ISIS/ISIL – What’s In A Name?

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State.svgI finally did a little digging to see why the US media refers to the terrorists operating in Syria and Iraq as ISIS while the White House calls them ISIL. Not that I got a good answer.

I did learn a few things, though. First, the term the President and all his staff use—ISIL—stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Levant? Sorry, but I didn’t know that term so had to look it up. Turns out Levant refers to “the eastern part of the Mediterranean with its islands and neighboring countries” (Oxford-American Dictionary). A pretty broad area, in other words.

The terrorists themselves have changed the name of their organization more than once. In 2013 they adopted Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—ISIS—but just this past summer they changed to the broader name Islamic State, a term some news outlets are now using.

In all this it appears to me that varying groups are bending over backwards to get the name right, to stay up to date, or to be consistent. But here’s the thing—names carry meaning.

Add to that fact this key point played out in every one of our government elections—defining your opponent is key to success. For example, four years ago in an election here in California, Senator Barbara Boxer (not known for much by way of legislation or clout or pretty much anything in the Senate at the time) seemed to be in real trouble against the smart, well-connected woman entrepreneur, Carly Fiorina. But Boxer’s campaign team hit the air waves first, during a period of economic downturn and high unemployment, and defined Fiorina as someone shipping jobs overseas:

Boxer . . . was able to get TV commercials on the air earlier that defined Fiorina as an out-of-touch CEO and someone too socially conservative for the state (“Barbara Boxer Defeats Carly Fiorina”).

Jerry Brown, in his run (or re-run) for governor of California in 2010 did the same thing, defining his wealthy opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, as someone trying to buy the governorship.

Years before, during the abortion wars, the media came under fire for defining the two sides with the names they favored—Pro-choice for groups favoring abortion and Anti-abortion for groups opposed to abortion. The latter, in contrast, called themselves Pro-life and referred to their opponents as Pro-abortion.

Good propaganda capitalizes on the power in a name, defining oneself before his opponent does or defining his opponent before he himself does.

I’m at a loss to understand, then, why both the media and the White House are showing the extremists trying to hijack Islam the kind of respectful attention that using their puffed up title affords them. Islamic State?

Imagine what people would think if a group of Christians decided to declare Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska the Protestant State. Would the media and the White House politely be calling those Christians the PS or the PTOKN? Not likely.

But this past June these Muslim extremists went a step farther. They showed their hand by declaring a caliphate headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin, Caliph Ibrahim). “A caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful, (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia)” (Wikipedia).

Caliph refers to “the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler, regarded as the successor of Muhammad” (Oxford-American Dictionary). The group, then, claims dominance over the Islamic world:

In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over all Muslims worldwide, and aims to bring most Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political control (Wikipedia).

In other words, this group of extreme terrorists has taken upon itself the mantle of their most respected religious figure and, by the newest iteration of their name, are declaring themselves to be THE representation of Islam. My guess is Saudi Arabia doesn’t agree, or Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, or any of the other Muslim countries.

Why then, do we here in the US politely go along with their self-aggrandizement? Why are we not defining them as they certainly appear to Christians and to many non-Christians as well—manipulative, power-grabbing terrorist bullies. We could call them MPTB for short, since initials seem to be all the rage these days.

Names matter.

God thinks so, which was why He gave the command to treat His name as holy.

Muslims think so too, holding the name of their Prophet in highest honor.

Propagandists (and campaign managers fit into this category) understand the power of tagging labels on those they support or oppose.

It seems to me it’s past time that Americans wake up to the power of a name. We bandy God’s name around as if He has no meaning, but we fire people for daring to call another individual “the N word,” or some other offensive term.

We validate terrorists by calling them the Islamic State (whether IS or ISIS or ISIL) and we disparage Christians and Church by labeling them “traditional” or (horrors!) “fundamental.”

Because names have meaning and communicate, it’s important to use them wisely and with purpose.

God’s name should be revered, whether we call Him God or Yahweh or Father or Lord or address His Son, Jesus or speak of His Holy Spirit. All should matter because He matters. Those of us who bear the name of Christ should validate His importance to us by conducting ourselves in obedience to Him.

But in this topsy-turvy world where good is being called evil and evil, good, we put more effort in calling a heinous terrorist group by its “right” name than we do identifying God.

What too few people realize is that one day ISIS or IS or America or all other names will pale in significance, and the whole world will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There’s the name that matters most!

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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More “Is It Christian or Not,” Day 3

As I said yesterday, I think Merrie made some especially helpful comments regarding the subject of “Christian fiction”:

I think what we might call Christian fiction can fall into the following categories:
1. Appropriate for Christians
2. Written by Christians
3. Written with a Christian worldview
4. Written for the Christian market (CBA)
5. Written for the secular market (ABA) with a missionary intent

And I think number five can be broken down even further:
a. Written with a clear (but maybe not strong) gospel message
b. Written with a subtle (more show, than tell) gospel message

Taking off from this list, I’ll give my view here: Christian fiction is fiction written in line with a Christian worldview. It can be written for the Christian market (CBA) or for the secular market (ABA).

If written for the former, it should focus on edification or reproof or correction (or any combination of those). If the latter, then, as Merrie said, it can have a clear gospel message or a subtle one. It can serve to prepare the soil or plant seeds.

In Merrie’s list, the category I found particularly interesting was “appropriate for Christians.” As I’ve thought about this, I came to the conclusion I don’t really see some things which are appropriate for non-Christians but inappropriate for Christians.

I want to appeal to Scripture here and say with Paul, All things are lawful but not all things are profitable.

Maybe when writing fiction, the point is to determine if what we include in our stories is profitable for our audience.

Mike Duran posted a thoughtful piece about this subject over at Decompose. In it he included a great quote from Flannery O’Connor:

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural …. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.
– Flannery O’Connor as quoted by Mike Duran, Decompose, June 2007

Mike then quotes a “shocking” passage from one of O’Connor’s stories. His point is that such passages disqualify O’Connor’s work in the eyes of many Christians as “Christian fiction.”

Here’s where I find myself fighting for the definition of Christian fiction. Sally said it well:

I do believe there can be Christian stories and Christian music and I think both need to have words that speak of Christ–either explicitly or in type–to bear that name. Music and stories that do not speak of Christ can be God-glorifying but they cannot be Christian.

So here’s how I see this discussion that sprang up from a comment Mike made about my including The Lord of the Rings in my top twenty-five Christian novels. Mike believes that “conservative Christians” such as myself want to exclude stories with clear redemptive themes if they have bad language, explicit sex, or characters with unhealthy vices. I, on the other hand, believe that Christian novelists, vying for more literary credibility and decrying “preachiness,” are leaving out themes of redemption.

This is why I said I believe Mike and I are coming to this discussion at cross-purposes.

As I stated in a previous post, not all conservative Christians believe Christian fiction must have characters that adhere to a list of dos and don’ts. But some prefer it. For some, fiction that edifies is fiction that shows characters rising to that which we should be. Can this be bad?

Well, the intent, no. The quality, unfortunately, can be bad. In the end, I’d have to agree with Sally again. What matters most for a Christian writer is to write the best stories we possibly can. Whether they are for the CBA market, to edify, reprove, correct or for the ABA market to weed, seed, or water.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 11:18 am  Comments (2)  

More “Is It Christian or Not,” Day 2

OK, I obviously hadn’t anticipated this topic turning into a series (again), but I think the discussion is lively and informative.

However, as all blog discussions go, good points or questions come up one day and get left in the dust because of more lively comments the next day. I’ll try not to do that.

In response to Tuesday’s post, Mir gave a good definition of Christian fiction—her opinion of it, with which I tend to agree. Her salient point was that other religions and lifestyles are unapologetic in writing from their belief systems. Christians certainly can do the same. OK, that’s obviously my paraphrase, as I understood her point.

The part of that discussion that threw me was ML’s response:

As it happens, I know many sympathetic and devout Muslims, and as it again happens, God loves them even more than I do! Some of my Muslim friends read my fiction, because — gasp! the Muslim character doesn’t convert!

My question is, so what is it that identifies your fiction as Christian? If you believe as the Bible says, that Jesus is the way, truth, life and no one enters into relationship with God by another means, are you actually writing from that worldview by portraying someone in a false religion as sympathetic, devout, and unconverted? It seems to me a Christian worldview necessitates a distinction between truth and error. How you make that distinction, of course, is open for individual creativity. Perhaps you’ve made it and it is just not apparent from the comments here.

Which brings us to dear friend Mike of Decompose fame. By the way, I am not at all being insincere when I call him a dear friend. He’s one of the on-liners I’ve actually met in real time and space. I value Mike’s opinion. He constantly challenges my thinking, which forces me to do a better job of it. I appreciate that. Of course, in this current discussion, he’s dead wrong. 😀 Now I just said that for a little humor. I don’t think there is an actual right or wrong in this matter. Instead, I continue to think we are speaking at cross purposes. Here’s part of Mike’s comment:

When I employ “a more ‘conservative’ definition” of “Christian fiction” it is only to illustrate the inconsistencies (i.e., does Christian fiction mean no smoking, sex, drinking, cussing, and convenient redemptive resolution? Well, to conservative Christians it does).

See, here’s the thing. I am a conservative Christian, and I do not define Christian fiction by a list of mores. So I have to believe that either I’m an anomaly or “Christian fiction” has been misappropriated. Since I know others who are also conservative and who do not define Christian fiction by a list of character dos-and-don’ts, I conclude the term has been misappropriated. And sadly, Mike, someone such as yourself, who claims to personally adhere to a “liberal” definition of the term, also says “I’d suggest that the reason we keep rehashing the same thing is because the concept of Christian Fiction is inherently flawed.”

The “concept of Christian fiction”? The concept of including the spiritual in fiction? The concept of pointing to Christ in the process? Does that mean we should show truth as long as it has nothing to say about eternity?

I think I know Mike well enough to say this isn’t his position. It is, I believe, the logical outcome of doing away with Christian fiction rather than correctly defining it.

I thought Merrie’s comment along with others yesterday gave some helpful direction in that regard, and I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Published in: on June 7, 2007 at 11:29 am  Comments (16)  

Is It Christian or Not?

Mike Duran brought up the on-going discussion he and I have been engaged in off and on. What actually IS Christian fiction?

Oddly enough, I believe I use the term in a “liberal” way, and thus have no problem touting Christian fiction and supporting much of the more recent work. Mike, on the other hand, uses a more “conservative” definition and decries the “genre” in general. Go figure.

So I wonder. What do YOU think is Christian fiction? Below is a 1400 word short story I wrote for a Writer’s Digest contest. Do you think it is Christian? Why or why not?


Back in drought-plagued Mpwapwa, superstition was law, with the shaman as the ultimate authority, but sitting in this Kansas court house, I couldn’t help think the little Tanzanian village looked more and more like heaven.

I tugged my skirt further over my knees, squeezed them tighter together, and straightened my back against the hardwood bench. I’d still be in my dimly-lit hut right now, boiling up a mess of cabbage if it weren’t for the mission’s financial policy. Support level too low for too long, they’d said, and I packed up and headed back to the States. Reluctantly?

I thought so, but coming home was almost a relief. To be completely honest, it wasn’t long before I came to see it as a blessing, as if God had handed me a get-out-of-jail-free card. Who could fault me for enjoying my own little wood-frame house or for basking in grocery-store plenty? Best of all was church, but that was before this suit, of course.

I glanced at the shiny black marble floor, squeaky-slick if you were wearing the right shoes. Like Dave was.

He shuffle-squeaked away from the bank of elevators and down the long hall, pausing before each oaken double door as if he didn’t quite believe they numbered the courtrooms in order.

I didn’t blame him. Nothing else about these divorce proceedings seemed quite believable. Why not a surreal numbering sequence, too? But, of course Courtroom 517 followed Courtroom 516, and he closed the distance between us.

I drew my sweater tighter around me. At the movement he glanced in my direction for the first time. He blanched, then turned a shade of gray, like an aging cut of pork.

“Beth.” A plaintive violin couldn’t have sounded more forlorn, the way he said my name.

He turned as if looking to escape down the hall or maybe to duck into a nearby courtroom, but as he did, another elevator dinged, and Julia click-clacked into view.

Dave took three steps toward her, stopped, glanced back at me, and groaned. Actually groaned, like he had the stomach flu and was trying to fight off the pain.

I grabbed up my purse from beside me and plopped it into my lap, pretending to hunt for something beneath my cell phone, wallet, and keys while actually searching for some place to hide.

“Well, isn’t this cozy.” Julia’s glaring voice ricocheted off the walls. “You two planning on a quickie in some closet before the hearing?”

“Stop it!” Dave uncoiled, filling the center of the hallway.

Julia’s sneer translated into a look of hate. “As if having an affair wasn’t bad enough, you picked a missionary? Someone I befriended?”

“Right there, that’s the problem with our marriage, not some imagined infidelity.”

“Save it for the judge.” She spun back the way she’d come and jounced toward the elevators.


The smart click, click, click of her footsteps filled the silence behind his plea.

Clutching my purse to me, I strolled toward the stairs at the far end of the hallway. Or maybe I sprinted. All I knew was I had to get away from the two best friends I had in the world.

She, so triumphant in announcing her husband’s betrayal, not willing to entertain my claims of innocence, not believing Dave’s denials of impropriety.

He, so sunken in his bearing, yet never faltering in his declaration of love for his wife, never wavering in his profession of faithfulness.

And I knew he was telling the truth, certainly knew that he’d never been unfaithful with me.

Not that I couldn’t have been attracted to him. There was a depth of passion glimmering in his eyes, but never more so than when he talked about Julia. He did talk about her, too. Often, in fact, so his status as a married man was never far from mind, almost as if he held it between us as a knight would his shield.

Which suited me just fine, especially on those Tuesday nights Julia came home late. Why she couldn’t get away from her office sooner was a mystery, but instead of conceding the fact, she insisted we still plan on a 5:30 dinner at her house before driving together to our women’s Bible study.

Two weeks after we started, 5:30 slipped to 5:40. Julia breezed in with her usual bustle, flourishing a pizza she picked up on her way home.

I offered to meet her at a restaurant next time, and pick up the tab, or have her come to my place, but she refused. After all, Dave had to eat, too, she said.

A week later 5:40 slipped to 6:00. The Tuesday after that, when 6:00 came and still no Julia, I insisted Dave call her office. He did, but when he got her voice mail, he hung up. I nagged him into calling her cell phone though he repeated she was in the habit of turning it off during work hours to avoid interruptions.

“But she should be done with work by now.” I crossed my arms and leaned against the kitchen door frame.

“For the last month or so they’ve been keeping her late.” From the pantry, he pulled out a bag of spaghetti and a jar of sauce, then filled a pan with water.

Julia was a bit testy that night, defensive, too, it seemed, about not having brought home anything for dinner. I offered again to have her come to my place the next week.

“Don’t be silly,” she said, “we love having you here, don’t we, Dave.”

He smiled so sorrowfully, I remember, as if his heart was shattering, but said, “Any friend of Julia’s is always welcome.”

Apart from those awkward moments, spending time with Julia and Dave every Tuesday evening became the highlight of my week.

Until 6:00 slipped to 6:30. More and more now Dave would cook dinner, and we’d be waiting at the table for Julia to breeze in, peck her husband on the cheek, and slide into her place beside him.

“Isn’t he the best?” she would coo, a little too strongly, all the while looking at me, not at Dave.

I’d murmur some kind of agreement because if I didn’t she’d press the point.

“Come on, Beth, you have to admit he’s the per-fect husband.” She purred the phrase in a sultry way that had me searching for my napkin on my lap.

“I’ll have to take your word for that,” I said, and eventually she let the subject drop.

When had her suggestive implications turned into venomous accusations? Looking back, I could see the pattern: playful comments became caustic, oblique looks became confrontational, alluring insinuations became lewd.

Still, I didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. I mean, how could she think Dave capable of cheating on her? If she knew him at all, she had to realize he was not the kind of man who would ever break his word.

But even when I stopped coming for our Tuesday dinners, Julia wagged her allegations all over church, to anyone who would listen.

So here I was, standing in a darkened stairwell of the courthouse, waiting to tell some judge that, contrary to an aggrieved wife’s claims, I had not slept with my best friend’s husband.

My best friend—more like my only friend, aside from Dave. For the longest time I hadn’t understood why the other women didn’t reciprocate any of my efforts to get to know them. I’d chalked it up to busy-ness and appreciated Julia and Dave all the more.

A giggle—throaty, sensuous—sounded from the landing below.

“Shhh, somebody will hear us,” a man said.

“You worry too much, Tony.” Julia’s sleek voice.

I leaned over the railing just far enough to see her arms wrapped around some stranger, his head bent toward her neck. She moaned and pushed her body into his.

I disappeared back into the shadows, but the sound of their kisses penetrated my hiding place.

My face flushed hot. Not Dave. Julia was having an affair! Out in the hall was her faithful husband waiting for some judge to crucify him for something he hadn’t done, and here was his treacherous wife, in the arms of her lover.

I wanted to scream, to pummel her with my fists for her lies, or better, to expose her as the cheat she was. Except, what judge would believe me—the other woman in a divorce proceeding—if I accused the wife of adultery? Unless …

I snapped open my purse, pulled out my cell phone—my video cell phone—and aimed it toward the stairwell.

Published in: on June 5, 2007 at 11:31 am  Comments (10)  

Is All Truth Christian?—Day 2

Before we get started, I had someone e-mail me that the links in yesterday’s post were dead. Thing is, they aren’t for me. Nothing is amiss in the HTML code and I took the addresses right out of the address bar. Plus they open for me. So the question is, are others of you having trouble opening the links?

On to the discussion. I have to say, I like what I said here regarding the definition of “Christian” a little bit better than what I said at Spec Faith, though I think the two together give a clearer picture of what I believe.

Here’s the one from yesterday’s A Christian Worldview of Fiction post:

As I established at Speculative Faith, Scripture identified the term Christian as a disciple of Christ. In “describe mode” then, it should mean something like “that to which a Christian adheres.”

And over at Spec Faith it was this:

I believe the terms are appropriate if the particular object exists to communicate the core value of a disciple of Christ. Therefore, “Christian fiction” identifies the core values the stories will communicate—ones a disciple of Christ adheres to.

In his comment at Spec Faith, Mark asked:

If we go with the idea that Christian fiction is fiction that communicates the core values of Christianity, I guess the next question is going to be which parts of Scripture are the core values? Would “loving your neighbor as yourself” be a sufficient theme? Would “judge not, lest ye be judged”? Would a tangential idea found in Scripture, the sort of thing that might inspire a sermon, be sufficient to make a story Christian? This seems like a hard approach when you sit down and attempt to apply it.

I’d say that was fundamental to this issue. What are the core values of Christianity? When I say “core” I have in mind “essential.” It’s the stuff that a Christian believes that no one else believes. Consequently, anything of God seen in natural revelation is not uniquely Christian. Yes, we know OF God through what He made, but we KNOW God only through His Son. We know about the Son through His word.

Does that mean that all of Scripture would qualify as “Christian”? “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Seems that all Scripture might qualify as Christian, but not in isolation—not as a list of “thou-shalts.”

The verse before II Timothy 3:16 says

…and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The “sacred writings” Paul referred to were the portions of the Bible the first century Christians had. And what these writings were able to give is the core of Christian thought: “the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s the point: the wisdom that leads to salvation is not a list of spiritual laws, not four and not even ten. When the rich young ruler asked what he had to do to be saved, Jesus said to keep the law. When the young man said he had kept the law, Jesus added one more, something not on any list. Why? Because salvation isn’t about list keeping. It has never been about list keeping. It is about making a connection with the One who fashioned us after His likeness, a connection we are incapable of making.

Making a connection we are incapable of making. Establishing the truth of that apparent dichotomy, to my mind, is part of the wisdom that leads to salvation.

In fact, I see the wisdom that leads to salvation as fairly broad—because people of various races, cultures, ages, locations see the world through their own lens of understanding. And each person is at a different place in the “connecting process.” Some never will. Does that have a place in Christian literature? Undoubtedly.

So what am I saying? The core of Christianity is Jesus. Man’s need of Him, His provision of Himself to meet that need. An individual’s faith in and acceptance of that provision. Therefore, “Christian fiction” is story that touches this core in some way.

Again, that others have read false things into the phrase “Christian fiction”—including who the audience is and what words can or can’t be included—does not alter want the term “Christian fiction” ACTUALLY means. We can search for alternatives to express the same meaning or we can work to clear away misconceptions.

Until “Christian” no longer means a disciple of Christ, and “fiction” no longer means invented stories, I choose to stick with what Christian fiction has meant all along.

Published in: on February 27, 2007 at 12:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Is All Truth Christian?

Before Valentine’s Day, before my involvement in several blog tours, we had an interesting discussion going here about Christians’ role in the arts.

During the CSFF Blog Tour, the question came up in a different way at Christopher Hopper’s blog.

Naturally, this is an interesting subject for me as a writer and as a Christian, so I posted on the subject today over at Speculative Faith and want to add more here.

There are a couple issues I’d like to explore, but won’t do both today. Mostly I want to write them down so I don’t forget them.

One is the idea of Christians leading the way. Should we do that, or try to? Does that indeed put us in our own little corner of society?

And second is a notion Mark Bertrand has mentioned from time to time, and stated again in a comment over at Decompose that “that the truth about everything is explicitly Christian.”

Taking the items in reverse order, I’d like to explore this “all truth is God’s truth” (a phrase used in Christian education) remark. Of course understanding the meaning comes back to a definition of Christian.

As I established at Speculative Faith, Scripture identified the term Christian as a disciple of Christ. In “describe mode” then, it should mean something like “that to which a Christian adheres.”

Since Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” I don’t think any Christian would contest that indeed all truth is God’s truth. But is that the same as saying “the truth about everything is Christian”?

I think I’ll leave that question there to percolate and see what brew it brings tomorrow.

Published in: on February 26, 2007 at 12:44 pm  Comments (4)  

CSSF, Bib-Spec-Fic—What Are They? What’s the Difference?

I bring up this subject because of the interview I did with Frank Creed, founder of the Lost Genre Guild—an interview I posted today at Speculative Faith.

The conversation includes discussion of the term Frank coined for speculative fiction written from a Biblical worldview—bib-spec-fic. He defined this designation in a post at the Lost Genre Guiild blog (see October 11, 2006).

Frank even submitted that definition to Wikepedia: “Biblical speculative fiction [Bib-spec-fic], noun: stories with settings or races that are significantly unlike our own, told through a Scriptural world-view and framework.”

Interestingly, except for the speculative element, I don’t think the meaning is so far off from my definition of fiction written from a Christian worldview (from the March 16, 2006 post):

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 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? … the secret, in my estimation, lies in the theme.

… I think it’s interesting to think about Jesus’s worldview. His was a view of the world from God’s perspective. That, I believe, is truly a Christian worldview.

… That kind of statement can smack of hubris—I mean, how can a novelist ever write make-believe as if viewing the world from God’s perspective?

That’s where the “Bible believing” part I mentioned earlier comes into play. God has revealed Himself and His thoughts about His creation in His word.

As a writer conforms his or her themes to what God has revealed, he or she is writing from a Christian worldview. [quote edited; emphasis added]

I don’t want to get bogged down in semantics, and it seems to me the only way to avoid doing so is to occasionally clarify definitions.

In thinking about this discussion and clarification of terms, it dawned on me that “Christian” is not a man-made word. In the short run, I suppose it was. Some people in Antioch during the first century started calling the group Christian who believed in Jesus as Messiah; who believed Jesus is the only person capable of accessing the Father; who believed, in fact, that Jesus’s death made God’s sin-forgiving possible.

Still, we would not have the term today if it had not been recorded as part of the Bible. So, in essence “Christian” is Biblical, part of God’s writing.

That the term is not clearly understood in contemporary society, or has even been misused throughout the centuries, does not negate its power. From The Oxford American College Dictionary a Christian is “a person who … is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.”

Maybe, along with reclaiming the lost genre, we need to reclaim the real Biblical definition of Christian as well.

Published in: on November 6, 2006 at 12:17 pm  Comments (6)  

Christian Worldview Revisited

I find it interesting that in some ways Rudicus (see the discussion about the existence of God) and I think more alike than some Christians and I do.

He and I both believe that people should guard against propaganda, that we should not be swept into following blindly after the first (or second or third or fourth …) slogan-slinging personality with notoriety that touts something sounding like it meshes with our belief system. Instead we should examine the issues, think critically.

It seems that this idea of examining issues, thinking critically, and coming to a reasoned conclusion is out of vogue amongst postmodernist Christians. Rather, all questions are to be left unanswered, swathed in the unattainable mystery. OK, I exaggerate. Not “all” questions. But here is a sampling from my friend (who I have yet to meet, but whom I respect a great deal), Mark Bertrand. From his most recent blog post:

As fascinating as theological speculation can be, it ought always to be approached with caution. As Herman Bavinck said, “Mystery is the vital element of Dogmatics.” Forget that and you end up with a closed system that explains nothing but itself and endangers the truth it originally sought to illuminate.

On the surface, that quote seems to have merit, but when you consider Christianity and its belief in an infinite God, the idea of a “closed system” sounds ludicrous. I suspect that someone claiming to be a Christian yet ending up with a closed system believes more in the system than in God as He revealed Himself through the pages of the Bible.

Which brings me back to “Christian worldview.” As I defined it towards the beginning of this blog, I said:

As a writer conforms his or her themes to what God has revealed, he or she is writing from a Christian worldview.

A day or so before, I wrote the following:

From my perspective, a Christian is one who looks at the world, at God, through the lens of the Bible.

That kind of statement makes some people nervous. Too many rules. A list of do’s and don’t’s.

I’m talking about believing the Bible en toto—as a whole.

From my perspective, a Biblical framework REVEALS God rather than veiling Him with mystery. His intent, after all, is to be known, not hidden. Therefore, He gave us Truth written down and He gave us His Spirit to guide us into Truth.

To be honest with you, this framework for a Christian worldview is becoming less and less popular. On one hand there are modernists who cling to the belief in reason. On the other hand there are postmodernists who cling to the intangibility of it all. Language governs thought, but language is in flux, so real truth is a mystery, something we must believe because we certainly cannot know.

I asked my pastor what he thought of postmodernism. His answer was profound. After saying that postmodernism is the prevailing philosophy in the world today and giving some of its tenets (though a postmodernist does not wish to think in terms of tenets), he concluded by saying that the key is not to think as a modernist or as a postmodernist. The key is to think Biblically.

Now that’s a Christian worldview.

Published in: on August 28, 2006 at 11:15 am  Comments (11)  

Theme—Day 5

I might as well be up front—from my way of thinking, theme is what makes novel writing worthwhile. I understand that not every author believes this.

Some think writing a little escapist entertainment is a valid occupation. At times I look at that perspective and think it is merely a different type of writing than what I am aiming for, much as poetry is different or article writing is different.

And yet, when I read things like Sally Apokedak’s impassioned challenge at All about Children’s Books, I can’t help but wonder. Here’s a sample from her post from last Friday:

I begin to think that the real problem is that we aren’t hungry enough. We aren’t hurting enough. We aren’t desperate enough. We aren’t driven to influence the world for Christ–to strengthen the church, to save the oppressed. We don’t want to press back the evil, we’re too busy dancing with it.

In light of the evil in our world, how valid is it for me to spend hours and hours writing escapist stories? Won’t that be just so much hay and stubble that will burn up when I stand before Christ and give account of how I spent my time?

Can we justify our fiction because our characters pray for a parking space in a crowded mall? (Pulling that out of my hat—I have no story in mind). In other words, are we focused too much on what makes life here on earth more pleasant or comfortable rather than on fighting the spiritual fight for eternity’s sake?

From a Writer’s Digest article quoting Laurel Lee, (now deceased) professor at George Fox:

A well-written book of children’s verse has as much significance and relevance as an epic tome written for adults. Both works examine—or ought to examine—questions of what it means to be human in inhuman times …

I agree with her about the significance and relevance of both kinds of writing. But I don’t think her definition is enough for a work written from a Christian worldview. With eternity ahead of us, aren’t there even more important issues?

Published in: on March 22, 2006 at 11:41 am  Comments (2)  

Theme—Day 4

More from Ted Anthony’s review of
The Brief History of the Dead (Kevin Brockmeier, Pantheon Books):

From its first chapter, it reveals itself as a unique beast, a book that will echo long after the final page is read and its cover closed. It is a parable, an allegory, a piece of modern mythology that deserves a rightful place among such explorations of the human soul as Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ and Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones.’

I read the first part of this statement with some admiration. If what Anthony says is true, this book is destined to be one of the greats that will pass the test of time. The catch is, he then gives a summary of the book and I see it is full of wishful thinking, probably stimulated by some form of false religion. The author is basically exploring what happens after we die:

Brockmeier has posited a snapshop of our end, and in it he finds potential beginnings that are just as sad and pregnant with possibility as our own existence. He has created a world of death that is just like life itself, with all the uncertainties and joy, only more so.

That sad statement about a book that is exploring what the author obviously does not know makes me wonder what a Christian writer should explore.

I mean, in spite of much talk about the mystery of God, Christianity is founded upon the revelation of God. His Son came to Earth as Immanuel, God with us. His Spirit lives in the life of those who believe. We have in print His words of law, history, poetry, and prophecy.

So don’t Christian writers, who know God’s revealed truth, have sort of a disadvantage when it comes to crafting theme into our fiction—theme for us is less about exploring than it is about revealing.

Can that be done well—without the preaching? And in the process of revealing, is “thought provoking” possible?

Or must we opt for writing about what we do not understand—things like how a good God allows suffering or why we still die even though we believe Jesus conquered death?

Published in: on March 21, 2006 at 11:20 am  Comments (2)  
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