8/27/2006

What Good is Christian Fiction?

The "Biblical Discernment" ministry makes several claims regarding Christian Fantasy that are worth addressing here in response to Cyn's post.

First, one can't stop but comment on the fact that everyone who does anything for Christ seems to be on their blacklist. One can expect to see Rick Warren on such a list and there's a lot of controversy around him. Benny Hinn certainly would go on the list of people to be exposed. But then, you begin to see some odd choices, such as Dennis Rainey, who has worked to restore and strengthen families through Family Life. R.C. Sproul, who is often beloved by critics of evangelicals, is attacked by Biblical Discernment. Apologist Josh McDowell is assaulted, so is C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther. All of this should cause us to pause and ponder many things, such as whether incessantly bashing people counts as a ministry. It should also cause us to watch our own critical attitudes, lest we get to the point where everyone and everything is under attack.

Now, they've posted four arguments against Christian Fantasy, by which they mean a broad range of books. Let's consider these points:

I. Fantasy Is Anti-Truth

The point made is that as fantasy doesn't happen, it's a lie. They've got a broad definition of fantasy, including the Lion King, to which they offer conclusive and final evidence as to the untruth of fantasy:

"Do animals talk?" Just on this fantasy alone (animals talking) it is a lie.


We'll have to talk to Moses about a rewrite of that whole Baalam's Ass thing. (Num. 22:21-39). I don't think he'd have wanted to end up on Biblical Discernment's Expose list, as they've affirmed that animals never talked. While I'm perhaps being a little absurd here, the issue of how animals communicate with one another is open to debate. I suppose if Disney wanted to be totally accurate, they could show lions growling, baboons making their noises and put subtitles at the bottom, but I don't think this would please BD.

In all seriousness, the question is whether fiction in general (more apt than fantasy given BD's definition) is anti-truth. The answer is that by it's very nature, it's not. I walk into a book store and I pick up a novel. On the back of the jacket, it tells me, "This is a great novel of suspense." I know that I'm picking up a novel, a piece of fiction.

I go in the library and the books are divided by fiction and non-fiction. What I'm reading is completely above-board. I know by reading description whether a story's truth or fiction.

It's true that some novels lie. When Dan Brown makes claims that his book is based on true information, he's telling a lie. When people make statements about God and evil in their books that are not true, they're telling a lie.

However, not all novels tell lies.

II. Fantasy Subtly Slips Into Reality

Now here, they go on to attack the premises of certain Christian books and I won't argue on a book by book basis. Some decisions are poorly made and not every book in the Christian fiction world is a great idea, or even inspired by God.

However, I should hope, if I'm writing to the glory of God, that some of my fiction slips into my reader's reality. I have a novel, Super Hero, that I'm working on where the character learns valuable lessons along the way. BD would have us conclude that because bad and harmful thoughts can slip into people's reality, it is a waste for Christians to plant good or positive ones.

III. Fantasy Does Not Fit True Godliness

This argument centers on the escapism of fiction. "God doesn't want us to escape reality" goes the argument. This to me seems somewhat absurd. The fact is, most people have some escape from reality. For some, it's fishing or hunting. For others, it's taking a long walk down an isolated stretch of road.

Certainly, one can have too much escapism and not enough facing the truth. As scripture says, "Let your moderation be known to all men." (Phil. 4:5). However, if points one and two are not valid, then point three becomes a legalism.

IV. A Love For God Will Oppose Fantasy

This is perhaps the most uncharitable point. If you love god, you'll oppose Christian fiction. Under this point, they took down John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress for a bad analogy. Most of us have heard of Pilgrim's Progress, but fewer know of Bunyan.

Mr. Bunyan was imprisoned because of his faith in Christ and loyalty to scripture over the State Church for twelve years. But now, thanks to BD, we know that as Mr. Bunyan wrote "fantasy" he had no love for Christ.

So having examined the reasons given why Christian fiction is incorrect, let us turn to the subject of what the good Christian Author should do:

1) Draw Readers Closer to Truth

This I see as a vital function of Christian fiction. If you've merely escaped into my novel for a moment, I've done nothing long-term for you. But, if I give you a thought, some nugget to take from this story that makes you think about your own life, I've done you a great service. I know there have been books that given me a vision and an understanding I didn't have before.

2) To Teach Biblical Truth

By this, I don't mean that every page must be annotated with Bible verses. But, rather that the truth of the Bible should shine through. Is sin rebuked? Is there a consequence for it? To me, these are vital questions. If we teach sin and immorality without consequence, our stories are useless. If we teach only consequences without the mercy and grace of God, our stories are useless.

We must be especially careful in portraying God's character in our stories, because of the powerful impact fiction has on the way people view the world.

3) Excellence

The third aim, which should be the aim of Christians regardless of their vocation is excellence. Don't compare yourself to someone else and say, "I'm better," but rather reach for the fullness of what God can do through you. Christian Music Artist Michael Card often became angry at the state of Christian worship. His longtime mentor, Dr. Bill Lane told him to let the "Excellence of your work be your protest." It is the exact same thing with Christian writers.

The Importance of Christian Fiction

The importance of good Christian Fiction writing is so vital in our current age. In my short story, The Agent, one of the characters observes, "It is the fictional people accept as fact, the fanciful that forms people’s view of the real world." With such power in the hands of Christians today, it is incumbent on those of us who are able to write for the Glory of God and to speak to our people in a language that they understand. We must be guided by the scripture and led by the Holy Spirit, but despite what criticism may come, we have a work to do and we must be about Our Father's business.

5 comments:

Donna Sundblad said...

Cyn,

This is a thought provoking bit of information. The different excuses people can come up with as to why Christian Spec-fiction is not only not worth reading, but actually wrong might just make good fodder for a Spec-fiction story line.

Donna Sundblad
http://pymprompts.blogspot.com/
http://www.theinkslinger.net

Todd said...

Good rebuttal of the thoughts put forth by Bibical Discernment ministries. Too many times we Christian throw out the bathwater forgetting the baby's still in the tub. Whoosh! No more baby. Never heard of this particular ministry but I think it's a little audacious to call your little group Biblical Discernment.

Todd Greene
http://www.toddmichaelgreene.com
http://anewnovelistsjourney.blogspot.com
http://messagesfromtheasylum.blogspot.com

von said...

I have no problem with the idea of a group called 'Biblical Discernment' Haven't seen the site yet but it sounds like they are not being dramtically 'Biblical' in their 'discernment'.

They miss, for example, the fact that Christ Himself used fantasy... the parables.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient. We do need to be discerning, and indeed Biblically discerning. But we need to be accurate as well.

(and wasn't there some talking animal there towards the beginning of Genesis as well? :)

Leslie said...

Few things are rarely as cut and dried as biblical discernment would like for them to be. I'm not very good at living well with so many thou-shalt-nots.

cyn said...

von,

Actually, if you go to the article, J. Beard addresses the parable as fantasy issue (see Part IV). He describes them as "using a real idea, expressing another real idea," he then goes on to speak about allegory, figurative language, symbloism and dreams/ visions. As I see it, his arguments are just a matter of semantics.

http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/fantasy.htm