Dorothy L. Sayers offered a very interesting hypothesis in an essay she wrote long ago. It goes something like this.
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. If the author is a good one then the story fits within a self-consistent world. Each character and setting has a backstory that supports the plot. Characters are born, are shaped by childhood experiences, become educated or not, and venture out into the world where we meet them. The settings that the characters inhabit have histories and origins. Someone had to dig the foundations, build the walls and pave the roads. These beginnings are often untold but are clearly important and materially affect the story.
Although also untold, the characters have futures. Some could rise to great heights while others come to ignoble ends. The settings might tumble to ruin or rise to new grandeur. They might be swept up by titanic forces of destruction or innovation or remain just as the author portrayed them in the story. Ultimately, the backstory influences and carries the story as if it already happened or will happen in the future.
A good author desires that we enter into and identify with the story and characters. The author starts their story as late as possible in the action to enhance the story’s drama. They prevent unnecessary author intrusion by introducing materials through view-point characters. They craft clear transitions from scene to scene and chapter to chapter to enhance the story’s momentum. All these techniques aid our understanding and appreciation of the author’s story.
Classical analysis suggests the story must follow a narrative arc where the main character, or protagonist, comes to understand their goal and the penalty for not attaining it. The protagonist then struggles to attain the goal while overcoming obstacles. He or she makes a key decision or performs a heroic act to ultimately realize the goal or fail tragically, sometimes in opposition to a key adversary. Next, the protagonist uses the results of the decision or act to progress toward the goal while contending against adversaries or unfavorable circumstances. Finally, the protagonist confronts the adversary and either wins or loses bringing about resulting consequences.
With this background, what if a perfect Author existed with a completely consistent imagination? An Author, unlike human ones of limited capability, who was able to bring forth Their story with substance and overwhelming power. Suppose They decided to create an immense and ancient universe with a comprehensive history. Within that universe, they formed our Earth. And in, on and around it, They placed all that we have or will ever find: minerals, gems, fossils, fuels, animals, water, air and such. And They did all this so that everything created pointed to the Author’s eternal power and divine nature. No mere cosmos written on paper but in reality.
What if They decided to skip ahead for drama’s sake and populated the Earth with us — actually, just with our original parents — and gave them one rule to obey in a garden they would tend. Suppose They provided our parents with an adversary who hated their very existence and wanted them to disobey that rule?
Having planned the outcome, the Author provided means for our parents to be restored once they failed, yet outside their former relationship – separated from the Author – experiencing death even while they lived. Why would the Author have done all this to have it end in tragedy? Perhaps the Author had a greater plan in mind.
Our first parents offspring did amazing things, some good and some desperately evil. The adversary ruled through death and each generation died one by one when their time was up. After a cataclysmic flood wiped the Earth clean, eight souls repopulated it. Later, one man, although past his prime and as good as dead, believed the Author’s word that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Later still, the Author established a people from that one man to represent Themselves to the world. These people received laws and ordinances which set them apart from all other nations. Failure to obey these laws meant certain death. The people failed to see that the laws were impossible to keep apart from the kind of trust in the Author that their ancestor had shown. They rejected call after call from the Author’s representatives to trust and obey the Author.
After the Author’s people rejected all the representatives who had come before, the Author sent the Son in the world as one of them. The Author always planned on entering directly into the story when the time was right. The Son perfectly obeyed the laws given to Their people and thereby deserved life and not death. However, the Son took the evil of those who were His upon Himself in a death perpetrated by that hateful adversary from the garden long ago.
Having overcome death through an indestructible life, the Author created a new people. At first, They drew from the original people. But soon, They called out new ones throughout the world. All of these followed the Author through the Author’s written words and the Author’s Spirit. The adversary, knowing his time was limited, raised up opposition to the new people and sought to lead them astray. Perhaps the adversary could still win?
However, the Author has given Their people aid against their adversaries. And They enter once more at the end of this story to rescue Their people, mete out justice to the opposition and vanquish the adversary. Finally, the Author promises sequels filled with peace and rest for those who trusted and obeyed and filled with never-ending torment to those who opposed.
The scientific among us would declare this position is unfalsifiable. Some call it the ‘Last Thursday’ hypothesis as if that terminology were derisive. However, one of their own declared a theory is only unfalsifiable to those without the imagination to figure out how to do so. I would claim you are undertaking the test at this very moment and its conclusion awaits only your demise. Then you will know the outcome. Then, of course, it will be too late to change your bet. The die would be cast and the case closed. No study grant or Nobel Prize for you.
Maybe, on the other hand, you realize that you are part of the Author’s story. It is happening all around and in you this very moment. Now that you know the Author’s ending, what will you decide to do? Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. How will yours end?