act. And we currently perform that fifth act as best we can imaginatively enter into the mind of God in Christ. We live out that mind; we perform the fifth act on the basis of the first four acts.

John Mark goes on to point out that we don’t have a script for living the Christian life in the 21st century. We come across many questions and issues that could not possible be addressed directly in the Bible. I had a professor that was once asked to speak at big a philosophic conference in Europe on “The Bible and In Vitro Fertilization.” Where do you look in the concordance for verses on that—under “I” or “V?” No matter where you look, you won’t find it there. You won’t find specific verses on the Christian and gene splicing, thermonuclear war or recycling. Our (post)modern world brings us in congress with many issues not addressed in the Bible. All we can do is to we seek the mind of God in Christ through the first four acts of the play, and then seek to live out what God would have written had He written the fifth act.

John Mark adds that God has written the sixth act of the play. We know how the story ends. There will be a new heaven and earth where there is no more of the props that dominate the first five acts-- death, mourning, crying and pain. God will make everything new. That is God’s own breathtaking conclusion to the drama of the cosmos. All we have to do is immerse ourselves in acts 1-4 so that we can Biblically improvise our little part in act 5. If we do that, we will be center stage with Jesus taking our bow after the final curtain.