The Kind of Post you Get . . .

. . . when you ask Andrea to post at the last minute.

Recently, the guild had a somewhat sectarian debate on letting God speak in fiction. It doesn't have to be a divisive issue at all, though. To me, the question comes down to this: are we free as authors to write about any subject and include any type of character or are we not?

Some argue we shouldn't allow characters to have conversations with God because "most people don't." Actually, we have no way of knowing that; most people in our culture would never dare to admit to it if they did. Modern prophets (the genuine kind) tend to keep their Source close to the breast, if you know what I mean.

Even if we presume this argument to be true and agree that few, in modern America at least, will have this kind of experience . . . so what? I could have swore the Lost Genre Guild was a group of speculative fiction writers. When have any of us limited ourselves to the here and now, everyday experiences typical of most Americans and the first world? In fact, last I checked, the majority of readers are looking for an escape from the tedium of their normal existence. Certainly it's a challenge. In my experience, the ability to pull off techniques we normally associate with amateurs and make it work is the mark of a true pro.

I see a few factors that will shape this issue in our personal writing:

1) Personal theology. Obviously, someone who believes God doesn't speak anymore isn't likely to portray true prophecy no matter how far "out there" speculatively s/he gets.

2) The character. This is the big one for me. If a character due to their personality and gifts are inclined to interpret God's tugging at our hearts in terms of conversation, then by all means show it as they perceive it. In fiction, however, it is always best to mix things up. In real life, we all have different gifts, experiences with God, and levels of maturity. And the same should hold true in the worlds we create. If everyone in your story is chatting with God regularly, you have a problem just as much as you are any time all your characters all have the exact same gifts and experience with God.

3) Your audience. If you're writing for an audience that will be inspired by a character with such a gifting, who would see it as a taste of what we will have in Heaven, by all means. But there's probably audiences where it wouldn't be appropriate.

4) God. What is He leading you to do? Obviously, we should never presume to say "God said" without His blessing. But remember, whether He has a speaking part or not, as Christians, we are Christ's ambassadors in all things. We should always take care when we write to make sure everything our work has to say is of Him--no matter who says it. We will be held to account for every word we write in His Kingdom.


cyn said...

Well said Andrea. I have followed the "God speaking" discussion with some interest; the differing viewpoints, however, eventually lead me into a state of confusion regarding the presuppositions I held about biblical speculative fiction.

Your blog post has done much to clarify my own thinking—and not because I am latching onto an opinion that agrees with my own! but because you have presented a clear, succinct, and well-organized argument. Thank you.

And, now you can come out from behind the comfy secondhand scruffy arm chair. Andrea! Andrea! have you fallen asleep? wake-up . . . JoyBell needs some breakfast (Mavis made me add that last part).

The Writers Café Press
get your copy of Light at the Edge of Darkness: an anthology of biblical speculative fiction
". . . speculative fiction stories guaranteed to make you face your faith."
—Timothy A. Hicks, reviewer and author

Andrea Graham said...

LOL. You're right, she does need breakfast (er, lunch now). She's hiding somewhere asleep at the moment though, probably beneath said armchair as I zipped up her other favorite hiding spot (a suitcase in my closet). I'm sure I'll be reminded again when she wakes up.

And thank you :)

Andrea Graham said...

And I sorta hinted at this, but I want to add, under the characterization area, that all Christians go through dry periods, including the prophetic type. Likewise, they're as prone to running from God, shutting him out, when sinning or otherwise ashamed as the rest of us. Such silences should be accounted for if these situations come up in a plot featuring such a character.

And--establish this as a character trait as early as possible. Avoid waiting until the plot depends upon it unless you don't mind a literal deus ex machina.

Chad Lavender said...

Great post Andrea. God hasn't changed, we've changed. He still speaks, if only we would listen.

Andrea Graham said...

Amen. In my experience/tradition, God speaks to whoever is willing to listen in general. But He is notoriously hard to pin down ;) Paul said this gift we should all seek/desire, but He could deny it to someone who honestly wants to hear/listen for His own reasons. He falls silent sometimes even for those who do have it.

God sometimes appears to change, precisely because he remains in the same place while we are constantly rotating. A stationary satellite moves about the night sky--a satellite that appears stationary is moving in the direction of the earth's rotation at the same speed as the earth.