The World Divided

The world’s always been divided. I understand that. In Europe under the medieval system there were serfs and knights, lords and clergy, barons and kings. Essentially divisions were along economic lines which in turn created social lines. That’s why a royal marrying a commoner was pretty much unheard of.

Of course there were the natural barriers created by oceans that divided people groups. Then there was the development of nationalism and racism that divided people based on where they lived and what were their physical traits.

In the last 50 years the world has become smaller and smaller. The old dividing lines have melted away, but a new line is replacing all the old ones: worldview.

What do you believe? That’s the new dividing line. Of course nationalism, economics, social standing and race play into creating a person’s worldview, but I’m realizing a bigger aspect that forms the way we look at the world is our view of God.

People who don’t believe in God see the world one way, those who do believe in God, see the world in a very different way.

The discussion of the day at the FB atheist/theist group centered on the role of women. We are divided. Christians for the most part reflect the Biblical view of gender differences. Atheists think submission is a dirty word. One member even said that he would not EVER submit to ANYONE.

Which underscores the divide.

Christians first submit to God. Atheists, I believe, see the issue of obeying Someone who is over them in authority as the reason they reject God.

Christians submit to government. Atheists submit to government if they agree with it, if they have a say in creating it.

Christians believe in gender roles that involve love and submission. Atheists believe in “partnership,” which is destined to be unequal or contentious.

I know these are simplistic generalities, but I do think this divide—believing in God or not believing in God—is growing, at least in the US.

The fact is, our worldview dictates what we believe about various other issues, and ultimately what we do.

Lakers fans are Lakers fans. No one asks what your worldview is when you cheer for your favorite basketball team. But who smashes windows in the “celebrations” of a team’s successes? I don’t think anyone has ever taken a poll, but it seems hard for me to believe that someone who fears God would act in a destructive way. I mean, I’m not even saying, “Christian.” But someone who believes they either have to answer to God or they have to behave a certain way to please Him or they live by the command to love their neighbor, isn’t probably going to start fires, smash store windows, and loot local businesses.

Take that same idea to life in general. Who commits fraud against senior citizens, people who believe in and fear God or people who reject Him? Who hijacks cars? Steals purses? Shoplifts? Shoots people en masse?

I’m not saying there are no criminals who believe in God. As I noted earlier, this is a broad brush, painting generalities. But it makes sense to me that people who believe in a moral law, a Lawgiver, and a Judge, are much more likely to be law abiding than people who think law is whatever we make it and there is no one watching them 24/7, there is no just judge who will hold them accountable.

What’s the point?

I guess I think, there is no governmental answer that will bring us back into harmony. We can’t pass enough hate-crime laws or ban speakers or curb free speech in a way that will fix the great divide. I mean, telling one side to shut up and sit down is not fixing things in the first place. And a look at history will show that belief in Jesus has done well when the other side tries to stop the spread of His message.

The answer, I believe, is the one Jesus gave when He returned to heaven. We are to make disciples. The more disciples, the more people who learn to love God and love their neighbors as themselves.

It is a little surprising that so many look at Christianity as dangerous. And I mean, not just theism, but Christianity. I understand, for example, there is once again a crackdown in China on the unregistered house churches. And even of some of the registered ones. Specifically crosses have been eliminated in one area.


I can only think of one reason: Christians see the world differently.

Published in: on November 27, 2018 at 5:19 pm  Comments (7)  
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Impulse Control

MacDonald'sAs I was driving out of the mini-mall with groceries in the trunk, I came to a stop sign. A young mom was walking with her son and her daughter who she held by her hand. They’d just finished crossing the street from the McDonald’s they must have visited because in the mom’s other hand she held a food item wrapped in the bright, cheery colors of the fast-food giant.

As she reached the near side of the road, I waited. Which way was she planning on going? As it turned out, she was no longer going at all. She reached the corner near the stop sign, mostly out of the traffic lane that led to the McDonald’s drive-through window, released her daughter’s hand, and opened the food parcel—a cheeseburger, by the looks of it.

Once set free, the daughter, who I’d judge to be about four, reached toward her mother with both hands.

With the little girl now free to run into traffic if she chose, I had added incentive to wait until I knew the mom and her charges were safely out of the way.

The harried woman proceeded to stand where she was and break off a piece of the sandwich to give to her daughter.

Really? I thought. Really? In the middle of traffic? You can’t tell your daughter to wait until the car goes by, at least?

But of course she couldn’t. We are a society of instant gratification, and we’re training our kids to our way of living.

How this societal trait contrasts with the Christian worldview! In Galatians 5, for example, we learn that the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control. In 1 Corinthians 13 we learn that love is patient. Even the idea that we are to wait for Christ’s return as victorious King, shouts of a need to harness our impulses and do what’s right, not what we feel like doing.

Romans 6:12-13 speaks to God’s standard for us:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

In the first eleven verses Paul explained how our identification with Christ through baptism enables us to walk in newness of life, no longer slaves to sin. But the clear implication of the verses above is that we can still live as if we are slaves to sin, or not. If sin reigns, then we obey our lusts—our impulses, our selfish desires, what we want, no matter who it might hurt or offend or inconvenience or put in jeopardy.

If you want it, why by all means, go for it! seems to be our new motto. In other words, our lusts are reigning in our mortal bodies. Sin is reigning in our mortal bodies.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the little girl was sinning because she wanted some of the sandwich. But the mom clearly missed a teaching point. She could have shown her daughter that she needed to wait because the circumstances weren’t safe. They may have had that conversation before they crossed the street—I don’t know. But if so, the mother was either not a good judge of “safe” or she had caved to her daughter’s insistence that she get what she wanted NOW. For clearly the little girl was being insistent.

Sadly the church in the west seems to be rapidly incorporating the values of society instead of standing for God’s standard of patience and self-control. Just recently I received a newsletter from a Christian that boldly proclaimed, “I’m learning to say YES to myself.”

I don’t think the problem is that we haven’t said yes to ourselves.

I’ve been reading the biography of George Müller, who established homes for over a thousand orphans in England during the middle to late nineteenth century, all by faith in the provision of God and without asking for donations to meet any of their needs. I tried to imagine this man of faith saying that he was learning to say YES to himself. It doesn’t compute.

For Müller, the only thing that was important was seeking God and His righteousness.

To be honest, there is a movement in the church to be “missional,” by which those who use the term mean, working for social justice. But the aim seems less concerned with God’s kingdom and righteousness than with fixing the brokenness of our society.

Müller could be the cover boy for social justice. I mean, he was accepting into his orphan homes any and all children, regardless of their social status or financial means. At the same time he established an Institution of Spiritual Knowledge Home and Abroad which educated and provided for needs in various places.

But undergirding all this activity was prayer and faith and a desire for others to see God as He is—a loving Father who provides for the needs of His children, who answers the prayer of faith in the contemporary world just as He did in Bible times.

Müller’s life and way of working stand in sharp contrast to the self-indulgent lifestyle of today. I suspect he eagerly embraced, and undoubtedly taught, Paul’s admonishment not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies so we won’t obey its lusts.

Today we’re more inclined to ask, What is sin? Some might go so far as to say, Paul simply didn’t know how harmful it is to restrict a person from pursuing his or her natural inclinations. In other words, the Bible is Wrong!

Well, actually God knows us quite well, being that He came in the form of a man and lived among us. Not to mention that He created us.

Since I know myself to a degree (and because I trust Omniscience), I’m inclined to agree with God, here: I need impulse control. We all need impulse control.

The Difference The Christian Worldview Makes

The-Amazing-Spider-Man-2-PosterThree particular works of fiction, two on TV and one on the big screen, have me thinking about the difference the Christian worldview makes. SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT ON

The movie I saw was The Amazing Spider-man 2, the surprisingly well-done remake of the recent Spiderman series with Toby McGuire. This new, and very different, version stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

As you might expect from a superhero movie, Spiderman must confront Evil intent on wiping out all of New York City and/or dominating the world. The thing is, Spiderman himself is under scrutiny and criticism, but in the guise of Peter Parker, reveals the movie’s theme: Spiderman gives people a reason to hope.

In the end, though, I’m left wondering—are most people leaving the theater and thinking, Yes, Spiderman gives me hope? I doubt it for one simple reason: Spiderman is imaginary.

In reality, if very many people think about it, their plight is similar to the little boy facing the mechanized and weaponized criminal in the movie’s denouement. He’s alone and small and void of any means of defeating the adversary.

Nevertheless, standing in his little Spiderman costume, he faces the criminal down, his only hope being that the real Spiderman will return. And since we know Spiderman is imaginary, where does that leave us in the real world?

As a Christian, though, I have a different view. I can look at that movie and think, Spiderman may be imaginary, but Jesus is real. He gives real hope, eternal hope. Consequently, I’m uplifted, reminded that I’m not alone, that one greater than the evil I see in the world has taken it on and triumphed.

Yes, the defeated enemy is trying to do as much damage as possible in his final throes, but victory over him is sure. Therefore, I can stand against him confident that I am not alone, that at the right time, the soon and coming King will return.

The second bit of fiction that has me thinking about the difference a Christian worldview makes, is the new version of the Fox hit TV show, 24. Monday the season finale aired and as promised it held some shocking twists. As I’m watching these characters mourn unspeakable loss, all I can think is, this hurts them so much because they have no hope. Their whole life and purpose for existence were wrapped up in this relationship that has been taken from them, and now they have nothing to live for. On top of that, they have no hope of ever seeing that person again. For them, the person they love is forever gone.

In contrast, the Christian grieves death, but for two reasons our grief is different. First, even when a loved one is gone, the Christian still has, through Jesus Christ, the sure relationship with God, who will not fail us or forsake us, and we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who gives us comfort.

Second, we have the hope of being united with believers who have gone on before us:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Those with a different worldview have no such comfort.

Which brings me to the third piece of fiction, the old TV show called Numbers. I’m convinced that’s one of the best shows ever made, and one reason has to do with the fact that the writers were consciously exploring spiritual themes. No, they certainly weren’t doing so from a Christian point of view, but neither did they take a position that ruled out God, such as the writers understood Him to be.

Their main characters were of Jewish heritage. One took a hard line against the existence of God, another accepted some of the Jewish tradition void of belief, the third came to a point where he thought there had to be something more in life, so he began attending temple.

A station that specializes on “previously viewed” shows, is airing Numbers a few times a week. In the episode I recently saw, the character who’d started going to temple, an FBI agent who had survived a near-death attack, was contemplating his life. He said the attack made him realize how fragile humans are—that we are little more than a bag of bones and blood.

He also wondered about God in light of his attack. If He existed, why had He allowed this attack? The character thought perhaps the message of it all was that perhaps God didn’t exist after all.

While I appreciate the show bringing up the question, I was a little surprised with the juxtaposition of these two thoughts, coming from the same character. Stripped to their bare essentials, he was saying, Humans are weak and therefore, there is no God.

It’s a pretty honest assessment, apart from a Christian worldview. Man is weak. Humans are just like that little boy in Spider-man, in futility facing down insurmountable evil.

The stunning part is the conclusion that there is no God. As a Christian, I would praise God for staying the hand of the attacker so that the blow he dealt didn’t kill me. But to the character who thought there had to be more to life, God allowing the blow at all was proof, or at least a strong bit of evidence, that God didn’t exist after all.

I don’t know if there’s a more depressing conclusion: humans are weak and we are alone.

Those of us with a Christian worldview, of course, agree that we are weak, but we revel in the fact that we are NOT alone. Consequently, we have hope. And that makes all the difference.

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off on The Difference The Christian Worldview Makes  
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Christian Fiction: The Definition Matters

Yesterday over at Spec Faith, I did a “What Are You Reading” post, in part asking what Christian speculative fiction readers had enjoyed this past year. One of the comments made it clear that not everyone defines “Christian fiction” the same way.

In composing my response, it dawned on me that how a person defines “Christian fiction” dramatically affects their expectations of it.

Some readers and/or writing professionals, as John Otte did in several recent posts at Spec Faith (here’s one), say that Christian fiction is defined by its audience — Christians. Hence, Christian fiction should be about Christians and Christian issues written for Christians.

Others, as the commenter I mentioned, apparently believe Christian fiction is any fiction written by a Christian or a person professing faith in Christ. In other words, it is defined by its author. Some who hold this definition explain that a Christian’s worldview will naturally seep into his work, so whether or not he intentionally writes anything “spiritual,” it will still be marked by his Christian beliefs simply because he holds said Christian beliefs.

A third group defines Christian fiction by its content. If a story includes the gospel message, then it is Christian fiction.

I take a different tack. I believe a work is Christian if it is purposefully infused with the Christian worldview — not subliminally, as the writers who say our stories become Christian naturally because of our condition as Christians. You did notice the title of this blog, didn’t you? 😉

I know from personal experience that it is possible to write without any hint of my worldview coming through. Those pieces, then, are not rightly called Christian. Rather, a writer needs to make some effort to communicate the Christian worldview — which is broader than the gospel — either overtly or symbolically, in depth or in part, for a work to be rightly called Christian.

I think it’s apparent that these divergent definitions affect people’s expectations of the genre. If a reader comes to Christian fiction believing it is a story written by Christians, then they will expect any subject, any content, without limitations.

If, on the other hand, a reader comes to the same story believing that Christian fiction is written to Christians, for Christians, or that Christian fiction must contain the gospel, their expectations will reflect much narrower parameters.

If a reader expects purposeful communication of a Christian worldview, however, he can expect a story for other Christians or for non-Christians. He can expect an overt message and a clear presentation of the gospel, or the unique Christian understanding of truth communicated through types or symbols.

In other words, the latter understanding of Christian fiction is a broad, more inclusive category. Yet it is not stories with “anything goes” content as one can expect if “Christian fiction” is defined as fiction written by Christians.

Years ago I learned that I was writing Christian worldview fiction, and that put me at odds with much of the Christian publishing industry. At the same time, many others who found themselves at odds with the industry were also at odds with me because of the “purposeful” part of my definition. Rightly or wrongly, I felt some of those pushing to see Christian fiction expand really just wanted the freedom to write whatever they wanted, without publishers’ restrictions.

Of course general market publishers have their own set of restrictions, so why anyone would think Christian houses should operate differently isn’t logical.

Basically they, like all businesses, are interested in what they think will sell to their core market. Some of the smaller Christian houses that are not owned by a secular company still have mission statements that delineate a specific ministry goal for their fiction. Those might best be understood as Christian content houses. The others seem to operate primarily using the Christian audience framework. A few have delved into Christian worldview stories, and this seems to be a growing arm of Christian fiction.

From my perspective, the more readers understand the differing definitions and which publishers hold to which, the more they can tailor their expectations. I’d like to see that happen so we can stop the complaints and the put-downs such as I read a book of Christian fiction ten years ago and it was so preachy I’ll never read another one again.

For one thing, the industry is evolving, so fiction written ten years ago won’t look the same as fiction written today. For another, ten years ago most Christian publishers were not owned by secular companies. Hence it’s a fair assumption that their mission statements may have been more tied to ministry. Third, ten years ago, about the only place anyone could buy Christian fiction was in Christian bookstores. Hence the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) came to have great power over what would or would not end up on the shelves of their member stores.

The publishing landscape is far different today. Yet I believe the definition of Christian fiction still dictates expectations of the product.

My hope is that Christian worldview fiction will catch on in a big way, not for the sake of my stories, though there is that. 😉 I happen to believe that writing purposefully about truth, including spiritual truth, is the best kind of writing, creating the best kind of stories. I happen to believe those are lasting and can have a great influence on the culture, something I’d love to see.

* Yes, for those of you who visit Spec Faith, this is the same collage I posted over there. Hey, I went to a lot of work to create it. 🙂

Living for the Weekend

Living for the Weekend … or the summer … or the next holiday. I’ve been there, even lived there you might say. 😉

But I’ve been thinking about the culture in America that can’t wait to be away from work, that can’t wait to do the Next Great Fun Thing. For it seems that the race to leisure time actually means a race to fast-paced, adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding Entertainment of some sort.

Not too many people talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can have a nice chat with their spouse or so they can clean out the garage as they promised last week. Not too many kids talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can play board games as a family or read the novel they checked out from the library.

And does anyone talk about looking forward to the weekend, the summer, an upcoming holiday so they can have a longer, more relaxed, uninterrupted quiet time alone with God?

Somehow, this cycle of enduring the workweek in order to get to the Fun Times seems off to me. It strikes me that moms don’t live by this cycle. Their families still need to eat, still need clean cloths, still need the hurt of bumped elbows and skinned knees kissed away.

The difference seems to be that moms don’t live for themselves. But what about everyone else? Is selfishness what drives people to live for the weekend?

I don’t think it’s that simple. From my own experience, I can say, living for the weekend has more to do with medication than it does exhilaration.

So much of our American culture finds normal life wanting. Work isn’t satisfying, problems exist at home, the news is always bad, and the government is a mess. What good thing can we look forward to on a Monday morning?

Better to grit my teeth and survive until I can get to the weekend when I’ll be able to immerse myself in sports or shopping or movies or parties or … something, anything mind-numbing.

Except, that worldview is the world’s, not the Christian’s. God gives us plenty to look forward to on Monday and every day. He Himself is new every morning. He gives us purpose and joy in fulfilling it. He puts a song in our hearts and invites us to “offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”

Christians, of all people, have life to celebrate, because we’ve been born and reborn. Even if we sit in the doctor’s waiting room or at the bedside of a dying loved one, we still have available to us the peace that passes understanding, the fruit of the Spirit, and His comfort. We have forgiveness in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. We have a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His unending love.

Yet we find Monday too wearying? Too mundane? Too tedious?

Perhaps the problem has more to do with where I’m fixing my eyes which reveals my true worldview, no matter what I say my perspective is.

Here’s what Scripture says:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory …

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3:1-4, 15-17 (emphasis mine)

Nothing in there about a separate focus for Monday through Friday.

Published in: on June 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Comments (6)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 3

CSFF’ers are having a good time on this tour for Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson. There’s some excellent content to enjoy. You won’t want to miss YA author Sally Apokedak‘s review, Tim Hick‘s thoughtful summation of its value, or Fred Warren‘s humorous take on manly men reading this faery story.

Now it’s my turn to review this wonderful middle grade/YA/adult book. Already I tipped my hand—I think this is one of those stories that qualifies as a crossover. It is not limited to a certain-aged reader or to a specific gender or to a particular worldview. All this book needs, in my opinion, is more recognition.

The Story. The main character is called Bryony after her egg-mother, but when she becomes a teen, she chooses to go by Knife. However, her real name, known only to her and to those to whom she wishes to give it is … well, when you read the book, then she will have chosen to tell you, too. 😉

Bryony lives in a faery colony, one that has a number of oddities about it. For one, the denizens are all female. For another, only the queen has magic. Then too, they are no longer making any thing new or creative. And they stay in their home, a large oak tree situated near a house inhabited by Humans the faeries are deathly afraid of—so much so that the queen only allows Gatherers and her Hunter to venture outside.

Ah, but Byrony wants so much to fly free into the wide world. When she comes of age, the queen assigns her an adult job, and to her surprise she is chosen to be the Hunter. And so her adventures begin as she protects the Gatherers, hunts meat for the colony, and encounters a human. Or, more accurately, re-encounters him.

And there I’ll stop. You have enough to get the flavor of the story and perhaps the drift, though it takes an astute reader to see where this tale is going. Which brings me to the next part of this review.

Strengths. In my opinion, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter has everything a reader could want. The characters are realistic—yes, even as faeries; if I didn’t know better, I’d be tempted to check the tree outside my window to see who was living there! 😛 I especially loved seeing the human world through the eyes of the faeries. So a boy is a monster and a wheelchair a throne.

The plot was excellent too, and for me, that means, unpredictable. Lots of surprises, but all of it was so well foreshadowed that none of it seemed outlandish or jarring. There was intrigue, twists, mystery, friendship, self-sacrificial love.

The themes of this book were wonderfully woven into the fabric of the story. No authorial commandeering to make sure the reader “gets it.” And of course, not everyone will get it all. I’m sure I didn’t. But that’s OK. The central themes are ones that come from the ultimate choices and actions of the characters and will have an impact, one way or the other.

The Christian worldview influences I saw include the Gardner, though he is invoked more as a curse word than anything. The faery colony has all the earmarks of a world that has experienced a Fall. Great loses, to the point that the faeries no longer remember what life was like Before or how things got to be The Way They Are Now. They certainly don’t know how to fix things, though the queen tries. And as is true about self-effort, she makes a hash of things.

There’s also a picture of the Incarnation, though I don’t want to say too much about that so as not to spoil the story. I already mentioned the self-sacrifice, and the cool thing is, these two—incarnation and self-sacrifice—are shown by two different characters, two different types of Christ. In other words, the story is not attempting to be allegorical, but there is typology for those who wish to see it.

Weaknesses. In my opinion, the only weakness is the limitations put upon the book by calling it Middle Grade fantasy. The implication is that the story is for children only. Not so. Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter needs to find a wider market because it is that good.

Recommendation. I suppose you can already tell I’m enthusiastic about this one. I’m going to go out on a limb. Even as Narnia is a series written for children but enjoyed by young and old alike, so too is Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. I recommend this book for anyone who loves a good story.

CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 1

How fun to at last be back on track with CSFF. Our feature this week is R. J. Anderson‘s Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, a middle grade fantasy published by HarperCollins.

In my opinion, this book is Christian fantasy at its best. Christian fantasy? Published by a general market press?

Why not? Certainly all kinds of other worldviews are represented in books put out by general market publishers. A Christian worldview, therefore, should not be excluded.

My question, however, is this: why don’t houses affiliated with the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) produce more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter? To be fair, I think a few have moved in this direction—in particular WaterBrook. Kudos to them.

But why aren’t more ECPA houses on board? I have some ideas. One might be the existence (really, the lack thereof) of magic in this story. I recently read an interesting article on the topic of magic in Christian fantasy. Here’s the key portion I want to address:

There are really only two options when dealing with the issue of magic: either magic is a craft that can be learned and mastered by any person who applies themselves, much like any skill in the natural world, or it is something that must be innate within a being, something one is born with.

The author goes on to say that J. R. R. Tolkien used the latter. While I would add a third way of dealing with magic—creating make-believe power, dissimilar to real magic sourced in evil and to real supernatural power sourced in God—I believe Anderson has gone the Tolkien route. Her characters, for the most part, are faeries, who should have magic innately.

I’ll say more about them in particular when I do my review. For now, suffice it to say that I believe too many Christians are losing the power to discern between what is a real concern and what is superficial. In saying this, I recognize myself.

Years ago, I pulled aside a student of mine for a lecture about a novel she was reading that had the word “witch” in the title. Never mind that I had not read the book, didn’t have a clue if the story was in any way promoting anything evil or not. Some lessons are costly, and that one was to me, but also valuable.

It was reinforced some years later when I wanted to add a novel to the curriculum (in a different school) that used alchemy (unsuccessfully) as a key plot point—only to have the powers that be say no, such a book was unsuitable.

But back to the topic—why aren’t more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter coming out of the ECPA? I’d suggest a second reason: the Christian worldview is not overt. Although someone unfamiliar with Christianity can’t miss the central themes, they won’t necessarily identify them as Christian.

In my opinion, the best fantasy coming out of ECPA houses takes this same approach. The stories are accessible by anyone and thoroughly enjoyable. There is no need to preach because the key action in the climax does the heavy lifting, much the way Aslan dying in Edmond’s place did in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think there is a place on bookshelves for stories that deal with Christianity in an overt way. But ones that stir our hearts because of love and self-sacrifice are important, too.

Take some time this week to see what others participating on the tour have to say:

A check mark links to a tour post. (Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book).

Seeing Worldviews behind the Art – Should We Be Separate?

I want to continue thinking about the importance of examining the worldviews of the stories abounding in our culture. These thoughts arise from questions and comments to my first post about Hollywood Worldviews, a book by screenwriter Brian Godawa (IVP).

One question had to do with the validity of working to understand the way others think or speak in light of God’s command for us to be separate, and I’ll add, to be pure and holy.

Like so much in the Christian life, I believe this command exists in tension with another, namely that we are to make disciples. In Jesus’s prayer in John 17, He said

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

I think there are a couple points we can learn from this passage. First, Jesus asked God to keep His disciples from the evil one. He didn’t give that job to them, as if they themselves could keep from the evil one.

And yet, we are to resist the devil and he will flee from us. The reality is, we are in a spiritual battle against spiritual forces, not fleshly enemies. That fact makes it all the more incumbent upon us to pray that God will keep us from the evil one and to rely on His power, not our own machinations. (“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view [that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness], be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” Eph. 6:18).

Nevertheless, Paul’s lead into the spiritual-armor passage in Ephesians is this:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (emphasis mine).

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes. And Peter says in his first letter that we are to

be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

But back to Jesus’s prayer. The second point which I think relates to the topic of looking at worldviews behind the art of our culture is this: Jesus sent His disciples into the very world He said they were not of. There’s that tension again.

Elsewhere He said we were to be salt and light. He didn’t spell out how we were to be salty or shine brightly, but from the context and His other instruction, I believe, in a nutshell, we are to be obedient, loving, pure, and unashamed of the gospel—all out in the open for others to see.

So we are to be in the world, shining brightly, but we are also to be on the alert to Satan’s schemes. Why? Because the enemy wants to tarnish our brightness, as individuals and as a Church.

Finally, I’ll mention Paul’s knowledge of Greek culture when he preached to the Athenians (Acts 17). He went out of his way to know what their religious beliefs were:

while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD’ (emphasis mine).

I believe this was Paul being alert to the schemes of the devil as he went about making disciples. In the same way, I think we today should examine the objects of worship disclosed in the stories our culture tells, all so that we can be alert to Satan’s tactics, even as we seek to make disciples.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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Seeing Worldviews behind the Art – Is There a Cost?

A couple excellent questions came up as a result of yesterday’s article discussing Brian Godawa‘s book Hollywood Worldviews. The first concerns whether or not there is a cost for the Christian in looking at worldviews behind the art.

Let me say up front, I don’t think a believer should violate his own standard of morality. And hopefully each understands the need to have such a standard in place.

There are black and whites in Scripture, but there are a lot of grays, too. We often think of the Ten Commandments as black and white, but what do we do about the command not to bear false witness, when Rahab lied to save the spies and Abraham lied to protect himself and Jacob lied to get Isaac’s blessing? In each instance were these people sinning? Is it ever “right to do wrong”? Or how about Jesus holding up David as an example for breaking Jewish law, to illustrate that His disciples were allowed on the Sabbath to pluck grain when they were hungry?

These questions, I think, are important for each believer to address in his own life. I’m not convinced there is a one-size-fits-all answer.

Then there are issues that are not directly addressed in Scripture, overtly or implicitly … such as what our standards should be for entertainment.

Does this silence mean we should have no standards or that we should shoe-horn clear principles into these areas in question and come up with a law for today’s Christian? No and No.

Paul addresses a matter that troubled the church in Corinth that seems similar to the issues we often refer to as gray areas. In so doing, he identifies some believers as weaker brothers and some as stronger.

I think the tendency today is to assume that I am in the stronger camp, and whoever sees things differently is in the weaker camp! 🙄 The truth is, in some areas, I know I am in the weaker camp and probably always will be.

Hence, there are some things I know personally I can not participate in without putting myself in the path of temptation. That’s my personal moral standard. I don’t expect others to abide by it because I don’t know if they have the same weaknesses I do.

All that to say, if I have my moral standard in place, I should not violate it for the sake of seeing what the rest of the world is thinking. However, there are plenty of stories I read or view because they don’t violate my personal morality. It is with these stories that I need to look beyond the art and entertainment value.

However, I think a lot of us Christians stop at this standard-of-morality level. We don’t look beyond. Perhaps we never have been taught to compare the ideas in a piece of fiction with what the Bible has to say about life and Godliness. Perhaps we don’t know what the Bible says about the nature of God or life or whatever the movie addresses.

Whatever the reason, I believe we Christians open ourselves to the influence of potentially false worldviews if we don’t examine the ones espoused in the fiction we engage.

No, we may not deny Christ or start to worship a tree because we saw Avatar. But without realizing it, we may take a step away from the uniqueness of Humanity—the image of God, breathed into us when He created Adam—because we don’t examine what it means to say, We are one with our Mother the Earth, as Avatar espouses.

In answer, then, to the question, Is there a cost in looking behind the art to see the worldview, I’d say there is a cost in NOT looking behind the art. I’d also add there may be a cost if we alter our standard of morality and justify doing so with the idea that we’re just trying to get to know what our culture thinks.

That’s like saying I’ll buy a big bag of candy so I can be aware of what people not on a diet are eating, put it in a candy jar, and stare at it without taking any because I’m limiting my sugar intake. Why would I put myself through such an ordeal?

On the other hand, if I already buy bread for sandwiches, why wouldn’t I take a close look at the labels and compare grams of sugar in one loaf with that in another?

My call for discernment isn’t one that requires a change in selecting entertainment. It’s a call to think about the stories we are already choosing to read or view, and to do so with our Bibles in hand.

Good Works and Self-Help in Fiction

I read a couple blog posts this morning that put me off what I’d intended to write (about promoting books without compromising the principle of contentment). One was Karen Hancock’s post connected to a comment I made during the recent blog tour for her book The Enclave, and the second was a post by agent Rachelle Gardner about truth.

Karen focuses on human good as actually being a part of evil.

Rachelle talks about finding truth in secular sources. She deals particularly with secular entertainment and the TV show “Desperate Housewives.” The thing is, the “truth” she writes about seems to me to be a description of human good. Here are two telling quotes:

[The show] explores human truth at its essence, and is constantly pointing out how we all have so much good inside, but we all have a dark side too.

Then this one:

Even though Desperate Housewives has a reputation for being raunchy (and parts of it definitely are), the themes are solidly on the side of good morals.

I can’t help but think that both these posts, though they seem diametrically opposed, say something significant.

Karen Hancock backs her views about the vanity of Man’s goodness with Scripture. Irrefutable (though I disagree with other parts of the post).

Rachelle Gardner applauds a secular work for upholding Biblical concepts of right and wrong, for seeing the good in Man as well as the evil.

So the question is this: Does a work of literature, secular or Christian, that points to a moral good apart from God harm or help?

I asked in “More Thoughts about Worldview,” part of my recent Christian worldview posts,

Should our stories reinforce God’s Law? Or point to Him? Or to His grace? Or do we need a healthy mix of them all?

I think of the book of Judges in the Bible—all about Man doing what was right in his own eyes. And the consequences that came from such. Or the life of Daniel and his three friends, living as captives, yet holding to their faith no matter what.

These and many others in Scripture don’t connect the dots. There is no note in Judges to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. There is no note in Daniel saying he was hoping in the coming Messiah.

In many regards, these stories can be misconstrued. Sunday school teachers can tell their little charges they should dare to be a Daniel or flee immorality. And they wouldn’t be wrong. Just incomplete.

Yet there are people out there trying to do good as part of a self-help program to reach God because they see good more often results in good things and bad, in bad.

So should Christian writers stop writing stories about moral living because their readers might mistake moral living as the answer? Or should we write more such stories because they will create a longing while simultaneously exposing the impossibility of living the good we know we should.

My thinking is, stories cannot tell the whole truth, even ones pointing to Christ (do they show He is both God and man? that He is a person in the trinity? that He is coming again? that He is prophet, priest, and king? I haven’t read a single story that shows Jesus completely the way the Bible does). Why do we think they should try?

Christians should write the story we believe God wants us to write, just as we should live all of our lives the way we believe God wants us to live—consistent with Scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit.

That my story looks different from someone else’s is probably a good thing. It means God can reach more people rather than the same audience over and over.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 11:06 am  Comments Off on Good Works and Self-Help in Fiction  
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