CSFF Blog Tour – On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Day 2

Did I mention yesterday that I wrote a review of Andrew Peterson‘s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness last November? At the time, I thought the book was due to release in January, so it seemed like the perfect time to start generating some talk about it. Lo and behold, the book didn’t come out until this month. Plenty of time for people to forget I ever mentioned it.

I bring this up now because every once in a while people ask me what I thought about the book. I am certainly not shy about voicing my opinion, as I’m sure you know by now, if you’ve stopped by A Christian Worldview of Fiction before 😉 . Rather than regurgitating my opinions, however, because we’re doing a tour for the book, I’d rather give you something else to think about.

Thing is, this book is fun, well-written, well-liked—from everything I’ve read—which doesn’t leave anything particularly controversial to discuss. So my next thought was to post an excerpt and let you see for yourself the quality of writing. I still might do that tomorrow, though Beth Goddard beat me to it in her post for the tour.

In hopes of settling on a particular angle to discuss the book, I decided to do a bit of touring before I wrote this post. Usually I operate in the opposite order—post, then read—but having posted late yesterday, I figured any early visitors would be occupied with that post anyway, so … more than you want to know, I understand. Getting on with it!

In my ventures into the blogsphere, I came upon a review of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, thanks to Brandon Barr, by Fantasy Book Critic who runs a site not dedicated to Christian fiction.

The response was incredibly favorable—glowing, you might say. Which is great, great, great. But then one of the commenters asked why it was considered Christian fiction. The site proprietor said it was because Andrew Peterson is a Christian and WaterBrook Press is a Christian publishing house. Then the author himself left his response to the question:

Thanks for the kind words, Robert.

To chime in on the “Christian Fantasy” question, it’s true that I’m a Christian and that WaterBrook publishes Christian books, but I want to be clear that I didn’t set out to write a “Christian novel”. There’s no Aslan/Jesus character. There’s no overbearing moral to the tale.

My goal was to tell a story that, ultimately, would make you want to keep turning the pages. I tried to, as Madeline L’Engle put it, “serve the work.” One of the quickest ways to turn me off to a story is to have the story itself take a back seat to some point that the author’s trying to make. Sure, there are aspects of the story that I hope shine light into the reader’s imagination, and perhaps into his soul, but that was never at the front of my mind while I was writing.

I’d be curious to hear whether or not someone who didn’t know I was a Christian would suspect that I am one upon finishing the book.

Once again, thank you for the gracious review, Robert, and I hope the rest of you enjoy it too. I’m off to the bookstore tomorrow (release day!) to stealthily rearrange the shelf placement of a certain, ahem, book.

Well, this writing with no clear intent to write a Christian novel has a tendency to set me off. Is he saying, therefore, that the book is NOT Christian? Or that it turned out that way by accident?

I’m sorry. Writing is such an intentional activity. I make choices all the time. And if the direction of the story heads somewhere I don’t want to go, then I change it, via my characters’ choices. Or I change my character if I think the desired direction and the character are somehow incongruous. Writing is not accidental.

That leaves “intentionally NOT Christian.” No Christ figure, though I certainly wouldn’t say there is no picture of redemption. And is such a “Christian worldview” appropriate in fiction? Of course. In fact it should be applauded, celebrated. Why is it we have to hedge around the subject? Jesus told lots of parables that didn’t picture Him dying a substitutionary death, and none of them were devoid of purpose. All of them were important in understanding what He came to accomplish.

I think our understanding of “Christian fiction” may be way too narrow.

OK, see what others have to say about On the Edge:

Sally Apokedak/ Brandon Barr/ Jim Black/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Valerie Comer/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Jill Hart/ Katie Hart/ Michael Heald/ Timothy Hicks/ Christopher Hopper/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Margaret/ Rachel Marks/ Shannon McNear/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Deena Peterson/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Cheryl Russel/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ James Somers/ Donna Swanson/ Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Jason Waguespac/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

Highlighted links are bloggers I know have posted already.

39 Comments

  1. You’ve been memed, my dear. Things could be worse. 🙂

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  2. Here’s the deal for me. “Christian” fiction means purposefully written literature to honor God however the Lord decides He wants to be honored through the individual writer–not the way a writer decides he wants to honor God through the writing.

    Authors who try to downplay the Christian elements of their stories make me wonder why. Is having those parts of the story spotted, suggested, or recognized, whether or not they’re intentional, a negative? How could they be? And so what if the story is criticized or demeaned for the Christian elements? As long as the story is well-written and well presented, who cares if someone objects to Christian imagery, symbolism, or steely arrows pointing to the message?

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  3. I would say that if someone objects to steely arrows pointing to the message, they may simply be a discerning reader of fiction (either Christian or non, it doesn’t matter.)

    If message trumps story, deliver the message in non-fiction. That is what non-fiction is there for. If story trumps message, that’s when the story should be fictional. Now, any good work (non-fiction or fictional) will have both story and message. But the priority of one or the other determines the general classification, and that’s a line that no honest writer should cross.

    This is why we distinguish between fiction and non-fiction in the first place. They have different designs. No one in their right minds would pick up a Clive Cussler novel in hopes of learning how to build a nuclear device. They read it because they want to see if a nuclear device detonates. Now, along the way, the book may teach them things. A reader may even have his mind or heart changed about some geopolitical issue.

    But if he wants to build a nuke, he needs to look in the non-fiction section.

    I don’t think Anderson is “downplaying” any Christian elements in the work (and from what I’ve seen in other reviews, there are plenty). He’s downplaying the importance of non-fictionalizing what is a work of fiction. Frankly, I don’t think he cares if anyone objects to the contents because they are “too Christian” or “not Christian enough.” I do think he cares about not deceiving readers into thinking they are going to get a sermon when all he’s offering is a story.

    In short, Becky is dead on when she suggests our definition of Christian fiction may be way too narrow.

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  4. leave it to Becky to find controversy even when she says there’s none to be found. 🙂

    I am also writing a book that is not a Christian book, so I sympathize with Andrew here. (Though his quoting L’Engle makes me want to distance myself from him. Why should we quote someone who didn’t believe in the atonement to support our right to write books that don’t point to Christ? And why should we serve the work? We serve God, not our art. Unless the art is an idol.)

    But one way we serve God is to do quality work. There is nothing wrong with Andrew setting out to write a story that makes people turn pages. Nothing wrong with him writing a book that has nothing more to do with God than the stars have to do with him. You can’t look at the stars and get the crucifixion but you they sing a song of a loving and merciful God.

    So, I’m not sure what’s wrong with his intention to write a novel that is well-written plus nothing.

    Becky, your point about the parables is right on. But they weren’t Christian parables if they didn’t tell about Christ, I don’t think. They were parables about God and man, perhaps, but not specifically Christian.

    And maybe this is important. Maybe we shouldn’t muddy the waters. I know people who think Anne of Green Gables is a Christian series. And some think Little Women is a Christian book. Many people classify Madeline L’Engle’s book as Christian. These are all moral books but not Christian books. So are we confusing kids when we label these books Christian? Are we making them think that if they are moral it means they are going to heaven?

    To be called a Christian book there has to be a Christ figure, I think. Otherwise I think the best we can say is that a book is written from a Christian worldview or it does not conflict with a Christian worldview.

    Nicole, are there Christian elements in the story that Peterson is downplaying? Or is he just telling the truth? Maybe he really didn’t set out to write a Christian novel. Maybe he really didn’t set out to put in any Christian imagery or symbolism.

    One more note–I never get highlighted in the list of blog tour participants because you, Becky, with your slow internet connection cannot possibly open my site and see that I’m posting every day. But for those with fast internet connections, you are all welcome to come to my blog and see that I, too, have posted. Granted, even if you have high speed Internet it may take a minute to open my blog and you’ll think you’ve traveled back in a time machine to the days of sloooowwww connections. That’s because my blog is messed up. And it might not be worth it to you to wait for it–today I complained about the quality of the cover and paper–but I just want to go on record as being a loyal bloggie person who does post every day of the blog tour.

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  5. I thought his quote was “interesting,” too; writing is MOST DEFINITELY a deliberate act…at least for me! Although I have to say I’ve always been one who asks, “When you ask me if my books are Christian, do you mean ‘do they go to church?'” Same goes for music. But Wayne Batson had a beautiful email to me today that I decided to officially quote him on:

    “A story taking a backseat to an agenda is a turn off, but only when the agenda is immersed in an inferior story.” ~Wayne Thomas Batson

    Rock on!

    CH

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  6. “And why should we serve the work? We serve God, not our art. Unless the art is an idol.”

    I totally agree with this statement, Sally.

    “Nicole, are there Christian elements in the story that Peterson is downplaying? Or is he just telling the truth? Maybe he really didn’t set out to write a Christian novel. Maybe he really didn’t set out to put in any Christian imagery or symbolism.”

    To answer this question, Sally, I have no idea because I don’t read fantasy. However, whether or not he did or didn’t, what I’m saying, I guess, is so what? If the quote is complete and I understood it correctly, he seems to want to distant himself from any reference to potential Christian highlights in the story. If all he wanted to do was write a fanciful tale, fine. But why go to such an explanation to make it clear that it’s a story, just a story. No Jesus. No Christian message. Almost like if a reader found something he could tie into a Christian message, it wasn’t his fault as the author. I don’t get that. But, hey, maybe I misunderstood him.

    “I would say that if someone objects to steely arrows pointing to the message, they may simply be a discerning reader of fiction (either Christian or non, it doesn’t matter.)”

    I disagree. This reasoning is similar to the “literary vs. whatever” arguments in favor of one over the other. Different readers discern different things, miss messages, find messages where none were intended. It’s subjective, not necessarily discerning.

    “If message trumps story, deliver the message in non-fiction. That is what non-fiction is there for. If story trumps message, that’s when the story should be fictional. Now, any good work (non-fiction or fictional) will have both story and message. But the priority of one or the other determines the general classification, and that’s a line that no honest writer should cross.”

    This is way too general and also subject to opinion. Story comes from a place of truth, so there will be all levels of message, entertainment, and even non-fiction incorporated into stories, especially stories which involve or are centered around Christianity.

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  7. Hello! I think that there is a difference between a Christian who writes fiction and a Christian author who writes Christian fiction. God speaks in the beauty of creation, but I doubt Christians would consider a chemistry textbook to be Christian fiction (though it is, according to Paul in Romans).
    I, too, wondered whether “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” was considered “Christian Fiction” when I first read it. Then I decided it did not matter to me. The book is well written, fun to read, expounds virtues and a world view that Christians can endorse, and is written by a Christian.

    Michael A. Heald

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  8. Hello, folks.

    I’ve enjoyed reading the great discussion you’re having, and wanted to chime in on a few things.

    The original comment on the Fantasy Book Critic website was to clarify to the readers of that blog (many of whom are not Christians, I assume) that On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness was not written as a Gospel tract in the guise of an adventure story. Why on earth would they read the book if they thought that were the case? In fact, what person who isn’t a part of the Christian sub-culture would ever find themselves thumbing through the books in the Christian Fiction shelf at Barnes and Noble? I doubt any of them would.

    It pleased me greatly that on the back of my book the classification read “Fiction/Fantasy”, not because I’m ashamed of being a Christian (Lord knows I’m not), but because I want the book to be read by more than just Christians. I’m not trying to be sneaky, except perhaps in the way that C.S. Lewis said his books allowed truths to sneak past the “watchful dragons” of readers who would otherwise be adverse to them. Tolkien insisted that his books weren’t to be read into for allegory, Christian or otherwise, but look what happened: because of Tolkien’s faith, the books are fraught with beauty and truth. He didn’t set out to write a Christian novel, but in the end, that’s exactly what it is (according to many Christians, at least).

    I’m a Christian whose only hope is that the Gospel is true, who believes in atonement and the death and resurrection of Christ (and who believes that even if L’Engle wasn’t right about everything, she had much to teach artists about the process of sub-creation). Does the idea of “serving the work” preclude my service to Christ? Of course not. She didn’t mean it that way, and neither do I. What she’s getting at is that our obedience to God and our wearing his name means that our work on this earth, whether in the arts or on the farm or at the local bank, is to be done with excellence and compassion. More specifically, it means that good art, good writing, is achieved when we doggedly refuse to settle for anything less than a level of excellence that glorifies our Creator. (I’m not saying I’ve always pulled it off, but it’s what I’m shooting for.)

    I’ve written songs for years (most of you probably don’t know that songwriting is my day job), and I think L’Engle is right-on with this. I’ve written many songs that ended up being very different in the end from what I intended, and the end result was much better. Those of you who write must have experienced as I did the same delightful thrill of your own story surprising you; I had often heard writers talk about characters saying and doing things they didn’t expect, and when that first happened I was giddy. I’m not being all New Agey, but the act of creation is a mysterious thing, much like calling into a dark cave, not knowing what might come out.

    Serving the work means that I’m willing to cut a verse, or even a chorus–even if it’s my favorite part of the song–if the song is better for its absence. It means approaching the creative process with fear and trembling, because I know him from whence creativity springs. It means that I trust the Holy Spirit in me more than I trust myself.

    I wish more Christians wrote fiction that was so well-crafted and original and timeless that it transcended the label “Christian Fiction” and resided on the literature shelf with books like Les Miserables, The Brothers Karamazov, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, Walt Wangerin, Jr.’s The Book of the Dun Cow, and Frederick Buechner’s Godric. Even with our books, we should let our light shine before men who need it most, who know not the love of Christ but who do happen to love a tale well-told and find themselves finishing one of these works, their face wet with tears because they have encountered Truth in the pages, and they feel it calling them home.

    Ah, the power of Story.

    I meant to address each of the comments specifically, but got going and couldn’t stop. After re-reading what I just wrote, I realize how silly it is to be lumping a book with the preposterous title “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” in with Dostoevsky and Hugo and Buechner, but there it is. You have to start somewhere, I suppose.

    Here’s my summary: I don’t intend to distance myself from Christ, or being associated with him. God forbid it. But God forbid, too, that the works of God’s people be anything less than reflections of his creativity, truth, mystery, and beauty. All this talk of Christian Fiction vs. Fiction by Christian is secondary to that.

    Whew.

    Now that all that defensiveness is out of my system, let me say that I love that you guys are wrestling with these ideas in such a civil, intelligent way. It’s been good for me to reflect on your thoughts, and I look forward to being lambasted by your replies.

    Thanks!

    AP

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  9. […] Here’s a review of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness that led to a good discussion.  A discussion in which I got involved, for good or ill.  I’m waiting with a grimace for the replies. Leave a Reply Name (required) […]

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  10. “I think our understanding of ‘Christian fiction’ may be way too narrow.” So you’re finally crossing over to the Light, huh Becky? Actually, Peterson’s response to the commenter makes me want to read the book even more. Intentional or unintentional? Phh! When has “intention” made anything Christian… or not?

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  11. I was cataloguing responses in my head as I read through the comments, and the Andrew himself said everything I planned to.

    mike duran is right on the mark. Jesus is Lord of the world, and His story makes its way into all sorts of things that folks never intended. Jeff Overstreet points out film director del Toro, who turned down the first Narnia movie because he didn’t want to do a resurrection scene, but instead did Pan’s Labyrinth (and wants to do Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well).

    Yes, our definition is way too narrow. If the gospel sneaks itself into stories by non-Christians, then Christians who are writing stories that aren’t deliberate retellings of the gospel are still going to produce work that is “Christian,” in the sense that the Truth will be encountered in Story (even if there’s no altar call epilogue or whatever). All the forms have merit, but our delight as readers is to find the Christ story everywhere it is, not draw parameters defining where it can and cannot be found.

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  12. “Intentional or unintentional? Phh! When has “intention” made anything Christian… or not?”

    Are you slamming me, Mike? I “intentionally” write Christian fiction. The message is in the story according to the inspired level of inclusion, however and whatever that might be.

    There’s a difference in secular and Christian fiction. Just ask those authors who were successful secular authors and decided to “cross over” into writing Christian fiction because they felt the Spirit of God sending them that direction (Francine Rivers wrote the bestselling classic Redeeming Love as her first tribute to the Lord as a result, Brandilyn Collins, Terri Blackstock, to name a few).

    Mr. Peterson, in no way did I mean to insult your Christianity. It’s simply a fact that there are most certainly differences in those who write without knowing Jesus, and those who do know Him regardless of the market they write for. When those who do seem to disdain (not suggesting that you did or do) those who write amazing stories which do include the gospel, I get perturbed.

    One of the best explanations/thoughts regarding Christian/CBA fiction is over on WordServe Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, yesterday’s post I believe.

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  13. Woo-hoo! What a discussion!! Mr. Peterson, thank you for stating your faith so beautifully. My boys LOVED your book and are begging for MORE!

    Keep up the good work!

    Kim

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  14. Wellllll…. I’m with you, Andrew, on what you mean by serving the work. I’m simply not convinced that L’Engle was on the same page.

    She said that she was a writer first and a Christian second. So when you quote her, saying that you were serving the work, I think you do open yourself up to misunderstandings. I think she served the work the way Asher Lev served the work. That, I think, is idolatry. I never intended to imply that you, Andrew, were really serving the work over serving God–quite the opposite, in fact. I was trying to argue that by serving the work, by writing a well-written story, you were serving God.

    But I had to remark on the L’Engle quote. It’s one of those things where I feel like if I remain silent my silence will be taken as endorsement. Especially since I was trying to defend the serving of the work as a very Christian undertaking. I wanted to be clear that what I would mean by that phrase would not be the same thing that L’Engle probably meant.

    As to the rest of your comment, I agree with you on every level. I close with the words of Warner Van Gumption who said so eloquently in one of his earlier works, “Grace and peace to you, young man, we all adore you and no one wants to lambaste you.”

    =0)

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  15. Special thanks to each of you for commenting. I won’t attempt to answer each point, though I would certainly like to. Your thoughts spurred today’s post. I appreciate the discussion, especially the “civil, intelligent” part, as Mr. Peterson said. Lambasting? No, I wouldn’t expect so, and I’m happy to see there was none. Well, unless you think my post does so. I hope not. 😮

    Becky

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  16. She said that she was a writer first and a Christian second. So when you quote her, saying that you were serving the work, I think you do open yourself up to misunderstandings.

    Two comments to this:

    I’m curious about this statement: can you provide the exact quote and a reference to where it’s found? I’d be interested in the context.

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  17. Scratch the “two comments” part above. Just the one comment.

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  18. I’m also interested to hear the exact quote from Ms. L’Engle. I’ve read probably twenty or more of her books, both fiction and non-fiction, and no where do I remember reading these words. From my vast experience with L’Engle and my understanding of her character and beliefs, I believe that Andrew is right in his summary of her view; I believe that she would agree with him. And keep in mind that I do not agree with L’Engle on every point she has made. (I am from a different denomination than she, and I believe differently in many areas; in the discussion of “Christan art,” however, I do agree.)

    Also, much of the disagreement expressed in this discussion comes down, I believe, to the difference between using the word “Christian” as an adjective and a noun. “Christan” means follower of Christ, one who follows Christ, a believer in the religion of Christ. In essence, it’s a person, a noun. It’s easy to distinguish between people based on this noun: those who are Christians and those who are not. When we call books and music and art “Christian,” inanimate objects that cannot choose or believe for themselves, everything quickly gets very muddy. How do you distinguish between Christian and non-Christian art? It’s the very question you’re all circling around, and I believe it’s the wrong question.

    As Ms. L’Engle has said, “Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject. If it’s good art…and there the questions start coming, questions which it would be simpler to evade” (Walking on Water, 5).

    She also says, “So perhaps the reason I shuddered at the idea of writing something about ‘Christian art’ is that to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity. The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birth-giver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary, who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command” (Walking on Water, 10).

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  19. One final thought: From Cardinal Suhard, as quoted by L’Engle, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, not even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist” (Walking on Water, 26).

    Or, restated, it means to write in such a way that one’s writing would not make sense if God did not exist. To me that’s closer to what should define whether or not a book has been written by a Christian. There should be no agenda. The truth of the belief inherent in the Christian should just naturally be present in the book, a living mystery. Those who experience it will know it’s there, and no one will feel manipulated or as though anything has been rubbed in their face.

    Thank you for letting me jump into your discussion. I hope nothing I’ve said has come across in an argumentative or un-civil way. If it has, I apologize. That certainly hasn’t been my intent.

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  20. Ben, here’s the exact quote:

    When asked if she was a Christian writer, she replied, “No. I am a writer. That’s it. No adjectives. The first thing is writing. Christianity is secondary.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week412/profile.html

    We can give her all the benefits of the doubt we want and say that she wanted to distance herself from the label “Christian writer” for good reason, but when we consider the whole of her “Christian” beliefs, I think we are forced to read her as antagonistic to the person and cause of Christ. There is no denying that her brand of Christianity fell outside the pale of orthodox belief. She didn’t believe we needed a blood atonement–she believed Christ died to teach us to love and called it heresy to believe he died to avert the wrath the God.

    So when she says that writing is first and Christianity comes second do we think she means something else or do we take her at face value? I believe she was a brilliant writer and not a brilliant Christian so I tend to take her at face value when she says that Christianity is secondary. I wish she’d spent less time writing and more time being a Christian.

    I think Christianity should be first–it’s who we are, and writing is secondary–it’s what we do.

    I am convinced that L’Engle considered herself TO BE a writer rather than considering herself to be a Christian with a sacred calling to write. And I think that is an idolatrous position.

    You may disagree.

    As to your final comment (#19) I don’t really have time to engage you fully. I’d just like to point out that we are people of the book. We are people of the word. Jesus didn’t live a mystical life–he preached. We can’t manipulate someone into the kingdom, but we are wrong to think we can get them in without preaching. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth. Heaven and earth will pass away but my word will never pass away. I’m sure you recognize these famous quotes.

    Now I don’t for a minute believe that every story needs to preach and every picture needs to have a cross in it, and every melody needs lyrics about Christ attached. I think art, for art’s sake, is a fine goal. Christian writers or Christian plumbers need to do the best job they can do and they don’t have to quote Bible verses while they work.

    But this bit about living a life in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist, doesn’t go far enough. It is true that Jesus said that if we love one another we would prove to the world that God the Father sent the Son. But we can’t take one passage and stop there. If we love we will tell a dying world about Christ. The life of love does not tell anyone anything unless we use words to tell about Christ who has died as a propitiation for our sin and who has made us into new creatures with an ability to love.

    OK that’s probably way off where this discussion needed to go. Sorry, it’s late and I can’t think too well at this hour.

    But thanks for asking for the quote (and you, too, Travis) and not just writing me off without a hearing, and, no, you didn’t come off as sounding uncivil or argumentative at all.

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  21. Hmm. Sorry, Beck, for writing a book on your blog.

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  22. “You may disagree.”

    Indeed, I do. L’Engle’s point was not to cite a hierarchical value system by which she practiced her art. To the contrary, she was making the point that art is art, as noted in the quote from Ben’s post.

    A Christian’s world view will be evident in his work. He doesn’t have to sculpt crosses or write worship songs to tell the truth of God’s majesty (I know that’s not exactly what you mean to say, Sally). God created a big world with big beauty. Artists, Christian or otherwise, should exercise their God given liberty in designing and producing art which doesn’t need to be explicitely spiritualized with god words and church talk to communicate truth or indeed to preach the gospel. Telling the truth in love is a great representation of Christ.

    “So when she says that writing is first and Christianity comes second do we think she means something else or do we take her at face value?”

    We don’t have to make assumptions. A careful reading of “Walking on Water” makes clear what she believed. She believed writing with an agenda (even if that agenda is “Christian”) isn’t as pure as serving the work with integrity. An artist, even a secular one–heaven forbid–who creates with excellence and integrity, communicates and radiates the gospel with far greater clarity than most of the “Christian” trinkets for sale in our “Christian” bookstores (or better than poorly written worship songs, for that matter).

    History alone tells us that Christianity comes in many different flavors, some slivers of which can’t be true because they are contradictory with other sectors of Christianity. Agenda, even that that comes with respectability and ostensible “truth,” doesn’t make it in fact true. Further, it doesn’t make it good or beautiful. Often didactic, agenda-driven “Christian” art is–to be kind–not very pretty.

    The late Mark Heard was a great songwriter. He was once ask if becoming a Christian changed his approach as a songwriter. His answer was articulate and reinforces L’Engles point about serving the art. Truth is a higher calling than agenda.
    “Agenda” often seems condescending and didactic while truth feels honest and pure.

    Mark Heard:

    Well in the late Sixties when Christian music was becoming popular, in the secular world it was “in” to inundate your songs with a message. You know, revolution and all that. Christian Rock got off on that foot, and of course most Christians began to see music as a tool with which young people could be reached with the Gospel. I always kinda resented that idea. It is valid to say that music can be used by God, but it’s unfair to put a limit on the number of ways in which music can be valuable to a Christian or to someone who isn’t. I hate to see music as only a podium from which one voices one’s convictions. To Christians especially, there is a broad spectrum of human and artistically valuable purposes for making music other than to make background music for a revival meeting. So much Christian music is missing the human touch. When people who aren’t Christians look at Christian music as a whole, they probably don’t see much honesty. It’s hard for me to say that because it may offend somebody; many Christian artists may really be breaking their backs to make an honest presentation of their faith. But sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own terminology, and our own trends of thought, and our own circle of understanding that we don’t venture out and truly relate to someone on the outside so that they might look at us and say, “Regardless of what I think, and the biases I have, this person has really shown me the truth.” We need to be concerned about being real, honest people, not haughty and pious; we should begin to stop writing things that are supposedly “spiritual” and contain all the terminology and intimations of songs that have been written throughout Christian history. We need to move on from where we are and make our faith real in the eyes of the people round us, taking off our masks and letting them see that ours are human faces as well. Otherwise we are slighting those people and fooling ourselves, and not living up to the expectations that God has of us to present the Truth as the TRUTH, and reality as it actually is, – including all its real joy, all its real pain, all its complexity and ambiguities, all its wonder.

    I’m not picking on you, Sally. You were eloquent in your post and your viewpoint represents the way many Christians think. Indeed, it’s the way that many Christian artists think. Message boards aren’t the best way to hash these things out. Nuance and distinction are easy to miss. Face to face dialogue is better, but for now, this is the best we have. Becky, thanks for hosting this interesting discussion on your blog.

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  23. Curt,

    I said:

    “Now I don’t for a minute believe that every story needs to preach and every picture needs to have a cross in it, and every melody needs lyrics about Christ attached. I think art, for art’s sake, is a fine goal. Christian writers or Christian plumbers need to do the best job they can do and they don’t have to quote Bible verses while they work.”

    And now you say:

    “He doesn’t have to sculpt crosses or write worship songs to tell the truth of God’s majesty (I know that’s not exactly what you mean to say, Sally).”

    Not only was it not exactly what I was saying, it wasn’t even close to what I was saying. But it was late and I probably wasn’t clear. (and here it is, late again! What am I doing?) =0)

    So I’m trying to figure out where exactly we disagree. Is it my take on L’Engle? I’ve read quite a bit more than Walking on Water. And I’ve read carefully.

    How much do you know about her? She wasn’t a Christian, are you aware of that? I think many people don’t realize that about her. When you find out that she’s a universalist and then you read her work, you interpret her words differently than you did when you thought she was a Christian.

    I agree with much of your post, but this bit here:

    “An artist, even a secular one–heaven forbid–who creates with excellence and integrity, communicates and radiates the gospel with far greater clarity than most of the “Christian” trinkets for sale in our “Christian” bookstores (or better than poorly written worship songs, for that matter).”

    trips me up.

    I agree that we don’t have to sculpt a cross to show God’s majesty but the gospel and God’s majesty are two different things. I can’t agree that an artist who creates an excellent work of art communicates the gospel without communicating the gospel. Words or pictures are required for communicating the good news that Jesus died to take upon himself the wrath that God had justly stored up against sinners.

    The gospel cannot be shown in works of art that don’t show Christ in some way–not even in those great works of art that God himself created. We can’t look at the stars and learn that God is holy, we are sinners, and Christ died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.

    But you said the excellent works of art communicate the gospel better than the Jesus Junk in the CBA stores. As much as I hate the Jesus Junk and think it trivializes the gospel, I don’t see how art that communicates no gospel can communicate the gospel better than something else.

    Beautiful music can show a loving, wise, wonderful God. There’s a pianist in my church who plays lovely music and I can’t help but praise God when I hear it. But it tells me absolutely nothing about Christ, who is the center of the gospel.

    My mother was saved from a gospel tract. Can you believe it? She’s the only person I’ve ever met who was saved from reading a tract.

    God works in mysterious ways.

    Do you know anyone who has been saved from art that makes no mention of Christ?

    Can someone get the gospel from art that never mentions Christ? I think not. But the artist may be the sower. He may soften the hearts of those who see/hear his art. He may make them long for the bigger, the better, the brighter. He may make people long for transcendence. That is surely possible.

    And that’s a fine thing to do. Wouldn’t it be great if more artists did that?

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  24. […] or soul-enlarging theme woven through? If you care about the discussion, you can read the posts here, and here, and […]

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  25. Sally, thanks for the dialogue. I intended to respond to the points you raised before now, but recent days haven’t spared me the luxury of an extra ten minutes to type out a post. I think I’ve seen my wife once in the last three days and that was passing in the hallway. I hope to provide additional food for thought in the next day or two.

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  26. Sally wrote:

    “I agree that we don’t have to sculpt a cross to show God’s majesty but the gospel and God’s majesty are two different things. I can’t agree that an artist who creates an excellent work of art communicates the gospel without communicating the gospel. Words or pictures are required for communicating the good news that Jesus died to take upon himself the wrath that God had justly stored up against sinners.”

    As you noted, this is one point on which we disagree.

    The Bible teaches that salvation is both an event and a process. Each mind learns and processes uniquely. Indeed, it’s rare that one becomes a Christian immediately upon first hearing an explicit presentation of the gospel. Typically, one comes to repentence and faith in Christ in stages. The process begins with an awareness of a Supreme Being, to being aware of and later confronting the fundamentals of the Gospel, recognition and conviction of personal sin, and decision making finally leading to a fully bloomed faith in Christ.

    Holding up the sign “John 3:16” between the goal posts of an NFL game may or may not lead somebody to Christ. Similarly, a classical piece of music or Van Gogh’s landscape painting of a cornfield may or may not lead somebody to Christ. The first is an explicit presentation of the Gospel. The next two, maybe not. Still, whether articulate or not, whether beautiful or not, whether explicit or not–both have the potential to contribute to the proclaiming of the gospel.

    There are as many ways to come to Christ as there are believers, but each conversion has one thing in common. It’s not the work of an evangelist, teacher, lay person, musician, or artist; it’s the work of The Holy Spirit. Artists and writers who happen to be Christians are situated at different stages of growth along the continuum of their Christian life, and as such, their work whether intended or not, connects with people differently.

    If we prescribe the *method* by which men are saved, we oversimply. I suspect if we could gather historial testimony of all believers, a good portion would claim that something other than an explicit presentation of the Gospel was most responsbile for their belief *in* the Gospel.

    If we minimize or mandate the ways by which men come to Christ, we ignore the mystery and majesty of the way The Holy Spirit works in the lives of unbelievers–including art and literature–even the “secular” variety. Truth is truth, whether it is presented unknowingly by an unbeliever because they were created by God or by a believer offering an explicit represenation of their faith with something akin to “The Four Spiritual Laws,” however clumsily they may be presented.

    “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

    Sally wrote:

    “She wasn’t a Christian, are you aware of that?”

    I’m not in that business. I’ll leave those pronouncements to others.

    Sally wrote:

    “My mother was saved from a gospel tract. Can you believe it? She’s the only person I’ve ever met who was saved from reading a tract.”

    If a Jack Chick tract was the instrument responsible for saving somebody, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch to see that an unbelieving truth telling artist or writer might wring out some shred of truth similarly, watering the flower for later blooming.

    Sally wrote:

    “So when she says that writing is first and Christianity comes second do we think she means something else or do we take her at face value? I believe she was a brilliant writer and not a brilliant Christian so I tend to take her at face value when she says that Christianity is secondary. I wish she’d spent less time writing and more time being a Christian.

    I think Christianity should be first–it’s who we are, and writing is secondary–it’s what we do.

    I am convinced that L’Engle considered herself TO BE a writer rather than considering herself to be a Christian with a sacred calling to write. And I think that is an idolatrous position.”

    Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve read “Walking On Water,” so maybe I can help clarify L’Engle’s intent from her own words in long form, not from an internet interview. I’m not suggesting that the internet website lacks journalistic integrity, but we can more assuredly state that it lacks proper context.

    On page 110 of “Walking On Water” L’Engle explains *why* she chose the description she did, that she is a writer, not a Christian writer. As you might recall upon another careful reading of her own words if you are so inclined, that her reason for referring to herself as a writer has NOTHING to do with idolatry or as I stated initially placing Christianity lower in the hierarchy of her values. To the contrary, it’s because she didn’t wish to be pigeonholed. She hoped that others, in addition to Christians, would read her work.

    There’s some irony is these passages in light of our discussion here:

    “The world wants to shove us into the appropriate pigeon-hole. I do not like to be labled as a ‘Christian children’s writer’
    because I fear that this will shove me even further into the pigeon-hole which began to be prepared for me when ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ won the Newbery medal. If I am so labeled, the implication is that I am to be read only be children, and Christian children at that.”

    “But I’m a writer. That’s enough of a definition. (I infinitely prefer to say that I’m a Christian than to mention any denomination, for such pigeon-holing is fragmenting, in religion as in art). So. I am a Christian. I am a writer.”

    “But I don’t want to be shut in, labelled, the key turned, so that I am not able to grow and develop, as a Christian, as a writer. I want that freedom which is a large part of the Christian promise; and I don’t want any kind of label to diminish that freedom. It is sad and ironic to have to admit that it does.”

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  27. Maya Angelou, or so I’ve been told, once said something to the effect that people rarely remember what you say or do but they always remember how they made you feel. Andrew Peterson’s first novel “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” illustrates this in a profound way for me. Its a book for young adults but being a fan of his music I had to read it. I’m glad I did. My grandpa Brown used to say, “Ive got a longin’ to go home.” As a young boy I never really knew exactly what he meant. The older I get the more I understand it. We are simply not meant for this world. As Mr. Peterson says in his self same titled album we are in a Far Country. I’ve grown to believe that one of the reasons that God allows the tribulation here is to make us long for something more. In OTEOTDSOD, we are told a tale about there siblings , the Igibys, who experience more that their share of worldly trials. It is a fantasy tale of Toothy Cows and the Fangs of Dang (lizard men). But more it is a tale of Something More. We are reminded that the “Something More” is at the heart of all our feelings. G.K. Chesterton once said that no man had ever walked into a brothel that wasn’t looking for God. Andrew Peterson gets to the heart of this. I laughed more than I’ve laughed in a while. I cried at the end. Not because of a happy or a sad ending but because I was reminded that the longing is real; that my feelings that there is something beyond all this are validated. If you can, read the book. If you can’t, remember that the great unexplainable feeling that you don’t belong here is a pull to the unimaginable.

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  28. Thanks so much for this discussion, folks. I appreciate your civil approach to discord. No name calling or the like. That’s the best way we can learn from each other, how we ought to share our ideas and opinions.

    Don’t think for the moment that I’m not reading and thinking about what you’re saying. If and when I have something I think will contribute to the conversation, I’ll jump in.

    BTW, Mike, I hope you’ve read the review I wrote or the one Sally wrote. We are both excited and happy about On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Interestingly, you attribute the Something More you discerned in the story to something Mr. Peterson created intentionally. That’s what I think authors should aim to do.

    From Mr. Peterson’s own statement, however, I question whether he intended to create this Something More. I will agree with him that writing can do more than what we intend. Or less. We really are dependent upon God. We sow, we reap, but He causes the growth, the fruit.

    Becky

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  29. From Mr. Peterson’s own statement, however, I question whether he intended to create this Something More.

    But the Something More doesn’t get most of its steam from the page, it’s mostly an internal creation of the reader. In your original post you said “That leaves ‘intentionally NOT Christian.'”, and I think you’re leaving out a third option, namely Not Intentionally Christian*, and I think the distinction is important.

    To be honest, I’d much prefer Not Intentionally Christian* most of the time. It takes a rare and exceptional author to make the purposeful inclusion of tenets of the Christian faith (or any faith, for that matter) appear seamless.

    The first job of an author is to tell the best story s/he can. Full stop. And if something gets in the way of that, be it dogma or horribly written Southern accents, it’s the author’s responsibility to remove the obstacle.

    *Sorry, pet peeve, a book can’t be Christian. Only people can be Christian. What you mean is that the book does or doesn’t explicitly espouse Christian values, which certainly takes longer to say, but it’s more correct.

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  30. *Sorry, pet peeve, a book can’t be Christian. Only people can be Christian. What you mean is that the book does or doesn’t explicitly espouse Christian values, which certainly takes longer to say, but it’s more correct.

    So, here’s my pet peeve, Matt: Christians who expect more out of Christians or out of the word Christian than they do anyone or anything else.

    I mean, if we can make an adjective out of American, why not Christian? Of course only people can be Chinese, but does that mean I have to say “food cooked according to recipes originated by the Chinese”?

    Language makes it clear that a noun used as an adjective is just that—describing. In this case, that means the book espouses beliefs consistent with Christianity. This is the way language works.

    A Victorian home does not mean the structure itself has become Queen Victoria. This semantic game playing deflects the conversation from the real issues, in my view.

    Becky

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  31. So, to the actual point of your comment, Matt, you said:
    But the Something More doesn’t get most of its steam from the page, it’s mostly an internal creation of the reader.

    I agree, though I would qualify that. I think the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with what a reader does or doesn’t see. As I said in the next post, I think it was, the spiritual is spiritually discerned. If a reader’s heart longs for Something More because of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness I think that happens because here is some quickening by the Holy Spirit to recognize this longing and to connect it with the real and eternal.

    You also said: I think you’re leaving out a third option, namely Not Intentionally Christian*, and I think the distinction is important.

    To be honest, I’d much prefer Not Intentionally Christian* most of the time.

    You’re right. That is a third option, but the idea implies that a work can somehow end up being Christian in spite of the author’s intentions. This is the point I wish to refute, even though it is somewhat in vogue in writing circles just now. I do believe God can work to bring His purposes, His Truth into a work, in spite of the author, but why would a Christian put himself in that place? Shouldn’t our prayer be, God use me? not God, work in spite of me?

    Finally, you said: The first job of an author is to tell the best story s/he can. Full stop. No argument from me. But I think too many newer writers don’t understand that “theme” is part of “story.” Earlier, you said It takes a rare and exceptional author to make the purposeful inclusion of tenets of the Christian faith (or any faith, for that matter) appear seamless. That makes it sound like, just because it is hard, we shouldn’t try. I disagree. That’s like saying, because it is hard to portray characters realistically, I just won’t have any in my story.

    The point is, we should work HARDER to make the Christian themes work, not abandon them. I do hope you take time to read the post on “theme,” Matt. Done well, it is a far cry from the message-driven, agenda-driven stories we so often associate with Christian fiction.

    Becky

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  32. Yes! I so agree with Matt’s “full stop” statement and with the last two paragraphs of Becky’s post. In my, “oh so humble and usually understated” opinion this is why some CBA books feel so shallow and/or contrived–they don’t do theme well.

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  33. Curt, I appreciate your content and tone. I’m going to go a little fast here because I don’t want to wear out Becky’s welcome in her forum. But don’t think I’m not happy to discuss this stuff. There is just so much that I’m not sure a blog forum allows us to delve into this very deeply.

    1) I don’t believe holding up a sign that says “John 3:16” preaches the gospel any more than a picture of a tree does. I do agree that all three of your examples have potential to CONTRIBUTE to the proclaiming of the gospel.

    2) You say “each conversion has one thing in common. It’s not the work of an evangelist, teacher, lay person, musician, or artist; it’s the work of The Holy Spirit.” And I agree. But they have one other thing in common, someone did give the gospel to the the converted at some point. “Converts have to have heard the good news to have accepted it. You cannot be saved outside a saving KNOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ. And that knowledge comes from hearing the gospel and having the Holy Spirit open your heart to it. This used to be common belief–when I was a kid we used to sing, “Untold millions are still untold. Untold millions are outside the fold.” It was a call to missions. The church believed that we had to go and preach because people who were untold were outside the fold and the only way in was to be told. I’m not sure if most of the people in the church believe that anymore. It’s what I believe, though.

    3) For those who think something other than an explicit presentation of the gospel made them believe, I’d have to say they are mistaken.

    Romans 10:
    14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
    16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

    You can hear and not be brought to saving faith, but you can’t have saving faith without hearing.

    4) Apollos and Paul were both preaching Christ.

    5) You’re not in the business of deciding that L’Engle was not a Christian but you are in the business of deciding she was a Christian?

    We are called to judge people’s fruit and message. I take no joy in saying she wasn’t a Christian and, in fact, I hope that God saved her on her death bed. But as long as she lived, she did not publicly repent of her stated belief that it was heretical to believe that Christ died to appease the wrath of God. She never repented of her association with Saint John the Divine’s.

    And we need to read critically. If we read a Mormon we need to know we’re reading a Mormon so we can understand what he means when he speaks of worshiping Christ. When we read a Universalist we need to know we are reading a Universalist so we can understand what she means. L’Engle was a Universalist. I posted some scraps I found on a quick Internet search here.
    http://specfaith.ritersbloc.com/2007/09/10/madeleine-lengle-b-1918–d-2007.aspx#Comment

    If you read the articles that I linked to, I think you can get a good context on the statements I quoted.

    Here is the mission statement of the liberal Episcopalian church that she loved so much. http://www.stjohndivine.org/home_mission.html She loved this church because of its mission. She believed Christianity was about loving people–which is biblical–and not about a blood atonement–which is heretical.

    I don’t really want to go back and forth on this anymore so if you want the last word, feel free to answer, and I’ll let it lie.

    6) We may not ever be able to agree on the idolatry issue. We both agree that taken at face value the words are idolatrous, I think. I assume this is why you are trying to show me that she didn’t really mean that writing was more important to her than Christianity. I simply disagree. I am aware that she didn’t want to be pigeonholed. I still think she was a master communicator and a brilliant woman, and I think she saw no conflict in saying, “My writing is first and my Christianity is second.”

    And this is why I always seem to find myself embroiled in these discussions that I really don’t enjoy. I don’t like saying that this dead woman was not a Christian. But I think Christian artists should be aware and stop endorsing her. You may have a strong grip on truth, Curt, and you may interpret her to mean that Christianity is the most important thing in her life–that she cannot live without Christ and her hope and her joy come from Christ alone. You may interpret her to be saying that if she lost the ability to write it wouldn’t matter one bit because the God who gives and takes away decides these things perfectly and she always only wrote for his glory, anyway. But others may read her and think, “Christianity is about loving others, and working with excellence at whatever God has given us to work at. And because Christianity is about excellence and love it is OK to say I am a writer first and a Christian second because being a good writer IS THE SAME THING as being a good Christian. Being faithful to your art is the same thing as being a good Christian. Therefore there is nothing amiss with saying to a world that wants to pigeonhole you, “I am not a Christian writer, I’m a writer. Christianity comes second.”

    In conclusion, I can see that my use of bullet points did nothing to shorten this comment. I’m sorry. If you’ve stayed with me this long, I thank you. Please take the last word without fear that I will come back in and post another book in answer.

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  34. Sally, Curt, Rebecca, Mike, the rest of you–all articulate and gentle souls–thanks for holding my feet to the fire in this discussion.

    In the last two weeks I’ve found myself in three situations much like this one, where something I said, did, or wrote was called into question and I was forced to work out my reasoning carefully in spite of my strong (cowardly?) desire to ignore the issue and move on.

    After reading the fine discussions in this forum and reflecting a bit on my writing of the book I have come to understand the process a little differently. Rebecca, your point about theme is well-taken. I suppose this is what happens when some schmuck who hasn’t taken the first class in creative writing or literature writes a book and enters a discussion with educated folks (whether educated by an institution or books you’ve read or discussions like this one).

    You’ve given me the tools to think better about intention and theme, among other things. Really quickly, let me tell you what I should’ve said in the first place:

    I didn’t write this book with a particular agenda, but upon reflection I believe I definitely had themes in mind, and those themes sprung from my belief in the Gospel and its influence on me. I still wouldn’t classify this book as a Christian novel, though (and not because of the semantic debate). It was written by a Christian, contains themes that reflect the Great Story and scriptural teachings, but the classification “Christian Novel” has connotations that don’t correctly reflect the kind of book this is, in my opinion.

    When I’m on an airplane and someone asks me what kind of music I play, I don’t tell them “Christian music.” I tell them it’s singer/songwriter stuff, kind of like James Taylor or Paul Simon (if I may be so bold). That describes the style of my music. If they ask me what kind of venues I play, I say, “Well, I’m a Christian, and a lot of the songs I write are story songs, personal songs, which makes them about Jesus. So I mostly play in churches.”

    If I told them I played “Christian music” or CCM at the start, they’d assume something very different from the reality (and if they aren’t Christians they probably begin the process of shutting down). I don’t want to start a big, tired discussion about labels here. But the label was the main reason I replied to the post on the Fantasy Book Critic page.

    If someone asks me about my book, I don’t tell them it’s a Christian Fantasy. I tell ’em it’s a fantasy/adventure novel. Because that’s what it is. If I said “Christian Fantasy” they’ll probably assume some things about my story that aren’t true.

    And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

    Thanks, Rebecca, for hosting a place to talk about these things. Now my brain-space is free to focus on book two. Hoorah.

    AP
    ——————-

    (One more thing: I just wrote two long paragraphs about the L’Engle issue, then deleted them. I will say, however, that while a heretical Universalist may have nothing to teach us about the doctrine of blood atonement, if she’s a great writer we can learn much from her about the creative process. Her doctrinal errors don’t negate her brilliant ideas on sub-creation.)

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  35. Thanks, Andrew. It’s big of you to come visit us and speak kindly to us.

    Of course we expected no less from the guy who writes such songs and books.

    I agree completely that L’Engle can teach us loads about the creative process. Just as my Geometry teacher taught me loads about geometry.

    I may be overly sensitive to people quoting her. So, if your point is that she was right to say we need to serve the work, you may be right. If someone else had said it–if you had said it yourself and not been quoting her–I’d not have had a problem with it.

    So, I’m sorry for my part in turning the launch of your lovely book into a platform for heretic hunting. heh heh. Maybe God just wanted to keep you humble–I’ve googled your book and you have hundreds of glowing reviews out there already. Yikes. Someone had to raise a bit of a rumble or it would have looked like a conspiracy plotted by the religious right. =0)

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  36. So, here’s my pet peeve, Matt: Christians who expect more out of Christians or out of the word Christian than they do anyone or anything else.

    I never said it was a rational peeve. 😉

    I tend to be of the Lewis school of language. That is, diluting the meaning of the word diminishes the original meaning of the word. I think the example he used (in Mere Christianity? I think?) was the word ‘gentleman’.

    All of which is totally off subject, which is why I put it in a footnote. Sorry to hijack.

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  37. […] or soul-enlarging theme woven through? If you care about the discussion, you can read the posts here, and here, and […]

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  38. Andrew, thanks so much for coming back into this discussion and adding import to the theme aspect. It’s more than I could have asked, certainly.

    In your comment you also said: “Christian Novel” has connotations that don’t correctly reflect the kind of book this is, in my opinion. This I understand. For the longest time “Christian Novel” meant prairie romance with the hero becoming a Christian at the end.

    Along came Frank Peretti, and the “genre” stretched to include spiritual warfare stories. But more recently, Christian fiction has flowered, and I think the next step is the redefinition of the term, the alteration of those old connotations.

    Or maybe it’s the obliteration of the term. I know that’s what some authors believe.

    I don’t agree. To be a Christ follower is something I’m happy to be called, and if by identifying my fiction with Him, I can thereby identify myself that same way, I will keep the term.

    For those who hate Christ, my refuting the term will only appear as a victory. For those neutral but willing to look past the stereotype, I’d be so happy to hear something like, “It’s Christian fantasy, but what a great story!” And for those who love His name, well, they’ll more easily see what it is my story is about.

    Becky

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  39. […] to On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, which was toured by the CSFF Blog Tour in March 2008. Here’s a post from Becky Miller that incorporates a review, links, lots of discussion, and some thought-provoking ideas about what […]

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