Back from Mount Hermon

Special thanks to those of you who commented these last few days. I’m playing catch-up with mail and laundry and critiques and all after being away at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference since last Thursday.

I’ll have a more thorough report to give and lots of pictures to share. (My friends and neighbors, Gil and Regina, lent me a digital camera, and I had a blast taking snaps I thought A Christian Worldview of Fiction visitors would be interested in.)

For now, I’ll pass along perhaps the most memorable thing I learned … or reviewed, since my source had shared this same information a previous year. I’m speaking of my writing mentor clinic instructor, Gayle Roper. The subject? Christianity.

She said Christianity is best seen as a group of concentric circles. 2The inner circle contains essential doctrines that define our faith—things like belief in one triune God who created heaven and earth and belief in the coequal and co-eternal Son’s blood atonement for the forgiveness of sins. Basic stuff, defining stuff, that all Christians hold in common.

Circle number two holds the distinctives. These are the things contained in Scripture about which Christians disagree regarding their interpretation. This would include such particulars as baptism, communion, eschatology, and the like.

Circle number three contains variables that are cultural. Type of music during the worship service, choir dressed in robes or not, pulpit centered or off-set, acceptance of casual dress or not, drinking in moderation, smoking, ad infinitum. I grew up in a church that discussed such weighty subjects as whether women should wear a head covering or not and whether a piano was appropriate for the church. Actually, these cultural issues may have some overlap with the distinctives category because some found their way into the church because of a particular interpretation of Scripture.

Here’s the key point, though. A church—and a writer—should never confuse the variables with the essentials. Gayle also pointed out that centering themes on the core set of defining elements lets a writer appeal to the largest readership.

What hit me was this idea that some Christians do in fact confuse the cultural with the essential. And some writers—Christian or secular—portray Christians and/or the church as focused on the cultural, not the essential. “Good” Christians are those who don’t do XYZ cultural taboos and who DO do ABC culturally approved Christianly behaviors.

Understand, I am about as conservative as a Christian comes these days, so I am NOT making a critique on anyone’s list. What I think we all must agree on and make Sparklets-distilled-water clear is that adherence to a Do-or-Don’t list does not define Christianity. Above all, a Christian is a person bathed in grace, standing before God on no merit of his own.

Granted, coming before Almighty God changes me, my focus, my purpose, my desires. My life is forever altered. But not in the same way as the Christian down the block or the one across the street or across the country or across the Pacific.

Consequently, in my writing I must not portray that being a Christian means something cultural.

What does God call me to? To love Him with my entire being; to love my neighbor as myself; to take up my cross and follow Him. What do those things look like? How can characters live out those mandates?

Now those are stories I’d like to read. And I don’t think very many of them would look alike.

Published in: on March 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. That’s an interesting take on it. Those circles are a nice illustration.

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