Should We Forgive Authors?

working-man-131372-mWhen I was in high school, my church was a growing, vibrant congregation, due in large part to the dynamic preacher who occupied the pulpit. That is, until his wife ran off and had an affair. Not only did our pastor lose his marriage, he lost his ministry.

I wasn’t privilege to all events that transpired. Did he resign or was he forced out? I don’t know.

Not so many years afterward, one of the gifted teachers I’d been reading was discovered to be having an affair. He too lost his ministry, though I recall that he did repent of his sin. I don’t know what happened in his marriage.

Of course all of us are sinners, but some have a more public fall. Solomon would qualify for that category. He wrote some of the clearest warnings against sexual morality, addressing his words to his son. Many people memorize these words and turn to the passages to study in regard to the issue of sexual purity.

Except, Solomon was the man who had . . . what, 600 wives and 300 mistresses? But no adultery, apparently. Well, OK.

Of course, Solomon’s words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so there’s a greater reason to listen to what he had to say than that his life validated his words. Because it did not.

So I’m wondering, do we reserve our forgiveness for a writer’s wayward life just for those the Holy Spirit inspired? Or can we look at what others write and glean truth from their words though their life might not hold up to close scrutiny?

I mean, let’s face it. No one’s life holds up to close scrutiny. That’s why we need a Savior. But no author that I know of puts their most egregious sins in the bio that goes on the cover of their book. So what happens if readers learn of a life style or a proclivity or a habit with which they disagree?

Of course, most Christians don’t expect non-Christian writers to live according to Biblical standards. As such, there’s often a lot of filtering of material. Just today a friend who reads just about everything by a famous author said she brushes past certain scenes by certain characters. But otherwise the writing is so good.

Should readers take the same approach toward Christian authors?

I ask in part because notoriously Christian readers are harder on Christian authors. We want their lives to be godly and their stories to be theologically sound. And why shouldn’t we? I don’t think Christian novelists are so different from pastors or non-fiction writers.

Or are they? Because they command the attention of an audience, should they live in an intentionally different way since people are watching?

In reality, I think all Christians should live in an intentionally different way because people are watching. We should want them to watch because we should want them to see Jesus in us.

But what happens when a writer falls short? What happens when you learn your favorite novelist is a universalist or believes in sinless perfection? What happens when the evangelist you look up to takes Mormonism off the cult list?

How are readers to respond?

I think there are three ways that believers might commonly respond. Some will treat the books and authors exactly as they do non-Christian works and writers–enjoy them, but stay alert for what is false. Others will simply stop reading those books from that particular author. Others may or may not read the books, but they will pray that God will open the eyes of that author’s heart and that he might come to a position of repentance.

So here’s the thing. I’ve thought for . . . maybe my whole life, about how authors can influence readers. But now I’m seeing that, through prayer, readers can influence authors.

So guess which response is the one I’d recommend? 😉

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 5:44 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. As a new author, this topic perked my ears. As I have been working with my editor recently, the Lord has been witnessing to me about accountability. I feel God was making me keenly aware of the greater responsibility that comes with being a spokesman on prayer and intimacy with Him. Thank you, for being the confirmation I was hearing from Him. All believers should diligently walk in a way that is pleasing to our heavenly Father. When one steps out to instruct, encourage, or direct others in the Lord; their walk is no longer between them and God. They put themselves in view of all who may be listening to also be watching to see if they walk as they preach. I am humbled by this. I am challenged by this. Thank you, for encouraging others to pray for those who fall. I pray I don’t (we are to be careful least we do), but if I do; I’d like to know someone is praying for my blinded eyes to see once again. Thanks again for the honest exhortation.


    • Elizabeth, the book of James addresses this issue of accountability for teachers (3:1, I think). I think writers may fall into that category simply because we are more visible. It would be easy for people to say, hey, she said this, that, and the other in her book but look how she lives. We are setting ourselves up as people who have something important to say. People are bound to notice if our lives don’t match.

      I do think prayer is the untapped resource we all have. Again from James: “You do not have because you do not ask.”



  2. “In reality, I think all Christians should live in an intentionally different way because people are watching.”

    Actually, shouldn’t it have nothing at all to do with who is watching?

    And, this makes me think of the splinter and the plank–the reader shouldn’t be picking splinters out of authors’ eyes unless they’ve removed their own planks.

    I don’t expect authors to be holier than me, and I certainly am not holier than those reading my books. Fiction can be a way to make a connection and see that we are all broken and need God, readers and authors alike.


    • Thanks for the comment, Kat. I see your point about not caring who’s watching, but was it Jesus who used the metaphor of us being lights and that we’re not supposed it hide it under a bushel but put it on a hill? That’s more what I’m thinking.

      And in our world–I’d say western society, but I think it’s spread–we’re celebrity-driven. People want to know about the life of the people whose work they admire. So becoming a public figure makes us a bit more of a target. As such, ugly things can come to light–things which past generations would never learn about their “heroes.”

      I remember in school I loved Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories. At some point I learned a bit more about his life, and I was . . . disappointed. (Though there’s been more research and many think he had an undiagnosed illness, not drug addiction.) But the point was, I came to the place where I could see the quality of his work without seeing it as a product of his lifestyle.

      Reminds me of something toward the end of Gone with the Wind, when a prostitute wants to give generously to the recovery efforts after the Civil War, but the “respectable folk” wouldn’t accept her offering. They could not separate the gift from the means by which she gained it. In that respect, when readers learn something about writers, I think we need to decide how to respond.

      In reality, though, we all have a host of people to whom we can be light. Or salt. And I think that description of who we are, along with the commission we’ve been given telling us what we are to do, should inspire us to live “in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.”



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: