THE BLOG
09/10/2013 12:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 10, 2013

God's Guidance of the Ethical Evolution of our Species

Here's an excerpt from my new book And God Said, "Billy!"

One may nurture, respect and love tradition and yet grow in the light of the logic of our traditions' heart. We can do this when we realize that creation is happening continuously and that we're at the start of our formation not at the end of it.

For instance, when I watch a Shakespeare play I wish to hear it performed in the original language not rendered in some dreadful "with it" modern English. This is not a moral issue but one of aesthetics.

On the other hand in Shakespeare's day boys and men played all the women's roles. So some traditionalist might insist that a commitment to the "changelessness" of Shakespeare's plays demands that we continue to exclude women from acting the women's roles in his plays. Yet today even though I am a traditionalist when it comes to defending the peerless language of the plays (not to mention our venerable liturgies) I'm also grateful that actual women actors now play the women's roles. I'm grateful because I honor God's guidance of the ethical evolution of our species and also because this evolution results in better plays.

I also think that this evolution honors Shakespeare's deepest (if unconscious) creative intent. Women's rights make Shakespeare's plays better because women play females better than males do. The wonderful roles he wrote are now played by the women he wrote the roles about before he could have imagined that someday the liberating logic contained in his "condescending" to write great parts for women -- and thereby paying them the complement of giving "his" females psychological depth equal with his male roles -- would eventually benefit actual women everywhere by inspiring people to change the way they viewed women.

We can have it both ways: defend the best of tradition, for instance our glorious religious liturgies and the English of Shakespeare's glorious language, and yet move forward because we know that God's creation of Creation is ongoing and will never complete.

If creation is judged changeless and "complete" -- say in the frozen "roles" of men and women -- and if rules cannot be changed, then that militates against the idea that God is infinite. Stasis binds God to time and place, and therefore He, She or It is no longer God.

For instance we can keep our liturgies intact and yet edit out the openly anti-Semitic language found in many Lenten services that is a holdover from a less enlightened age. In doing so we prove that we've actually been instructed by the deeper meaning of our liturgies, whatever the surface blemishes were that once had a time and place but do not have resonance today...

Do we follow what the Bible says or what it means? Do we follow what Shakespeare (as a man of his time) did in his day "about" women (exclude them) or the heed the deeper internal logic of his writing wherein irrespective of who played women's roles in his theatrical company, he gave his female characters full equality with his male characters in a prophetic forward looking manner unknown in his time?

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the first bloggers on Huffington Post. His new book is AND GOD SAID, "BILLY!"