December 3, 2020

iMonk Classic: The Playwright’s Son

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
From November, 2005

Once upon a time there was a playwright. While this playwright was the best who ever lived, his passion was not for his plays, but for his son, the greatest actor of his time. The son loved to act, and to bring joy, truth and meaning to audiences of every age and all kind. His gifts were immense, and his talent untapped. This son had played many parts, but had never played a part that truly demonstrated his true talents and potential.

Both the playwright and his son were convinced that, if the right play could ever be created, this young actor could change the world forever.

So the playwright devoted himself to the writing of the greatest play ever conceived, a play that would somehow tell the story of the world, and yet be the story of every person. Yet, above all, this play would finally and undoubtedly reveal the playwright’s son as the greatest actor of the age.

And so the play came to be. The play was written in chapters and scenes, and was played out slowly, over many nights, in a grand auditorium where thousands could attend. After a majestic and complex first act, the son took to the stage for four incredible and magnificent sections of the play. His performance was amazing, yet it was even more than what it appeared. The audience was stunned to see that this actor had, in fact, been in the entire first act, and his wonderful performance left everyone in awe.

The play was the story of this actor. He was its great key and meaning. The tragedy and triumph of this actor became the hope of all who saw his story. Their lives were changed by this performance. It was not just a play; it was a window and an answer into the meaning of life.

The playwright had yet more surprises in store. The second half of the play invited the audience to join the story; to take the truth, power and beauty of what they had seen in the playwright’s son into the darkest corners of the world and into ever facet of their own lives. This play could change the course of life, even the destiny of the world.

When the play’s sublime ending had unfolded, the audience realized that this play was not a simple play at all, but a revelation of this amazing actor and his message of hope and life for all people. This play presented an invitation into a new way of life embodied and presented by the actor in this perfect story. Everyone left the theater realizing they must continue the play themselves.

In years to come, however, the playwright was saddened to discover that the play was largely overlooked in favor of a great interest in….the script. Copies of the script of his play had become massively popular, and his son, while being appreciated as a character in the story, was not truly appreciated as the playwright had intended. The son came to mean little more than a role in a play, while the script came to be almost mysteriously and superstitously revered. The script became the point of discussions and societies. Disagreements broke out, and schools of interpretation were everywhere. Experts arose to debate and defend their views on the script.

These experts on the play grew in influence, and were able to explain everything in the play in detail, usually in ways the playwright found absurd and depressing. The experts had little appreciation of the Great Actor, his message and his significance. They found him interesting only in their debates about the true interpretation of the play. What had been a life-transforming experience became an object of study.

The invitation to live out the remaining acts of the play became something of a tired joke, and the son decided to never play the stage again. But one could go virtually anywhere and find battles and books written about minute details of the script. The actor’s words became the source of more animosity and hostility than love and humility. It was a sad and ironic end to a dream.

The playwright never wrote again, and after a time, there were few who remembered that the true power of the play was the son, and not the script. When someone would ask the playwright what the play was really about, or question the meaning of some detail, he would ask a question in return: “How can you read the play, and not see that it is about my son?”


  1. (lets out long breath, nods sadly)

  2. Wow.

    Certainly sees what I do regarding Bible-worship in lieu of God-worship.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    And the reason I still gag whenever I hear the word SCRIPTURE(TM).

    Because it became nothing more than “Ees Party Line, Comrades!”

  4. Hmm, is Twilight 4 more about its script, its director, or the hearthrob actors?

    Is the “drama” metaphor about the Bible, or life in general? But God did not edit the Bible, and as you know, there are other ways to read it (often Jewish ways) that do not involve Jesus. To what extent “Jesus” the character in the Bible resembles the real-life Jesus is an interesting, and as yet unresolved, historical question. (The same question could also be asked about “God,” except that history is unlikely to be of much help here.)

    As for life in general, let’s just say that God is a rather disorganized director–perhaps one of those avant guard ones who lets the actors do what they want. In fact, one could hardly blame the actors for not knowing which of numerous rival scripts to follow, or indeed, whether there is any script at all.

  5. I like the story, I get the point, and the point needs to be made . . . repeatedly.

    But are we wrong to love the Script? Are we wrong to read its pages, even seek to interpret its words? I came to know the Son largely through reading the Script (I missd the play by 2000 years). Wern’t the Scriptures instrumental in bringing Luther to the son? It was his battle over the script that gave us the Reformation and the traditions and churches that many of us attend.

    Bible worshippers present a wonderful opportunity. Many of them are just waiting to hear the good news about the Jesus of the Bible. I know, because I was one of them.

  6. One more Mike says

    I love these classic posts. Gives us a chance to see again the breadth of Michael Spencers genius. He didn’t use scripture as a club; it was a part of him that breathed and came to life when he wrote about it. This why I rank him with NT Wright and Tom Merton. Thank God for the archives. No telling how well known he’d have been had he lived. I f’in hate cancer.