In real life, Christians have different views on how God communicates to people. Most of them believe that Scripture is God’s Word, I’m glad to say, with any errors arising in our own heads, or perhaps translation glitches. Others also believe the truth that Scripture is sufficient, that it is all we need for faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yet other Christians also think God may “speak to” or “nudge” people here and there, besides the finished Word.
While I may discuss more in the comments, here I’ll give no objection to that view. Rather, I’m hauling out my raygun to train on the invading extraterrestrial characters from certain Christian novels (not all of them) who imply or even overtly babble alien dialogue like this:
Rachael-Lynne was confused. “You mean, you hear from God personally?”
Wise old Aunt Mathilda smiled as she knit. “Someday you’ll know, dear, when you’re wise and old and can knit like me. That’s how I met your Uncle Jerome. That still, small voice told him to ask me out, and now we’ve been married for 78 years.”
Do you want a Christian-fiction notion that makes pagan readers cackle and other Christians cringe? Then exalt voices-from-beyond. To critics, this means professional sane adults urge readers to ignore Scripture and logic and follow only “whatever the voices in my head say.”
Again, if for now we ignore the issue of whether God ever “speaks” to people beyond the Bible today, this is a hallmark of Christian-fiction characters who don’t behave like they came from planet Earth. In certain novels, all the Christian characters advocate voice-listening. In the worst novels (I am trying not to be mean), non-Christian characters only convert to faith after God in some extra-Biblical way — ranging from Touched By An Angel smarmy to Raiders of the Lost Ark spectacular — reveals Himself personally and/or speaks to them.
Is that the only way God works among people of this planet (Earth)?
If not, why all these Christian characters who only croon, “Use the voice, Luke. Let go!”?
Some readers may still be in defense mode. (Something similar happened when I tried to question the “God told me to be a novelist” line.) Of them I’d only ask: if you’re a Christian, how did you first believe? Was it solely from an impulse or even “voice” from God? Or were you first captivated by His written Story in Scripture of Christ and His salvation, with any other help from Christian friends or spiritual “nudges” only supporting that?
In some novels I’ve read, the “nudges” aren’t merely supportive. They’re all a character has. Which again leaves me to ask why, and revisit some of my answers from last week:
1. It blocks controversy.
“God told me personally …” sounds very spiritual. So does “let go and let God.” So does “God helps those who help themselves.” Hmm, so maybe “it sounds spiritual” isn’t good criteria.
2. You can’t touch it.
“The Holy Spirit ‘nudged’ me to ask her out, and now we’ve been married for 78 years.” Who wants to argue with a statement like that? Well, I might. But not with hostility. Instead I would ask: what happens to someone who believes he’s been “nudged,” asks her out, then gets a flat no, then goes on to marry someone else? Will he publicly recount that incident? Not likely. Thus only the successful God-told-me anecdotes tend to rise to the top.
3. Authors just don’t know Christians who disagree with hearing-God’s-voice.
In that case the riposte is simple: Christian authors should get out more, then Celebrate Faith Diversity. Many genuine Christians and even whole churches believe that God doesn’t “nudge” or speak personally as clearly as He’s spoken in Scripture. Maybe we don’t need to get detailed sermons about that view in fiction, but we should at least meet those people.
4. Authors don’t believe God does guide people in “common” ways.
Suddenly every conversion to faith must be like those at Pentecost (Acts 2) or the Apostle Paul’s dramatic account. (Of course, even before that comes the first assumption that every novel must focus solely on conversion.) Or for Christian characters, it’s not cool for them to exercise free will, ask probing questions, do their best Biblical research, consult with wise friends, and finally make risky choices that could have consequences. Instead characters must first get Divine Vocal Intervention, then decide. (Interestingly, this view is often held by folks who thought they threw out fatalism a long time ago along with that “Calvinism.”)
5. Authors simply aren’t creative.
It starts by rehashing a “conversion story” at all, and gets worse by rehashing the same old conversion story: hero has tragic past, hero doubts God, hero meets Fiction Christians from Another Planet(!), said Christians sponsor “blind faith” and “listen to God’s voice,” hero does so and — surprise — finally hears God’s voice himself and gets saved. Borrrr-ing. How does this affect readers? Worse, what does it say of God, Who lovingly put in Scripture all we really need to know, and assured us He’s more creative than to guide people the same way twice?
No, let’s not “ban” “I myself heard from God and He said X” characters from Christian fiction. But let’s not also pretend they’re the only culture on this planet. Let’s “meet” Christians who believe differently, and hear their stories and their voices.