The Shack, the Church, and Christian Fiction


How much speculation is OK (permissible by Biblical standards and advisable to maintain Scriptural truth) when it comes to writing about spiritual things? about God Himself or His angels? about spiritual warfare and demonic activity? about the Church?

To me this question is a big one. Of course, not all fiction fitting the “Christian” category falls under the “speculative” umbrella. Nevertheless, when we write about things of God, we enter a realm that is littered with landmines.

Wasn’t that part of the Harry Potter debate? Some believers looked at the witches and wizards of Harry Potter and saw a depiction of supernatural forces—an improper depiction, no less.

And isn’t that issue also at the center of The Shack controversy? I just read another review of the book, and in the ensuing discussion, the topic surfaced: how much can we play with what Scripture has revealed?

The subject comes up in Biblical fiction, too, and I think it’s a latent question about much contemporary Christian fiction. Is God portrayed as the God of the Bible or is He viewed by the characters (and by extension, the readers) as someone who is indifferent, or Santa-Claus-ish, or overly accommodating—in other words, as other than how He reveals Himself in Scripture?

Some authors seem to do an excellent job balancing the truth of the Bible and the speculation about the unseen. Tosca Lee comes to mind as one of the best. Her book Demon: A Memoir is a fine example of speculation that nevertheless adheres to Biblical accounts.

What does any of this have to do with the Church? In Revelation 3 John addresses the church in Philadelphia and says wonderful things:

you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan … to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing.

But he closes the section out by saying, “Hold fast what you have.” So my question is, Does Christian fiction help or hurt in the process of holding fast?

Some people rave about The Shack, for instance, and feel that it helped them know God more, but when what they now know comes out, it isn’t always consistent with Scripture. Is that a reflection on the work or on the reader? Should an author even care about these things?

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm  Comments (9)  
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