Thinking Out Loud – Theology in Fiction


Another blog tour ended. As much fun as I have during a blog tour, I admit it takes time to visit and read what others are saying about a book we’ve all read. Since I didn’t read the CSFF April selection, I didn’t feel as left out as I thought I might. But as I visited other blogs, I became curious.

Opinions on this particular feature were quite varied. Nearly all agreed the writing was excellent, but the main point of criticism, for those who had a problem with the book, was … theology.

And what was it that David C. Downing and R. W. Schlosser said in “Smuggled Theology” was the divide between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? Theology.

Of course, in the case of the classic writers, the ramifications seem greater, but what I’m beginning to understand is why so many Christian writers and publishers seem fine with producing pabulum. As soon as a writer dives into a controversial topic or takes an inventive tack, especially with anything reflecting on Scripture, he/she essentially invites criticism. So why not write a book with the lowest common denominator, one that will appeal to the greatest number of buyers/readers?

I’m of two minds on this subject. I think there is heretical theology—stuff that people believe that is false and shows God to be other than who He is. I also think there are differing opinions, differing interpretations of Scripture, that do not affect the core tenets of the faith.

So on one hand, I think it is important to adhere to truth, but on the other hand, I think readers/critics need to lighten up and not be so judgmental. “Theological accuracy,” if that’s what we demand of Christian writers, is a tricky thing.

If we read a story written by a non-Christian, there is no theological burden. We do not expect a non-Christian to write from a Christian worldview. But other Christians, we seem to think for some reason, ought to write from MY view of Christianity.

I see nothing wrong with identifying a theological bias, then enjoying the story, in much the same way I would identify the humanist bias or the new age bias or the evolutionist bias of a non-Christian writer.

But there are some things that I hold sacrosanct. One is Scripture. Consequently Biblical fiction or fiction dealing with the Bible, in my view, has a much higher requirement of accuracy, and less creative latitude. It is historical fiction, for one thing, so the research should be impeccable.

However, Scripture is also the inspired word of God, so I question the wisdom of writing stories that would bring into doubt the inspiration or accuracy or truthfulness of the Bible or events in the Bible. I was horrified, for example, when I read one fan thanking an author for enlightening him about the events of the Bible, when in fact the novel was entirely fanciful.

Still, I am an advocate of Christians writing deeper, more meaningfully. Isn’t there, then, a risk that their “deeper” will cross my line and tread upon the sacrosanct? What if a person claims the name of Christ, but the theology of their story declares man’s goodness? Or God’s unwillingness to act as Judge? Or a believer’s sure and eventual health and wealth?

So is it better if we just leave the theology out and content ourselves with happy little stories of people finding Jesus?

Published in: on April 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm  Comments (9)  
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