Safe Fiction – Part 4


The Tim Downs interview continued on Family Life Today, so I made a point of listening and jotting down a few notes.

One point Downs made was that the Bible is not naive or simplistic and neither should Christian fiction be naive or simplistic. Instead we need to talk about the real world.

I thought about that a bit. Many advocates of “safe fiction” use Phil. 4:8 as the guiding principle of writing. Think on things that are … not of this world, actually. I think, too, about Colossians 3 where we are admonished to set our minds on things above. Does reading fiction that talks about the real world contradict these commands?

Maybe. And maybe not. It depends on the person. For someone who is simplistic and naive, he just might need a dose of reality, along the line of the book of Judges, to better understand the hurting world. For someone coming out of a painful circumstance, he might need to read about someone who is struggling to do it right, a believer, along the line of Esther or Ruth, who is climbing out of hardship and finding victory.

Both kinds of stories are real. But they meet the needs of people who are in different places.

Downs went on to say that stories must conform to story rules. To stop and have a character deliver a sermon breaks the rules, so it is important to find subtle ways to get a message across. He said to reach people, authors must realize we are fallen beings. But our job in fiction is not so much to inform as it is to “woo the wayward lovers.”

One of the hosts asked Downs how readers would find Christ in his new book, First the Dead. He replied, “They won’t, not from my book alone.” He went on to elaborate that he sees his work as part of the whole that God might use in the wooing process. He said his books are the kind a person can give to anyone without apology, then discuss the themes, asking probing questions.

Well, I can’t help but applaud this approach. It is the very thing I’ve said about my own writing, though I think, from what I’ve read elsewhere, I might rely more on typology to make statements about God.

So all along, I guess I’ve believed in “Christian worldview” fiction. One thing I don’t think I’d say, though, is that this kind of story is necessarily safe.

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