Fiction That Means Something

I almost copied the comment SilentFred (also known as Fred Warren, one of the June CSFF Top Blogger Award finalists) left to “More Thoughts about Worldview.” His views are right on and beautifully expressed—from the extended fishing metaphor to the Biblical instruction and personal example. Great!

I really appreciate all the thoughtful reactions in this discussion. Obviously this is a topic near and dear to my heart, which is why I keep coming back to it—why, in fact, I included it in the name of this blog.

So is there a conclusion? Are we left with Whatever? I hope not. Here are some things I’ve gleaned:

Christian fiction and Christian worldview fiction are not the same thing, nor do they necessarily have the same goal. (But a Christian worldview OF fiction looks at all fiction from a Christian worldview, though mostly on this blog I’ve been writing about a Christian worldview and Christian fiction.)

The fiction Christians write varies from that which writers intend for evangelism to that which they hope entertains, with any number of intermediary types in between.

Because the scale has long been tipped toward evangelism, a backlash has brought an increase in titles designed to do little more than entertain.

Both the titles aiming to evangelize and those aiming to entertain contribute to the reputation Christian fiction (used broadly as bookstores use the term) has for being shallow.

Christians don’t have to be afraid of writing with a purpose. Letting our Christianity show doesn’t automatically make bad fiction.

God can use our best efforts, and He can use our feeble efforts, if He so chooses. (“Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, … [they] proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives … What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice” Phil. 1:15-18)

The goal is to glorify God, and I’m not privy to how God brings glory to Himself out of what sinful Man does. I want to write a book that shows God, but I also want to sell that book and make enough money to work as a novelist (and maybe become rich and famous! 😉 . When are my God-glorifying motives ever free from my selfish, self-sufficient, self-indulgent motives?

A call for Christians to write fiction with more substance isn’t a slap in the face but a proper exhortation—we should all want to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Savior. And that growth should be reflected in what we write.

I’m sure there’s more, but I’m trying to do a better job staying within my (self-imposed) word count.

A Christian Worldview Revisited

Last Friday’s post, The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy, generated some great discussion.

I especially liked J’s comment:

So, a Christian worldview in writing is essential to understanding our universe.

I think that’s true. But what do we mean by this worldview term? Some people may be yawning right about now, thinking that we’ve been around this block more than once. Undoubtedly so. I defined the term, as I understand it, when I first started this blog. And just this past year, J. Mark Bertrand and I discussed the subject in conjunction with his book Rethinking Worldview.

But maybe this is one of those subjects that can never be discussed enough. I mean, we’re talking about the basic framework upon which all the rest of our beliefs hang. On top of that, the culture in which we live is racing further and further from a Christian worldview, so it seems to me that this discussion should be ongoing.

I ran across an event recorded in the Gospel of Luke that made me realize Jesus’s followers when He walked on earth faced some of the same issues Christians today face. I’m thinking here of our need to separate the trappings of cultural Christianity from an actual Christian worldview.

Too often people, both Christians and non-Christians, have this external do’s-and-don’t list associated with Christianity. Case in point: when I mentioned in the newspaper office that I would be attending a Christian writers’ conference, one editor immediately responded to the effect that they better start watching their language. Clearly, to him Christian meant something about being offended at bad language.

But back to the Biblical example. Jesus sent out seventy of his followers to preach, heal, cast out demons. Told them to go all over. Told them to take no money, food, change of clothes, nothing. Told them to stay with the first home they came across in a city. AND told them to eat whatever was set before them.

Why this last? It dawned on me, some of those seventy might have been offended if they knew they were eating food that didn’t adhere to Jewish dietary laws. So Jesus told them, essentially, don’t ask. Don’t research the matter. Take what they give you and don’t worry about whether or not the food passes “kosher” requirements.

On the other hand, Jesus also told the seventy to shake the dust from their feet on their way out of any city that didn’t accept them.

The point is, What divided the seventy from those showered with dust was not to be a matter of food.

Soon after recounting this event, Luke chronicles a parable Jesus told, one we commonly refer to as the Good Samaritan. Most noticeable to me as I read it was that the priest and the Levite who did not help the mugging victim were most likely concerned with their own safety and/or their own ceremonial purity. They well might have been doing what Jesus told the seventy NOT to do—ducking out of relationship for fear of breaking a Jewish law.

It strikes me, then, that we Christians of the twenty-first century must not accept a definition that marginalizes what we believe. A Christian is NOT defined as a person who reads the Bible every day, doesn’t drink, cuss, snort, and who shows up at church at least once a week. Mind you, that actually does describe me, so I am not advocating their opposites.

But the key is, those externals don’t define me as a Christian. My relationship with God does—a relationship I enjoy solely because Jesus Christ willingly took my just due, swapping in His righteousness instead.

That’s who any Christian is, and it colors how we see Truth.

Anomalous Saturday Post—Atheists on the Run

It seems I’ve done it again, tangled with a group of atheists because of what I said. My post yesterday prompted a response from Jay Lake, the author of the book I mentioned. Here’s the gist of what he said:

The post is really quite thoughtful, and logical within the terms of her faith and worldview. (Hat tip to lordofallfools for reminding me of the difference between internal logic and external logic.) At the same time, she explicitly conflates secular humanism with the works of Satan.
– Jay Lake at Lakeshore

First, Mr. Lake’s reaction is a reminder to me that more than my intended audience may read what I write on the internet. My intention in my post was to incite a reaction from Christians about fantasy, but because of Mr. Lake’s blog post, I have evidently incensed some atheists.

Besides decrying dualism (which I do not subscribe to), the commenters were pretty adamant in their opposition to my views. One woman says this about me: “She’s a fine example of the sort of Christianity from which I run screaming away hysterically.” Another proudly announces she’s been a tool of Satan for decades. A different author complains that even his novel with a demon protagonist hasn’t received “hate mail” from “fundies.” Another merely posted a series of quotes:

Michael Bakunin
“All religions, with their gods, their demi-gods, and their prophets, their messiahs and their saints, were created by the prejudiced fancy of men who had not attained the full development and full possession of their faculties.”
[God and the State]

Michael Bakunin
“But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first free-thinker and emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”
[God and the State]

“The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.”

“I myself am human and free only to the extent that I acknowledge the humanity and liberty of all my fellows… I am properly free when all the men and women about me are equally free. Far from being a limitation or a denial of my liberty, the liberty of another is its necessary condition and confirmation.”
[The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution]

In a separate comment, he then adds “(In other words… even were Jay a tool of Satan, even were Satan to exist… Jay would still be on the right side.)”

I think these comments make my points for me. What specifically am I saying?

1) atheists are becoming more vocal and more “evangelistic,” making an effort to convince others to adopt their views
2) the atheistic view—that there is no God, and consequently no Satan, and probably (though I’m under the impression that not all atheists agree on this) no supernatural or spiritual dimension at all—is contrary to Truth.
3) fantasy, a genre whose central trope is good versus evil, must undergo a redefinition of “good” in the hands of an atheist author, since God Himself is Good.

Certainly I don’t expect to win points with any atheists for holding such beliefs, though I am sorry some are running away hysterically. That was never my intention.

Ironically, I see myself just like each one of those commenters and like Mr. Lake himself. I am a thinking, feeling, rational, choosing, human living in a world that is not what I wish it were. I would love to make a difference, to give some small number of people—or large number of people, if the opportunity were there—the peace and purpose and security they long for.

I happen to believe this is accomplished through the spiritual, not the physical, and therein lies the difference.

Still, I didn’t expect people to be running away hysterically! 😮

Published in: on December 29, 2007 at 12:46 pm  Comments (7)  
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Who’s Narrow Now?

I had an epiphany this morning as I was thinking about my conversation at the atheist site. It came in two parts. The first half was that atheists really have little imagination. Realize that I know I am making broad, sweeping generalities, and individuals differ, but those who take atheistic beliefs to their logical conclusion leave themselves no room for imagination.

One person the other day made a scoffing comment about Jesus walking on water, for instance. In her view, it is absurd to think that anyone could supersede the laws of nature. It’s something you can’t explain by science, so it didn’t happen.

No wonder so many commenters to the Christian fantasy article in the Washington Post remarked about fantasy in the Bible. They cannot imagine miracles actually happening, so they deny that they did, and think the writers of Scripture made it all up.

The real issue, I think, is that they cannot imagine an all knowing God who is greater than Man.

In the discussion yesterday, the one especially strident commenter made it clear that any argument that says “we don’t understand all of what God does” is meaningless. Would that seem meaningless to her if she could imagine a being greater than herself who does things that seem contradictory to her but are completely true because He can make it so?

Essentially she assailed the “mystery” of God. Of course, since that’s not a term I like, I wanted to agree with her. 😉 But I couldn’t. The truth is, God is Other than we are. He transcends us. But if you can’t imagine any one or any thing being greater than man, the idea of God just doesn’t compute.

So that led to the second half of my epiphany: I realized I had bought into the idea that Christians have a narrow, unimaginative view of the world. We are riveted on truth, so that means we lock out error. Narrow. Clearly defined.

EXCEPT, God is not narrow, nor is He clearly defined. He is greater, far greater, than our finite ability to analyze and categorize Him. Unless He had revealed Himself, we really would have no way of knowing Him. It would be like an ant running into our foot and coming to the realization that a human was standing in his path. That would never happen. The ant doesn’t have the ability, the experience, the perception, the understanding to make any such conclusion.

Yep, an epiphany. When we come to know God through His Son Jesus, it opens up our horizons. We see and know far beyond what we could before. Ours is not the narrow view.

Published in: on December 6, 2007 at 2:29 pm  Comments (10)  
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