If you’re a frequent visitor here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction, you know that I often mention the reader’s need to apply discernment and to use Scripture as the measuring stick to determine if a story is good or not.
I think discernment is as needed when reading Christian fiction as when reading anything else. Maybe more. After all, if a book does incorporate some theme about God, how vital is it for the reader to see if what the author is saying through story is actually True.
Of course, the first example to spring to mind was The Shack. Certainly William P. Young made an attempt to say something about God in his work of fiction. And there is a good amount of discussion because of it.
Some are enthusiastic about the book: “The thing is dripping in grace theology, a concept lost on most humans much of the time” declares DogBlogger and one of his commenters agrees: “The grace and the relationships came through as the most important part of being faithful. That is terrific theology!” (The Vicar of Hogsmeade).
Of course, there are also those who excoriate The Shack. Doroteos2 called it a spiritual Twinkie because it has little or no nutritional value. Here’s the conclusion of his review:
this is not merely a poor book, but a potentially dangerous book – able to further obfuscate the Christian faith and teach people that a personalized, privatized, comfortably customized, and arbitrary relationship with God is what religion is really all about. Sadly, The Shack doesn’t even meet the lowest faith standard of our modern culture (”I’m spiritual, but not religious”) – it is neither deeply spiritual, nor religious in any meaningful way.
While discussion about God is certainly good, one troubling reaction has also surfaced. Some readers apparently do not see The Shack as providing a pictorial view of God but a literal one. From one blog comment: “Just because you have neved [sic] experienced God doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I have come to believe that a woman who visited me in real trouble in my life was actually Sariyhu” [the Holy Spirit].
Among other things, Young has been both criticized and praised for his depiction of the trinity. So here’s the question. If a Christian dares to show God in fiction, how theologically correct must he be? This is not the first time I’ve asked this question and probably not the last. I think it might be critical to what we write. But in the end, I think the answer is the same for the writer as for the reader: we need discernment, and we need to use Scripture as our measuring stick.