CSFF Blog Tour – On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Day 3

I so love a good controv … uh, discussion! (Emoticon here, rubbing hands together with look of satisfaction glinting from its eyes).

Seriously, I feel like I learn so much from the give and take of dialogue, even about my own views and certainly about what others are thinking and what makes them tick.

I’m referring, of course, to the stir resulting from my last post in which I quoted Andrew Peterson, author of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, in his comment on another site answering the “Christian fiction” question.

Those of you who visit here frequently know I have an ongoing discussion with Mike Duran about this subject. And here’s the crux of the issue. Some people define Christian fiction as (mostly preachy) stories in which one character becomes a Christian.

My argument has long been (contrary to what Mike may think – 😉 ), Christian fiction isn’t that alone, and no stories should be preachy. That’s just bad fiction.

In the discussion yesterday, Mr. Peterson (thanks for taking the time to comment, by the way) added something new to the mix: stories that unintentionally tell the truth, are they also Christian? He cited C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Les Miserables, Gilead, Peace Like a River, and one or two others (and I admit, I question whether all those authors were unintentional about the redemptive elements of their stories). Commenter Travis then mentioned an extension of this idea: “the gospel sneaks itself into stories by non-Christians.”

So the question is, are all stories that show redemption, intentionally or unintentionally, overtly or subliminally, “Christian”? And where precisely does a story with a “Christian worldview” fit in?

To answer the first, I would have to say, No, stories by non-Christians, no matter how much they may remind us of Christ’s redemption and no matter how God may choose to use those stories to bring people to Himself, aren’t “Christian.”

I plead for the same definition in fiction as in life. In simple form, “Christian” refers to a person who belongs to Jesus Christ, who follows Him. A non-Christian’s story may reveal a struggle between good and evil, with good winning out, and Christians understand that Good is God, that He wins through the death and resurrection of His Son. But I suggest a story that is open to good being interpreted as “The Force” or Mankind’s own positive energy, or whatever else non-Christians understand as good, can’t be considered “Christian.”

On the other hand, I don’t think Christians are limited to retelling the redemption story. There is a significant need for “seed planting” stories. These, in my view, fall into the category of Christian worldview stories. They are true and consistent with Scripture, but make no attempt to portray Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. It doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t point to Him.

What’s the difference between the former and the latter? I’d have to say it’s the intention of the author. Here’s where I pull out my bullhorn. What we’re talking about is writing a story that has a theme. Some refer to it as a message and others as an agenda. I disagree. A theme is a theme. It is neither a message nor an agenda if it is woven with care into the fabric of a story.

And that careful weaving, I contend, is next to impossible unless some thought—some intention—is given to it.

Can a non-Christian stumble upon truth? Certainly. The myths C. S. Lewis fell in love with eventually pointed him to Christ because he finally came to realize there was a True myth. Perhaps they are imitations of reality, perhaps they reflect the hunger for God in every human heart. Nevertheless, those myths are not Christian.

And why is “proper labeling” important? Perhaps only for the sake of identifying truth. How many Christian parents embraced The Lion King because it was cute and clean—never mind that it was full of false religion.

Christian fiction, in my opinion, should not be about the trappings of Christianity, but somewhere along the line this seems to be what it has become in the minds of many.

Who can change this if not writers? Not by writing “less” Christian works or by eschewing theme. Not by assuming our worldview will surface without our intention. No. Christian themes, Christian worldview themes need to be crafted into our stories. And that takes work. Just as much work as crafting a world or a character or a plot.

Bullhorn down! 😉

You might wish to read what people are saying about the delightful book that started all this conversation, so check out the other posts by these fine bloggers:

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.

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