Revisiting Worldview

Before we get started, just a note to let you know there’s a run-off poll for the June CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. I went ahead and added it to the original Tour Wrap post. Please take time to vote, and if you didn’t read the eligible posts because you found the number daunting, we are now down to three bloggers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble perusing their articles. 😉

Now to the topic of worldview, but hang on. As those of you who visit here regularly already know, I have a way of making a short tale long! 😀

Five or so years ago, World magazine conducted a short story contest, but they specifically asked for stories written from a Christian worldview. A writer on the only email group I belonged to at the time send a note asking what we thought the editors meant by the term.

So began a discussion that flourished for a time. In truth, I think it may be the most relevant discussion a Christian writer can enter. In essence, we are exploring how our Christianity plays out in our fiction.

It seems to me that we have seen an abundance of stories with overt Christianity. Most of the fiction sold in Christian bookstores would fall into this category, I’m guessing. The “worldview” trend seemed to foster a number of titles that took different approaches, however.

Some, I suggest, are of the “tacked on” variety. The stories have little to do with Christians or Christianity, but for the sake of the Christian audience the book is directed to, some Christian references are tacked on at some point in the story.

Another variety I call “clean fiction,” though it still flies under the banner of Christian. In reality, these stories are not very different from their secular cousins, but they don’t have bad language, explicit violence, or graphic sex.

A third kind crops up most often in fantasy. Many call it allegory, though some describe it as covertly Christian, thinly disguised. The implication is that writers writing in this vein are trying to slip something past their readers. Like a magician, they lure readers in, only to pull the curtain back in the end and present Christianity with a final ta-da!

Well, I don’t think allegorical fantasy does that kind of trickery, and I’ve written before that allegory is a perfectly acceptable form.

But here’s the thing. Are these the only options?

Back when I started this blog, I struggled with the concept of Christian worldview (which led to a discussion of theme). Here’s a part of my conclusion:

So Christian worldview in fiction is not Christian characters doing “Christian” things like going to church or not swearing. Nor is it Christian characters doing sinful things just like everyone else. It is not the protagonist being or becoming a lover of God or of his neighbor. It is not even the protagonist holding to or developing a Christian philosophy of life.

Let me clarify that none of those things prohibits the novel from expressing a Christian worldview. Rather, those things are not required.

So what is? As I mentioned yesterday, the secret, in my estimation, lies in the theme …

As a writer conforms his or her themes to what God has revealed, he or she is writing from a Christian worldview. (Christian Worldview–Day 6)

So a story written from a Christian worldview can have a theme related to the evil of pornography or the harm of divorce or the damage of a greedy lifestyle or … These themes are consistent with revealed truth. They spring to life from the pages of Scripture, though others besides Christians share them.

I can see this kind of Christian worldview fiction fertilizing soil (and yes, unfortunately, some may think it is manure), but where are those books?

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Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm  Comments (12)  
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12 Comments

  1. There are getting to be more, Rebecca, but I agree that we’re not using our most powerful weapons. Having come from a strong non-Christian background to a Bible-believing one, worldview is one of my biggest hobbyhorses.

    Thanks for writing on this.

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  2. If all you’re seeking are the “themes” of Christian worldview which you wrote “are consistent with revealed truth. They spring to life from the pages of Scripture, though others besides Christians share them.”, then you can include all of Robert Liparulo’s thrillers, Steven James’ The Pawn; The Rook, all of Tim Downs’ novels, and several more which I can’t think of off the top of my head. In these novels you will find those who have the moral fabric of good, right, and true, but who face those who practice the opposite. Basically, you described the good vs. evil concept which I assume is common in many of the fantasy themes.

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  3. Hello Rebecca!
    I’ve started to read your blog regularly recently and I find a lot of usefull infomations here and on other CSFF blogs. I was looking for any contact with you but I didn’t find any. I have few questions for you and if you can please write to me on this mail: philomythos@gmail.com
    I’d be very glad. I wil explain you everything.

    Greetings
    Philomythos

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  4. Most of the Western world shares a biblical worldview in that the majority believes in an afterlife, a Supreme Being, moral absolutes, and a final judgment. A non-christian worldview would be one that denies or downplays the existence and consequences of sin, celebrates nihilism or narcissism, denigrates human worth, openly blasphemes Christ, etc. While most artists still seem to embrace a biblical worldview, postmodernism is pushing our art further away from that center.

    I’ve always seen the “worldview” issue in terms of scale. The phrase “Christian worldview” is generic enough to include “good v. evil” (see Lord of the Rings) or explicit enough to include full-on Gospel tracts. While I can live comfortably within a broader spectrum, I think the religious fiction industry has forced us to define a Christian worldview in far narrower terms — more Gospel tract than anything. Which would explain why so few religious books can realistically grapple with themes like “…the evil of pornography or the harm of divorce or the damage of a greedy lifestyle or…”

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  5. “Which would explain why so few religious books can realistically grapple with themes like ‘…the evil of pornography or the harm of divorce or the damage of a greedy lifestyle or…’

    That is definitely true, Mike, for some specific publishers in certain imprints, but more and more CBA publishers have opened their doors to the very themes you mentioned and include racism, adultery, homosexuality, “loose living”, alcholism, drug addiction, etcetera, addressed in a meaningful/thoughtful way.

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  6. “Most of the Western world shares a biblical worldview”

    That’s a very American point of view. I’m not so sure is is true of Europe or Australasia, perhaps not even of Canada. If you think specifically of the literati/intelligensia/artists, I think that summary is even less true. I continually hear these people say they are “spiritual” but not “religious”. What this seems to mean is that they have an underlying vision of the world shaped by Eastern religions and no longer have any understanding of or commitment to the Western understanding of Christianity.

    The choice is not between a Christian worldview and godlessness. In our current situation it may be between Christianity and Buddhism/Hinduism. The social threat may be from Islam, but the intellectual threat is from Asia.

    I offer as an example The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is set in an alternative world, starting with the Black Death in the 1300s. It covers many civilisations in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the edge of Europe. The underlying thread is the reincarnation of a particular group. Any aspects of Judaism or Christianity is simply left out. It presents an alternative world view without presenting a nasty godless one. Worth reading if you want to understand what the lack of a Christian worldview looks like.

    It also leaves out Australia almost entirely, but I’m used to that kind of hemispherism.

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  7. Nicole, I’ve only read one title by the authors you mentioned, and I would not say that it had a theme consistent with Scripture. “Theme” seemed neglected, honestly. I thought it was a rip-roaring story, meant to entertain. Oh, and towards the end, a little bone for the Christians came flying out of the blue, unattached to the rest of the story. (Can you tell I wasn’t particularly happy with that book? 😉 )

    I think today’s post says more what I’m thinking about worldview.

    Becky

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  8. Philomythos, you should have my email by now. For the record, I have contact info towards the bottom of the “About Rebecca LuElla Miller” page (since I know myriads of other fans have been trying to reach me! LOL)

    Becky

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  9. Mike, I like the idea of a worldview scale. That seems like a good way of looking at stories. Must we write (to the best of our ability)stories consistent in every point with a Christian worldview?

    I agree with Nicole that more authors are addressing themes that have been considered outside the realm of Christian fiction, and I think that’s a good thing.

    But I also agree with Ken. I don’t think we can any longer say that “most of the Western world shares a Biblical worldview.” For one, Mike, I think the areas you name are too general. Belief in an afterlife does not mean a person shares a Biblical worldview. Many people believe in something closer to ancestor worship than to a Scriptural understanding of what happens after death. Either that or universalism, usually with the idea that the dead become angels.

    And I would contend that few, very, very few people believe in a final judgment any more. A Supreme Being? No. An impersonal Other, maybe, but not a Supreme Being.

    No, I have to agree with Ken again. Easter mysticism has had such a huge influence on Western culture through the New Age thinkers that we can hardly recognize even a remnant of Christian worldview.

    In fact, the current trend is to silence any Christian influence. Other worldviews are perfectly acceptable to include in story, but Christians have taken it upon ourselves to say that we should not preach or write with an agenda.

    And here we are, back to the subject of theme again. Theme done badly has no place in fiction, whether the theme is consistent with Scripture or not. But theme done well is something we should strive for mightily, in my opinion, and why not have themes consistent with Christianity?

    Becky

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  10. CL, thanks for your input. Yes, with your background, I can see why you have more than a passing interest in worldview.

    I stopped by your site and noted you have a story up at Mindflights. Very cool.

    Becky

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  11. […] Becky Miller has recently been posting on one of her favorite subjects — Christian worldview. In her first post, entitled Revisiting Worldview, I left a comment, which was later challenged. The issue in contention was whether or not “Most of the Western world shares a biblical worldview” (my quote). Several commentators disputed that assertion, citing the presence of many competing religions / worldviews. As Ken Rolph wrote: […]

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  12. […] Becky Miller commented here last week, she drew me over to her blog, A Christian Worldview of Fiction where she was once again discussing… well, a Christian worldview of fiction. Given the title […]

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