Fiction And Glorifying God

The last few blog posts I’ve made the case for a different understanding of what it means to glorify God based on a Bible study of the word. I’ve come away from that believing we Christians generally have a fuzzy understanding of the term, and consequently a fuzzy understanding of what we should do if we want to honor and magnify God.

In addition, I’ve become mindful of a variety of other interactions with God which Scripture mentions — ones that seem to have found their way into the general catch-all into which we’ve turned glorify. Undoubtedly some will look at this exercise as needless parsing, a type of word game with little meaning.

However, I’ve come to believe that fuzzy thinking keeps us from intentional action. Consequently, a vague sense that I’m to glorify God in everything I do actually leads me to do nothing purposefully to that end.

Now I understand more clearly what Jesus was talking about when He said we are to let our light shine. The point is that others will see our good works and glorify our Father. This seems quite purposeful.

In addition, I see a host of other related, but not identical, activities we as believers can and should do. We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10a).

We are to draw near to Him (James 4:8a), grow in our knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18), give him praise (Heb. 13:15, Rev. 19:5) and thanks (2 Cor. 9:11,12). We are to exalt Him (Ps. 99:5), obey Him (Acts 5:29), and trust Him (John 1:12). Above all, we are to love Him (Matt. 22:37).

These things are not fuzzy. They are specific and require me to be intentional. What, for example, must I do if I am to draw near to God? What pleases God? For what am I to thank Him?

Do I do these things, or is my life sort of a general whatever — the spaghetti against the wall approach, hoping something will stick and consequently glorify God? I’d say that latter approach is the way I’ve lived most of my Christian life.

But I’ll admit, I want my writing to be different. How? My overriding goal has been to give God glory, and by that I meant I wanted others to see Him more clearly as a result of what I write. I see that now as exalting God. The idea is to lift Him up so others can see Him more clearly.

How does a novelist accomplish this? I believe it comes back to being truthful about God.

As I see it, God has done this new thing in my life: He rescued me from the dominion of darkness and transferred me to the Kingdom of His beloved Son. How can I not want to tell my friends and neighbors, my family and co-workers, about this great inheritance I now have? Especially knowing that my God is generous and is willing to give that same inheritance to any who believe.

Would I skulk about and hoard an inheritance of untold jewels and gold coins? I hope not.

So I see my role as a writer to be that of Truth teller — the greater Truth that resides outside the box of the limited perspective of finitude. In the process, I trust that God will work through my stories to accomplish His purposes.

From time to time I find verses in Scripture that seem to apply to my writing. Not so long ago, I added Psalm 40:3 to the mix:

He put a new song in my mouth,
A song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.

I’ll be honest. I could easily get bogged down with what it is I’m doing — praise? thanks? exaltation? glorification? honor? I don’t think the name is the important thing. I do think I need to be intentional, purposeful. It’s why I shared this verse with the group of people who are praying for me.

Last thought (I heard that sigh of relief! 😉 ). I think it’s possible for all of us, writers and others, to intentionally do good works or sing a New Song and never know, this side of heaven, whether others are seeing and as a result, glorifying God or trusting Him. That’s OK. It is enough that I can leave in His hands the results of that which He has entrusted to me.

Published in: on August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 Comments

  1. Excellent post! I believe you hit the nail on the head! I believe all the above are part of glorifying God and as you said, the rest is up to God.

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  2. So…. if glorifying God in our writing means “being truthful about God” and “lift[ing] Him up so others can see Him more clearly,” does this mean ONLY fiction that speaks explicitly about God can glorify Him? Or as I asked in my initial post, “Can only writers of explicit ‘Christian content’ glorify God in their writing?”

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  3. This IS an excellent post. I agree.

    My only point of contention with you here is that while I believe it is a wonderful thing for a writer to exalt God as a way of inviting others to give glory to God for who he is and what he’s done, I also believe that the writer glorifies God when he gives good product to his customers. I believe the plumber glorifies God when he does a good job of repairing the pipes.

    Glory is something God has and we can’t take from or add to his glory in one sense. But in another sense, how we behave either honors or dishonors him. When we honor him by loving our neighbors we are obeying this command: Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I know you well enough to know that you aren’t saying we should ignore that command because it’s too fuzzy. But you seem to have written it off as not having anything to say about how we glorify God because it’s given in the context of meat sacrificed to idols. The limited context doesn’t negate the fact that how we act toward our neighbor is done either to the glory of God or to the glory of ourselves. (At least in one instance, and I would argue the “whatever you do” shows clearly that in every instance our treatment of our brothers should be done to the glory of God.)

    We are to be holy as our heavenly father is holy. We are to be merciful as God is merciful. We are to have the mind of Christ and to look out for the interests of others. If we act Christlike, God is glorified simply because we are his ambassadors here. What we do reflects on him. Doing a good day’s work for your employer, whether we’re fixing pipes or selling novels, is Christlike, because it’s looking out for the interests of others. And just as Jesus glorified God by completing the work he was sent to do (John 17), we also glorify God by doing the work he sends us to do, namely to love God and love neighbor while the mind of Christ dwells in us. Yes, loving neighbor means we preach the gospel. But not necessarily every day or in every book.

    This is not a matter of having a vague sense that we’re to glorify God in everything . It’s a matter of obeying God and being holy, loving, merciful. Always. If we do those things we are doing all to the glory of God. Where we fail to do those things we are working for our own glory. If I love my neighbor I will share the gospel with him and I will lift up Christ. But you haven’t convinced me (yet 🙂 ) that only novelists that write novels that exalt God are writing for his glory.

    OK I’m sure that’s over 200 words. But I can’t answer you on my blog because my blog has nothing to do with God’s glory. 🙂 (Though I’m trying to glorify him by doing a good job–I’m certainly not trying to glorify myself. And I don’t see anything as neutral. It’s all either glorifying God or glorifying self.) So…sorry for blogging in your comments section.

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  4. I agree with you Sally! That’s what I wanted to say, but could not but into words so eloquently.

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  5. Thanks for the feedback, all.

    Mike, I guess I wasn’t clear. The things you mentioned I am categorizing as exalting God, which I now consider different from glorifying Him. That’s what I want to do in my writing, not what I think other writers are necessarily referring to when they talk about wanting to glorify God in their novels.

    As I understand the word “glorify” as used in Scripture, I don’t think that’s something novelists do. However, their writing or their story or their life might be a good work that causes others to glorify God. I think, for example, of the book Sally wrote about in her Spec Faith article that was a catalyst for her coming to Christ. All those years later, and unbeknown to the author, she was glorifying God because of that story and how God used it in her life.

    Can a writer set out to make his story a “good work” — the kind Jesus was referring to? I suppose so. I think of good works generally as serving others — those in need of food or comfort or daily food — but I believe it could also be providing spiritual needs, including encouragement or exhortation.

    Is offering good (artistic) entertainment a way of serving others? I have a hard time as seeing it so.

    I see it as an honorable profession, something a writer can do to provide for his family, but in writing a good story, I don’t see it as necessarily glorifying God.

    Becky

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