By Mark Kamibaya
The character archetype system (roles that characters play in a story) is used by many authors. It was invented by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (basically Sigmund Freud version 2.0 but without all the libido). Carl Jung broadened the field that Sigmund Freud revolutionized. He coined the labels extrovert, introvert, sensing, feeling, thinking, and intuiting (the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Types) and gave authors character archetypes.
According to the original list by Carl Jung, there are twelve archetypes: the Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Caregiver, Explorer, Rebel, Creator, Lover, Jester, Sage, Magician, and Ruler, none of which are bound by genre. Some of the terms are deceiving (such as the Magician), but upon inspection they are considered common. (The Magician is merely someone who has mastered a special ability or has some secret knowledge. So a leading thinker in a field is a Magician: e.g. Albert Einstein, Carl Jung).
These archetypes pervade all of myth and story. Pick a story and choose a character. You’ll see an archetype or a combination of archetypes in that character. This can also apply to biblical characters. Ruth is a Lover and Caregiver. Jonah is an Explorer and Rebel. David is a Hero, Rebel, Everyman, and Ruler. Paul the Apostle is a Caregiver, Sage, and Magician.
But then there is the character: God. He is obviously the Creator, the Ruler, and the Magician. But what about the other archetypes? Rebel. Jester. Explorer. Can God be any of those? Surely not. God is not a Rebel because He cannot rebel against an authority; He is the authority. God is not an Explorer because He is omniscient. God is not a Jester because . . . well, He can’t be, can He? Let’s find out by going back to the beginning: Genesis.
A Biblical View of Human Identity
Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .” This cannot be talking about form because God is a spirit. We are not spirits.
God declares that He will make man in His image. That can’t mean Adam because the verse continues by stating that He will let “them” have dominion over fish and fowl and cattle and earth. God is referring to mankind—the human species. “Let us make the human species in our image, after our likeness.”
The Hebrew word for “image” is tselem. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries define it as:
From an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, that is, (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence a representative figure, especially an idol: – image, vain shew.
What about “likeness”? Again, Strong’s tells us what demûth means:
From H1819; resemblance; concretely model, shape; adverbially like: – fashion, like (-ness, as), manner, similitude.
After our “resemblance.” We are modeled after God. We are like God. Now put those two words together. We, as humans, are a model of God. A representative figure of God. Not of His form, but of His manner. We are a shadow of who He is.
A Biblical View of God
When we look at the God of the New Testament, we behold His mercy and grace, love and kindness, and sovereignty and power. God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us. That is true love and mercy.
When we look at the God of the Old Testament, we see something seemingly different. He is jealous. He is angry. An all-powerful being who has the highest number of kills to His name.
The dichotomy is strong. But you have to realize that the God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament. In the New Testament, God also kills and gets angry. In the Old Testament, God seems to be even more personally invested in humans than in the New. In both the Old and the New, He is holy, just, mighty, and righteous. And we were made in the image of that God.
Just like God, we can be jealous and angry. Just like God, we can crave justice and give mercy. Just like God, we have “free will.” The hot emotions that we feel when we are rebellious. The wonder and excitement we experience when we face the great unknown. The warm, fuzzy sensation when we fall in love. The delight when we use our wits and will to dupe others. These emotions are from God, although sin has tainted them.
How God Fits into Character Archetypes
Archetypes are basically masks that, as in Greek plays, a character wears depending on his present motivations. But “masks” or “roles” are not learned. Carl Jung believed that character archetypes are inherent in every human being. “Primordial images,” he called them. And he was correct, because there is a primordial image in all of us: God’s image.
In light of this, can God be a Jester or Rebel? An Innocent or Everyman? No. God isn’t even a Creator-Magician-Ruler combination. Archetypes are merely roles rooted in someone’s psyche and stemming from his motivations. And God is so much bigger than that. His ways and thoughts are higher than man’s—even as high as heaven is above the earth. You cannot fathom God’s psyche or His motivations. And you definitely cannot delineate God into an archetype, because God wasn’t created in the image of man. Man was created in the image of God. God doesn’t fit into character archetypes. Character archetypes fit into God.
But how do the more nefarious archetypes of the Rebel and the Jester relate to God? Since man was created as a shadow of God, our innate emotions derive from Him. Except sin has corrupted them. Love has turned to lust. Hate against sin has turned into hate against authority. Delight in the creation of good has turned into delight in the creation of trouble.
What about the simple archetypes of the Everyman and the Explorer? Just as we connect with the Everyman, so God desires a personal relationship with us. Just as we have a drive to “know what’s out there,” so God is “what’s out there.”
Just as we were created in the image of God, so archetypes are an image of man.
Applications for Writers
Do your characters have dichotomous personalities? If God has a complex, “dichotomous” personality, your characters should as well. Surely you want realistic characters. So model them after their creator. Make their personalities conflicting with more than an ounce of duplicity. (How to Create An Intriguing Character)
But aren’t archetypes kind of one-dimensional? Yes, they are. So don’t stop at archetypes. Go beyond them. An archetype is effective for a character introduction because it registers directly in a reader’s mind. A reader immediately (subconsciously) recognizes the character as a certain archetype. But as the book progresses, as you reveal your character, make her wear different masks and play different roles. Show her contrasting characteristics.
Another question to contemplate is whether the God of your story is one-sided and one-dimensional. May it not be so! God is even more vivid than human beings. How many times have we sacrificed a realistic portrayal of God for writing a “good” story? Too many times, I fear. Don’t just show His judgment, show His mercy. Don’t just manifest His kindness, manifest His anger. He is a multi-dimensional character if ever one existed. Do Him justice. But don’t halt there.
Is God an active player in your story, either implicitly or explicitly? Is He present at all in your novel? This is clearly where fantasy authors draw the line, right? Wrong. A realistic, modern novel must contain an element of faith or religion, and so should a fantasy novel. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were able to weave God into their worlds.
Finally, do you personally see God this way? If this view of God has shocked you, then you need to read the Bible more. The Bible is rife with examples of a “contradictory” God. A God who is holy and simultaneously jealous, proud, and hateful. A God who is the greatest, most powerful judge, but also merciful, loving, and the giver of grace. And the starkest contrast of all: the God-man, Jesus Christ. This is God as He truly is.
Whenever you study Him in the Bible, take a moment to gaze upon His glory and marvel at Him. Realize that this is the God you serve in your life and that you are unworthy of serving Him. That is why you must do all for His glory. With every action you take, every story you tell, and every word you type, you are proclaiming who God is and how you feel about Him. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Mark Kamibaya is a seventeen-year-old American/Filipino/Japanese missionary kid who currently resides in the Philippines. He has loved stories his entire life and has written numerous short stories, poems, and a few scripts, all while working on his debut novel. Still digging deeper into the theory of the craft, he plans to churn out God-glorifying stories for the rest of his life. Besides writing, Mark’s hobbies include fitness, filmography, and finding out about God.