Living As A Bible Believer In The Twenty-first Century

narrow roadIf I were asked how it feels to live as a Bible believer in the twenty-first century, I’d say it feels tight, like I’m being pinched. On one side is the reduction of religious expression in the public place and on the other religionists shouting “legalism.”

Recently Sci-fi author Nancy Fulda, a Hugo and Nebula nominee, expressed the pressure she feels to keep her religious beliefs to herself:

I’m talking about feelings of rejection because of who we are and what we believe, independent of any specific actions we have taken. Feelings of invalidation and dehumanization. Fear of being ridiculed or publicly dogpiled if we allow our religious affiliations to be known. “Sci fi writers feel ridicule over religion”

I have no way of knowing if Ms. Fulda is a Christian or not. She could be Buddhist for all I know, but certainly what she expressed about her faith applies to Christians. More than once I’ve read in Internet discussion that Christians are stupid, believe a fantasy, have no business basing their voting decisions on their religion (supposedly this would be an attempt to legislate morality), and any number of other dismissive statements, including the idea that novelists shouldn’t put religious beliefs in their fiction.

Here are a few sample Kindle reviews of a couple not so recent novels:

* “I’m getting bored with these religious freebies on Kindle… The author has limited linguistic finesse and an even lesser ability to plot and pace the story, which quite frankly, is very poor.”

* “some religous zelouts give religion a bad name with stunts like this. this author has a fish bumper sticker on his car because he hasnt got the guts to admit his own faith up front.”

* “I’m all for people believing whatever they want to believe, but don’t try to sell your beliefs to me by pretending your book is a fiction novel.”

* “This is the second fantasy novel I downloaded not knowing the authors were Christian writers. I have no issue with faith based novels – I simply do not wish to read them (I have my own faith, thank you very much). Readers ought to be given the choice. “

Perhaps the problem is in the execution, but a number of these reviewers seemed to find strong Christianity in a novel to be an affront. And yet, time and again we see other worldviews displayed in fiction–whether in novels or on TV or in movies–with no complaints.

But I mentioned feeling pinched. On the other side, squeezing inward are professing Christians who accuse Bible believing Christians of being legalistic for no other reason than that we believe the whole Bible as opposed to picking and choosing the parts we prefer. Somehow a “progressive” approach is viewed as smarter, more compassionate, and more godly

Generally these people claim some kind of higher ground, professing that belief has evolved, that their understanding of god is not shackled by an outdated book, and therefore is more true because it is their own understanding, their own experience.

So on one hand, secularists want Bible believers to shut up and sit down, and on the other, professing Christians with a “progressive” bent want Bible believers to shut up and sit down.

Well, that gives us lots of options! 😉

I don’t think Bible believers need to be offensive in the way we proceed, but I don’t think being pinched should stop us from saying what we believe or writing what we believe. Scripture says the good news about Jesus Christ will be offensive to those who disbelieve. But at the same time, Peter writes in his first letter that we are not be be guilty of wrong doing–not even of being a “troublesome meddler.” But if we suffer as Christians we are not to be ashamed but are to “glorify God in that name” (see 1 Peter 4).

577013_tightrope_walkerThe thing is, the more Bible believers are pinched, the narrower the road on which we walk. And the narrower the road, the trickier the balancing act we must do.

I don’t think it’s something we need to whine about or even necessarily try to change. It seems to me to be the fulfillment of the conditions described for the Church in the Bible.

But I do think a narrow road, a tight rope extended over treacherous terrain, requires more. More faith, more dependence on God, more humility, more trust, more reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, more prayer, more understanding of God’s power perfected in weakness.

If that’s where the Bible believer is going in the twenty-first century, I’d have to say, it’s a pretty good place.

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9 Comments

  1. Seems like a win-win to me. If I, as a Christian believe in a ‘fantasy’ well that gives me a double advantage – I am the ideal writer for fantasy and at the same time, if what is real to me, is fantasy to others..well who is not intrigued by a great fantasy? Just be certain you know what is fantasy and what is real, that it is not the opposite of what you think. LOL Some of the best fantasy is written by Christians.

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    • HA, I think I agree with you, Retha! 😉

      Yes, I do think some of the best fantasy is written by Christians, and I expect more authors to be added to that list.

      Becky

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      • Then I am in excellent company…I love to read fantasy and fantasy is my preferred genre to write in. (So how do I add the smily face here)

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  2. I have read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy and I have noticed that just about all writers present a belief in one way or another. The best fantasies were written by Christians. If Christian writers are so bad why is every Fantasy books I have read over the past 20 years are always compared to Tolkien and Lewis and these are all Secular writers. I think this is more of the signs of the times straight from scriptures that Men and Women too will have a form of Godliness but are not really Christian. Another part is that Man will know the truth but are blinded by the “god of this world.” Be ready, know the word, and walk daily with the Master as Andrew Murray would say.

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    • Good observations, James. I also think the confusion between what is true and what is imagined, what is good and what is evil reflects our times–as Scripture tells us. Andrew Murray wrote in a simple style as I recall, but reiterated profound truths.

      Becky

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    • So true…….

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  3. I believe that the whole Bible is true, but I personally do not feel that I should reverence it as the most important part of my identity. The Bible informs my faith and teaches me what to believe in, but I don’t put my faith in the Bible itself.

    I agree with your conclusion. I wouldn’t agree with “progressives”; I believe that humans are incapable of progressing in the right way apart from God’s grace, and I believe the Bible and the Holy Spirit are the conduits of that grace. But I always feel cautious and uneasy when Christians explicitly claim Biblical authority, or use it to exclude other Christians.

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    • Bainespal, my contention is that anyone who believes the Bible won’t reverence it, because it is in the Bible we learn about idols and religious tradition and legalism being an affront to God. We also learn that to obey is better than sacrifice, what God requires is for us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him. We learn we can’t say we love Him and hate our neighbor and that doing puts life to our faith.

      In other words, someone who really believes the Bible will be living it, not putting it on a pedestal. That’s what the progressives don’t understand–those who accuse Bible believers of legalism for no reason other than our affirmation that it is “true” in all its parts as well as in its complete message.

      A friend of mine introduced me to a helpful expression: I don’t believe the Bible literally but literarily. In other words, I understand the poetry as poetry, the history as history, and so one.

      It’s not a simple matter keeping all the parts straight–the disciples themselves misunderstood Jesus from time to time, thinking he was speaking literally when He was teaching them figuratively and vice versa. (I just read today about Jesus warning them about the leaven of the Pharisees and they started talking about how they forgot to bring bread. They thought literally but He was talking figuratively about the Pharisees’ teaching.)

      I’m not sure what you mean you say

      when Christians explicitly claim Biblical authority,

      Do you mean when a group says the Bible gives them the authority to do some strange thing or do you mean when a person says the Bible is the authority by which God communicates all we need for life and godliness?

      Becky

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      • I agree that someone who really believes the Bible will live out its teachings, rather than put it on a pedestal as an idol or a talisman.

        Do you mean when a group says the Bible gives them the authority to do some strange thing or do you mean when a person says the Bible is the authority by which God communicates all we need for life and godliness?

        Because I do believe that the whole Bible is true and also authoritative, calling something “Biblical” is a fairly high claim. Not only is it claiming truth, but it’s making a bold claim of whole spiritual truth and authority. I’m a very cautious person, and I’m extremely reserved and hesitant about spiritual matters. I believe in absolute truth, but I’m almost always skeptical when someone casually attaches a claim of absolute truth to his or her positions or theories.

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