The Magnitude Of God


Center of just one galaxy, our own.

There really is no way we humans can grasp the enormity, the sovereignty, the power and ability of our God. He simply is more than our minds can deal with. Our minds have limits; God does not.

So He says in Psalm 139, through the pen of David:

How precious are your thoughts to me, O God.
How vast is the sum of them.
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.

God’s thoughts about me, as I understand this, are close to uncountable. And I’m just one of His children. He also thinks of the other 7 billion people on earth now, and on the billions that came before. Not just passing thoughts, but thoughts that can only be compared in number to the sand. That many thoughts for each person!

Then there’s the statement in Psalm 145 that simply says: “His greatness is unsearchable.” Meaning, His greatness is beyond our comprehension, it is inscrutable, unfathomable. It’s “impossible to measure the extent of” it.

We humans tend to pride ourselves on “getting to the bottom” of everything. But I recently discovered that there are a lot more things that we simply don’t understand than I had previously realized. Some of the things are seemingly trivial and silly, but some have wide implications. And I’m talking about things that are part of our physical existence. There are far more things if we open up the discussion to God and the supernatural. In fact, if it weren’t for the Bible, we wouldn’t know anything about the spiritual really. We’d be guessing, wondering around in the kiddie pool of supposition.

Perhaps the caper is a portion of Isaiah 40, well, a couple portions. First verses 12-14:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?

Just in those few questions, it’s clear that no human knows what God knows. Even in our technological age.

Second is verse 26:

Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

Can you imagine, God naming all the stars? We don’t even know for sure how many galaxies there are, and now some question how many universes exist.

Some people doubt God’s ability to open the womb of a woman past child-bearing age, as He did for Sarah, or to send the ten plagues on Egypt, or to provide the people of Israel with manna in the wilderness, or to shut the mouths of the lions that Daniel spent the night with, and on and on.

Seriously, what can’t God do?

From God’s vast knowledge and ability, there’s one more thing that is rather stunning, I think. Romans 8 informs us who are His children, that nothing in our knowledge or experience can separate us from His love:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Well, since the only One who falls into the “uncreated” category is God, I think that statement is pretty all-encompassing.

I supposed because God is so matchless, so unsearchable, so untamed, as C. S. Lewis wonderfully reminded us in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, that some people become too nervous around Him. They like to be in control, to manage circumstances and manipulate people. But God is not to be moved off His mark. He’s not going to be intimidated into giving up His lunch money. He can’t be controlled and He can’t be ignored.

I think above all else, the atheists that prowl among Christian blogs show that they can’t ignore God, even in their unbelief.

The Pharisees and other religious Jews did the same with Jesus. They couldn’t simply ignore Him. They had to send their disciples after Him to try and trap Him, to try and trip Him up. When they finally had Him in their grasp, they thought they had won. Little did they realize they had played right into His hand.

Peter lets us know that Jesus appearing when He did was simply the fulfillment of God’s plan set in motion before the foundation of the earth.

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:20-21)

Imagine, planning the events of Christmas, then Easter, before creation. I have trouble planning a series of books so that things will come out the way I want them to. God has no trouble dealing with time, space, matter, energy, personalities, and the other created beings we can’t even see.

I suppose those who set themselves against God might simply be intimidated. Easier to simply deny His existence than to actually admit He is too great to contain.

Isaiah 40 again:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

His understanding isn’t the only thing that is inscrutable!

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Sugar-Coating Christianity in Fiction


I listened to part of a writing instruction tape recorded years ago at a now-defunct writing conference. The author holding the seminar said first that writing, particularly for children, should be entertaining.

Then he added this piece of advice: the writing should sugar-coat the message.

Apparently this approach is based on the assertion that readers don’t want stories heavy on sermonizing. But this author’s solution was to “sugar-coat” the gospel or the moral or whatever is the point of the story.

Sadly, I think this approach caught on. Rather than asking, “How can I best show the truth through story,” writers adopting this approach seem more caught up with how they can wrap truth in the fad of the day, be it humor or suspense or vampires or angels.

I want to be clear here. I believe wholeheartedly that believers need to meet our culture where it’s at—which is why I write fiction, and in particular why I write fantasy. But I’m not trying to sugar-coat the truth.

This may be a fine line, but I think there are significant differences. For one, there’s the artistic aspect. Themes are part of stories. To say we must sugar-coat a theme is to approach the idea of including theme as if it is something we are trying to slip past unsuspecting readers. Not only “something,” but something distasteful, though good for them.

Sorry, but I don’t see truth as distasteful. And I don’t think writers should try to smuggle truth into a story. Instead, truth should be the vital gold thread around which the story is woven. If done so with skill, the story will be more beautiful because of it.

I also think there’s a difference in substance. A story with sugar-coated truth is either adding unnecessary sugar, thus bloating a story, or forcing truth into a story that doesn’t require such.

Truth, whether presented subtly or overtly, should be a necessary component for the sake of the story and the characters, not for the sake of the reader.

There’s no sugar coating in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lewis didn’t make Aslan a tame lion so the story would be more kid-friendly. He didn’t back away from the fact that Edmond would die unless Aslan stepped in. He didn’t back away from requiring Aslan to sacrifice himself for the wayward son of Adam.

Truth should not be sugar-coated or tacked on. What ought to set Christian fiction apart from all other is that authors who know The Author have deeper truth to tell.

This article is reposted from November 2009.

What About Halloween?


My post at Speculative Faith yesterday was a reprisal of an article I first posted here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction more than two years ago. One commenter asked about the original piece I alluded to that had spurred my thoughts. So this morning I went to work with Google search (did you know you can customize the dates of your search? I just learned that today 😀 ).

In the process of hunting down the article that said disparaging things about C. S. Lewis, fantasy, and Narnia, I came across a host of other similar pieces. It was a little daunting.

One was written by a man who referred to himself as a former witch. He explained in some depth what certain scenes or lines from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe meant to those steeped in witchcraft.

Because of his past experience, I admit, I gave him much more latitude than some of the others. One woman said she’d been a Christian only five years when she saw the same book on the shelf of the library at her son’s Christian school and felt a “red flag” in her soul.

In case I haven’t admitted this here yet, I had a similar experience as a teacher. I saw a student reading a certain book (not one of the Narnia chronicles), and a “red flag” went up. The problem was, I was completely and utterly wrong. The book was not what I feared. At all.

But back to C. S. Lewis. The point that both these bloggers, and others I ran across, were missing is C. S. Lewis’s beliefs about myth. He loved myth before he became a Christian, and one of the tipping points in his conversion was a realization that Christianity told the True myth, that all the others were shadows of the Real story—hints, suggestions, partials, not the Complete. More than that, he believed that the True story redeemed all the other partials.

Consequently, Bacchus, a pagan figure used to symbolize winebibbing, among other things, when redeemed became an example of reveling in God’s creative work, His generous provision. He represented joy and laughter and celebration as God intended.

What does this have to do with Halloween? While I was running an errand (do we still say running when we drive? 😉 ), I was listening to a Christian radio station and the announcer or speaker (you can tell how closely I was listening) mentioned a pamphlet (I think) that discusses Halloween and magic. (Here’s where I became attentive).

Halloween, he said, is second only to Christmas for kids, but it is much more than dressing up and getting candy. This pamphlet would explain the pagan origins of the holiday and the meaning of much of what’s behind the celebration.

So there I was, thinking the people opposed to Narnia and these people peeking into the history of Halloween are thinking the same way. They’re thinking where it came from, not what God could make it.

I understand the Halloween issue from both sides. I grew up believing it was an innocent (though rather stupid) dress up day when you got candy. After all, witches were pretend and so were ghosts (my first costume was an old sheet with eye, nose, and mouth holes cut out).

But I also understand from the other side because I taught at a Christian school that had a strict policy against promoting Halloween. And the rationale was to keep kids from dwelling on the all-too-real dark arts that were fast making inroads in the culture.

Here’s my conclusion. This is a genuine, Biblical gray area. Some people really are in jeopardy because of their understanding and/or past involvement with paganism. For me to pooh-pooh where they are and to tell them how silly it is for them to be afraid of the pretend world of make-believe, is wrong. For them, putting on a witch mask may be too close to reality.

So if I’m right, and celebrating Halloween is a gray area, how then am I to behave? And what does all this have to do with reading books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? I’ll try to address those questions next time, but please feel free to voice your opinions in the interim.

Sugar-coating Christianity in Fiction


I listened to part of a writing instruction tape recorded years ago at a now-defunct writing conference. The author holding the seminar said first that writing, particularly for children, should be entertaining. Then, the writing should sugar-coat the message.

The reason behind this approach seemed to be based on the assertion that readers don’t want stories heavy on sermonizing. But this author’s solution was to “sugar-coat” the gospel or the moral or whatever is the point of the story.

Sadly, I think this idea caught on. Rather than asking, “How can I best show the truth through story,” writers adopting this approach seem more caught up with how they can wrap truth in the fad of the day, be it humor or suspense or vampires or angels.

I want to be clear here. I believe wholeheartedly that believers need to meet our culture where it’s at—which is why I write fiction, and in particular why I write fantasy. But I’m not trying to sugar-coat the truth.

This may be a fine line, but I think there are significant differences. For one, there’s the artistic aspect. Themes are part of stories. To say we must sugar-coat a theme is to approach the idea of including theme as if it is something we are trying to slip past unsuspecting readers. Not only “something,” but something distasteful, though good for them.

Sorry, but I don’t see truth as distasteful. And I don’t think writers should try to smuggle truth into a story. Instead, truth should be the vital gold thread around which the story is woven. If done so with skill, the story will be more beautiful because of it.

I also think there’s a difference in substance. A story with sugar-coated truth is either adding unnecessary sugar, thus bloating a story, or forcing truth into a story that doesn’t require such.

Truth, whether presented subtly or overtly, should be a necessary component for the sake of the story and the characters, not for the sake of the reader.

There’s no sugar coating in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lewis didn’t make Aslan a tame lion so the story would be more kid-friendly. He didn’t back away from the fact that Edmond would die unless Aslan stepped in. He didn’t back away from requiring Aslan to sacrifice himself for the wayward son of Adam.

Truth should not be sugar-coated or tacked on. What ought to set Christian fiction apart from all other is that authors who know The Author have deeper truth to tell.

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