The Seven Basic Plots of God’s Story

After thirty years of research, Christopher Booker discovered there are only seven basic plots in most of the stories ever written. Even more, they are all aspects of one universal plot — “In the end darkness is overcome, and light wins the day.”

Mr. Booker believed this incredible fact could be explained by the theories of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. For me, a professing Christian, there is only one possible explanation for why all the stories we write, and love, conform to any standard at all.

If you have been following these newsletters, you know I believe God is speaking to us through stories. There is only one real story, His Story — how everything began, how we changed things, and how God has pursued us ever since. He has been speaking to us in His Word; through His Son, other people and circumstances; and yes, even in the stories we write — trying to rouse us and woo us back to everything true and good.

But He also placed His nature within our hearts, and so we all “know” the real story down deep, even though this may have never occurred to us. This is why the gospel makes so much sense when we do come to faith, but also, if any of us sit down and begin to write what is on our hearts, the real story seeps out. It always will.

And so, let us look at the very same seven plots that Christopher Booker discovered, but in the context of God’s Story. The categories which follow are in the same order as Mr. Booker’s, except for the last two, which have been interchanged. I have included Mr. Booker’s original category titles in parentheses.

This life is a Battle. (Overcoming the Monster)

It is a battle with a superhuman adversary you cannot see or touch. Even more, it is a daily battle with your own heart, a heart that has become so consumed with self and pride, so addicted to the things of this world as an end in themselves, a battle for figurative and literal life and death—although, a battle that on most days you unconsciously elect to remain blind to.

This life is a struggle to learn your true Identity. (Rags to Riches)

On many days, you struggle to feel good about yourself, unconsciously terrified you are inadequate, unworthy, even unlovable. It is a lie, but a lie you will struggle with for the rest of your life. In truth, you are an image-bearer, royalty, the son or daughter of the Living God. Coming to understand this struggle, entering into it, and reclaiming the truth about who you really are is one of the foremost challenges you will ever face.

This life is a Quest to lay claim to a great prize. (The Quest)

Your original ancestors began life in a perfect world with perfect fellowship with God. Eventually, when this life comes to an end, God hopes you will come full circle and be in perfect fellowship with Him again, a fellowship which brings the greatest of all joy, rest, and peace. For the time being, you can begin this quest, and you can begin to experience some of the benefits of the original garden right now. The only remaining question regards your willingness. Will you allow your heart to set out on this internal quest, a quest that will last for the rest of your life?

This life is a Journey from one world to another. (Voyage and Return)

Originally, there was only one world, one kingdom. But ever since Adam and Eve’s original rebellion, there have been two. In truth, in reclaiming the kingdom of God, you will be reclaiming your homeland; but it is so different from the world you have always known that it might as well be a completely different dimension. The kingdom of God can once again live in your heart, but only if you more and more renounce the values and realities of the world you find yourself in, and more and more receive, believe, and lean into the values and realities of God.

This life is a Recognition. (Comedy)

You are more ignorant than you have ever been able to admit, and there is much more to be known than you could have ever fathomed. And the greatest recognition is a self-recognition, accepting just how egocentric and narcissistic you have always been. Only with this recognition can there be a true change of heart; can you move from ignorance to knowledge, from division to wholeness, from darkness to light.

This life is an opportunity for Transformation. (Rebirth)

God wants you to become the person He always meant you to be. Once upon a time, the hearts of mankind were full of perfect love, the purpose for which life was created. Those hearts were contaminated by self and pride when the world of people lost hold of everything that was good and valuable. But God wants more than anything for you to be reborn, for your heart to once again be pure so that you can live in perfect fellowship with Him. But He will never do this without your consent, for He is Love and love can never force. And so, He waits. He waits to be wanted, and for you to ask for this new life.

This life is ultimately a Choice. (Tragedy)

This life has always been about choice: a choice between following God or Satan; between claiming your true self or your false self; between fellowship with the Living God or lost in narcissism; between living in the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of this fallen world; between recognizing the truth of what happened to your heart or deciding to remain blind to this; between being transformed into the new creature God longs for you to be or subsisting as a slave to self and pride; and finally, between living eternity with God or without Him.

And wow . . . I hate to stop after that last paragraph, but we need to. Next time, let’s begin to summarize what the seven basic plots have to teach us.


Welcome, I'm Sam!

A fellow traveler on this journey we call life and this path we call the Christian faith, wanting to share the incredible things God chose to reveal to me. Stories have always been a mirror in which we can see ourselves, if we only look more closely. We are all like the children of Israel in the wilderness, wanting and needing to establish ourselves in the promised land. Stories can help us to get there, and to flourish there.

I can't wait to get to know you!


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