A Christian Worldview of God, Day 6

The discussion about healing continues, and it is interesting, but I think it sidetracks us from the issue. How do we show GOD in our fiction?

I agree with Beth that writers need to show Him as they know Him. So someone who has experienced God’s miraculous power may choose to include a way of showing God in that light. But showing only that one aspect of God is exactuly what I am talking about—too much Christian fiction paints God in one-dimension.

For example, when I say “miracles,” the discussion turns to healing and stays there. What about the other miracles Jesus performed—turning water to wine, stilling the storms, providing a net full of fish for his weary disciples, telling Peter to pull a coin from the mouth of a fish, feeding thousands of people with a small amount of food? That’s not to mention that I Corinthians 12 actually separates healing from miraculous power:

9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers … (NIV)

Where are the stories today of water to wine?

Now, I know I cited Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River with its depiction of a man walking off the bed of a truck and not falling (the miracle of defying gravity) as an example of the type fiction I’m talking about.

In this case, there was a bigger issue. ***SPOILER ALERT*** In the end, the father dies—steps in front of a bullet—to save his son, but before he expires, he performs a miracle. He trades his healthy lungs for his son’s diseased ones, so the boy not only lives but now thrives, healthy and whole. All the while, the other son, who is a murderer—an unrepentant, vengeful man running from the law—is not even confronted about his sin.

Which boy had the greater need for healing, the one with the temporal need, or the one with the eternal?

Painting God as someone more interested in patching up clay pots than in replicating the image of His Son, in my thinking, is problematic.

After all, we all die. Scripture is clear that this world is temporal. No matter how much faith a person has, in the end he will die unless Jesus returns first. Which puts a bit of a crimp in the notion that healing depends on faith—no one must have enough faith, since in the end, everyone dies.

Eternal God is not short-sighted—He’s looking out for us long-term. Yes, He cares about what happens to us here and now, because He cares about us. But in His caring He longs for us to be like His Son. If our health gets in the way of us becoming like Jesus, what is our health? It is an impediment, an obstacle that has to go. Why would God not remove that?

God also made us to give Him glory. If through our response to sickness we can better glorify Him, then what is sickness? It is a means to the greatest purpose of life. Why would God take that from us?

In other words, God is the great physician, but He is not only the great physician.

Take Lazarus as an example. Jesus purposefully did not go to him when he was sick, in essence refusing to heal him. Martha clearly stated their faith: “Lord, if you’d been here my brother would not have died.” Faith was not the issue. Jesus told his men what it was about:

“Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe
(John 11:14b-15a)

Lazarus had to die to provide for a greater miracle.

So, too, today. These clay pots in which we live will perish. In the process, God is performing a greater miracle than patching pots.

He’s taken those who would be eternally dead because of sin and raised us to eternal life. He is preparing His bride. He is expanding His family. He is growing more branches. And more specifically, more personally, He is fashioning the new life He gave me, so that I am becoming more and more like Jesus.

That’s the God I want the world to know.

Published in: on November 21, 2006 at 12:09 pm  Comments (12)  

12 Comments

  1. As a person who’s been sickly from birth, I can tell you thta healing of the physical sort matters to me. A lot.

    The miracles not related to healing are not as numerous as the ones relating to healing (and resurrections are included in physical healing). He healed, whoo, no doubt hundreds if not more. He only turned water to wine ONCE. He healed multitudes.

    God did not think healing the body–especially in a time when ailments did not have many treatments like today–was of no account.

    I suspect that if one of us were suddenly given the power to sweep through a cancer ward and heal every single one, that quite a few conversions would ensue. I do not doubt many of Christ’s original followers followed him because, in fact, they were able to walk or see or mingle with humanity again.

    Like the Reuben in Peace like a River, I have a lousy respiratory system. It limits my life. There are places I cannot go. Homes I cannot dine in. Multiple hospitalizations. Moments of almost asphyxiation when I made my confession in my mind assuming I was going to die. Guilt over the sacrifices my parents had to make to care for me during nights of wheezing when they still had to go to factory jobs in the daytime. Trust me, physical healing is not a “just’ to folks like me.

    And like Reuben’s dad, my mother would have gladly traded places, sacrificed her lungs for me, so I could breathe easily and run and play without worrying, so I didn’t have to fear that a cold would turn to pneumonia. I suspect that if my brother and I had both been miraculously healed by the prayer of some Christian gifted with healing, something spiritual would have resulted among our families, because we were both famed among relatives for our frail respiratory systems.

    We believe in Christ because he rose from the dead. All faith relies on a miracle, firsthand or secondhand.

    The problem isn’t showing miraculous healings. The problem is how the writers do it. If it’s the razzle-dazzle to make up for an otherwise crappy manuscript…well…. If it’s integrated and makes sense to the plot, the characters, and the worldview…why not.

    The gospels don’t just show one healing and say “Okay, that’s enough.” There are numerous, by Jesus, then more by the Apostles. Clearly, healing of disease matters.

    Mir

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  2. This has been an interesting discussion to watch. Your assertions are very close to my own feelings about the miraculous in Christian fantasy fiction. Where everything seems to revolve around the miracles (from faith to crucial story elements).

    I think that the clearest way to show people God is through the people in the story and their relationship with God and the consequences of their actions and choices in a universe ruled by God as he has revealed it through Scripture.

    Think back to the classics or contemporary books that got you thinking the most about God.

    In Narnia, did you understand God more due to the miraclulous feats performed? Or through the relationship & actions taken by the characters?

    Lord of the Rings?

    Like Becky has been saying, miracles are one way, and can easily become the main way that we try and reveal God in fiction (especially that of the speculative kind).

    But I really think the focus must be first and foremost on the character and how God is revealed in the life of that character.

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  3. I do not think this discussion is in any way meant to lean toward or expose any denominational differences, but inevitably a person’s core doctrinal values will show up in his/her writing just as they have here. No negative finger pointing in this comment intended either. More of an observation.

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  4. Absolutely, Nicole. Some denominations from the start negate miracles. Others assume they are as available today as at any time in history. And the scale is wide from one extreme to the other.

    I find saying “no miracles” boxes God in the smallest box. To talk about healing is at least to have a bigger box. 🙂

    Mir

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  5. Mir, your comments again make my point. Rather than expanding the view of God, too often the focus on miracles is the very thing that boxes Him in.Clearly you disagree, but here’s my observation: I wrote a post all about what God does in us and through us for eternity; your responses centered on physical healing. I believe that is just what happens in realistic fiction when miraculous events are key to the story. All the readers see is the miracle, and God’s nature and even His redemptive acts are put in a secondary place, perhaps obscured altogether.

    Fantasy is another animal. The miraculous is expected and therefore does not draw attention to itself. This is one more reason I write fantasy—so that I can include the miraculous power of God without making that the focul point of who He is.

    Stuart, I appreciate your comment. One thing you said especially resonated with me: But I really think the focus must be first and foremost on the character and how God is revealed in the life of that character.

    As I’ve been doing this mini-series on God, I’ve come to this same conclusion. Just as in real life—Jesus told his men that others would know they belonged to Him by the way they loved each other—I think the characters in our stories should have that like-Christ stamp that identifies them. By showing how they act, then, the author, in essence, is showing how God acts.

    Of course, I still like having a God figure in my fiction, but that’s another discussion. 😉

    Becky

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  6. My comments focus on healing caues y’all were saying how we focus too much on it and it doesn’t happen today or this or that. I was just responding to issues brought up about physical healing, because I don’t think it’s a minimal thing. Maybe healthy people dont’ think aobut it, but sick ones surely do A lot.

    I also don’t like seeing it minimized cause Jesus did so much of it. And when John’s followers came to ask Jesus if he was REALLY the Messiah, what was his answer? How did he validate that he was the One, the Messiah, the one who was to come and save Israel?

    Here’s the passage:

    18The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” 21In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers[e] are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

    He validated his IDENTITY by healing the blind, healing the lame, healing the diseased lepers, healing the deaf, raising the dead(a type of healing), and…lastly, having the poor hear the good news.

    So, of the various six PROOFS of his identity he listed, five had to do with healing.

    I refuse to minimize what Christ did not.

    Mir

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  7. Mir, I have no problem agreeing to disagree. The thing is, I’m hopeful that you’ll understand what it is I am saying. Which of these points do you disagree with?

    *There is more to God than His ability to heal
    *Much Christian fiction shows God in a one-dimensional way
    *Books with miraculous events may obscure God’s other attributes

    I won’t try to change your mind, but I would like to focus the discussion to the points at hand.

    My comments focus on healing caues y’all were saying how we focus too much on it and it doesn’t happen today or this or that. I was just responding to issues brought up about physical healing, because I don’t think it’s a minimal thing.

    If you’ll take a closer look, Mir, I believe you’ll find that only one person voiced the view that miraculous events don’t happen today. I’m not sure what the “this or that” refers to.

    My only comments regarding my belief about healing are in my response to Kameron, Day 4, I think. All else is about the best way to show who God is in fiction.

    Which is why I said your reaction proves my point. This issue is a hot button. When it comes up, people can’t seem to help finding their corners and coming out swinging.

    I have those issues, too, so I’m not saying, don’t defend what you believe, especially what is most close to your heart. Of course you should. I do want you to realize, however, I have made no attack on your position, so you don’t need to continue to defend it.

    Now when Kameron gets back and jumps into the discussion again … then you can address your defense to him. 😉

    Becky

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  8. *There is more to God than His ability to heal
    *Much Christian fiction shows God in a one-dimensional way
    *Books with miraculous events may obscure God’s other attributes

    I agree with one. I don’t agree with two. I don’t agree with three, if I did, it would be like saying, “The Bible, by showing miraculous events, obscures God’s other attributes.” No. How one uses miraculous events can reveal God, as Jesus proved.

    🙂

    Mir

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  9. Oh, I should clarify also that when I say I disagree with 2, I’m saying that most of the Christian fiction I’ve read has an alarming LACK of the spiritual element. It may have a religious one, but not a metaphysical one. The spiritual is sort of a behavioral mechanism with characters (I pray, I go to church, I consider the Bible in my decisions, I support missions.) I’d much prefer to see MORE of the mystical and metaphysical in Christian fiction, because some of my experiences in my moments with God have been mystical. I’ve also had alarming experiences with the demonic. It wasn’t a “fantasy.”. It’s part of my real world. So, I wouldn’t pooh-pooh it.

    I either find the miraculous fits or it does not, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of it outside the fantasy or spiritual thriller genres. Any way, I’m not gonna say the miraculous has no place in “realistic” Christian fiction, or say that we should limit whta types of the miraculous are acceptable. That’s up to the writer and what they need to use or not use. I dare say more people have experienced “supernatural” healing than “supernaturally” found their dinner water glass now holding a nice merlot.

    In fantasy, naturally, any and many miraculous goings on can be part of the order of things. Dekker, Myers, Perretti, et al have wondrous events, and that’s legitimate for their fictional genres. If one posits a world where folks have a variety of special powers, then I’d expect them to be used no differently than talents are used in our own, with whatever limitations or conditions that world requires.

    Mir

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  10. Mir,

    Well, I should have said Fiction with miraculous events may obscure God. I don’t believe that statement because of a disbelief in the miraculous but because of what the topic does to readers.

    I think you’re choosing to use different words than I do when it comes to the second point (Much Christian fiction shows God in a one-dimensional way) but I think we agree in essence. When the sum total of Christian activity is sterotypical outward behavior, I think that is a reflection on God as if He were pleased by such hollow offerings. He is more, and I think He expects more from us.

    I’ve been reading the OT prophets lately and it comes up time and again how the people went through the motions of worship when their hearts were far from God. It is an indictment that ought to have me face down saying, Search me, oh God, and see if there is any wicked way in me.

    Becky

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  11. Much like Stuart, I think the many facets of God can best be revealed through the life-changing power of His Word. Tell a story about how obedience to the will of God altered someone’s worldview and caused them to act in a way that they normally wouldn’t.

    What makes a fantasy story–any story for that matter–great isn’t the bells & whistles, it’s the characters, their motivations and the events that challenge and change them. That’s what allows us, the reader, to identify with them.

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  12. Kameron, I couldn’t agree more as you’ll see in my post today.

    Becky

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