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Onward, Words!

God places value on words. He is a Writer, through clear instruction, stories, and more. Thus, our words and stories should remind us of His.
| Sep 7, 2012 | No comments |

As a writer, I’m fascinated by the value God places on words.

It’s been that way since the beginning, when He spoke the universe into existence. Let there be light.

Doubting God’s words led to humanity’s downfall. Did God really say… ?

God is a writer. He wrote with His finger on stone tablets on Sinai and in the dust of the ground in Jerusalem. The names of the redeemed are written on the palms of His hands.

Sometimes His words are clear and to the point. For God so loved the world…

Other times, He instructs through analogy. A farmer went out to sow his seed…

Now and then, He just tells stories. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers…

His words are living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…

Man’s words can be murderous. And anyone who says “You fool!” will be in danger… and The tongue… corrupts the whole body…

You get the picture; words are important to God. His words, our words. We must handle them all with care.

That’s why I hesitated when I first felt led to write. It’s a tremendous responsibility, and I didn’t (and don’t) feel capable.

I’m good at churning out words. Lots of ’em. Most of ’em blather. But words that convey what God wants people to hear? That’s another matter. Yet that’s what, I’m convinced, He’s called me to do.

It would take too long to explain why I consider this writing gig a calling rather than the result of my own ambition. But the proof, if such things can be proved, is the fact that ten years ago, I didn’t like sci-fi. I turned up my snobby little nose at all Christian fiction. And now I write Christian science fiction. Def-in-itely not my idea!

I hope I never fall out of awe of this. I pray it never comes easy. When I cease to sweat over every word and pray over every plot point, I’ll know it’s time to quit.

I don’t care a whole lot about what other people think about this aberration that’s lately shaped my life. Sure, it’s nice to get positive feedback. But no matter what you do, somebody’s going to complain about it, sometimes caustically, and I try not to be too concerned about that. I just sidestep the snares and fix my eyes on Him.

You’d be hard pressed to find a Christian author who doesn’t claim the same thing. “This is what God has called me to do.” “I write for God, not men.” “My writing is a ministry.” But from that common point, even within a common genre, our opinions—and works—often diverge. Widely. From zombies, magic, and dragon-breath flames to God’s holy voice speaking only King James.

You’ve got writers (and I’m one of them) who are diligent to keep every detail of their writing on the Bible’s narrow road. Others bemoan the dearth of Christian vampire stories and see no reason to make their story lines scriptural. Sometimes when these word warriors face off, blood boils in both camps.

Oh, wait—aren’t we all in the same camp?

God knows.

Yes, God knows.

I’m pleased to see more variety in Christian fiction in recent years. Especially gratifying is its overall increase in quality since those not-so-distant days when I shunned the Inspirational shelf in the local library. Most of all, I’m amused that I, of all unlikelies, have been assigned a bit role on this stage.

Changing attitudes and new technologies have the publishing world all a-flutter. But while the chaos rages around them, readers sit atop a treasure of easily-available and affordable choices. Whether your tastes are bonnets or battle scenes, you can find something to your liking in Christian fiction. Even—gasp!—science fiction.

It’s about time, I must say. God created science, after all, so why should the devil get all the cool stories about it?

God also created words. Let’s use them the way He intended from the beginning. Creatively. But with great care.

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world. Her first novel, The Story in the Stars, debuted in June 2011 and is an ACFW Carol Award finalist in the Speculative Fiction category. Her second, Words in the Wind, released August 1, 2012. Two additional titles will complete this Gateway to Gannah series. She is contest administrator for Novel Rocket's Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists. You may follow her wise words on the blog YsWords, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Ane Mulligan
Guest

It’s really a wonderful calling, too. For years, I wrote plays and was the creative arts director at our church. Then the Lord led me away form that and into a new direction – writing novels. It was a clear calling, when the Lord made through the hubs. I knew beyond any doubt it was where He wanted me. 🙂 

BUT, and as Genghis Griep says, and I always have a big but, that said, it doesn’t mean automatic publishing. It’s one of God’s gifts that comes with some assembly required. And I’ve spent years honing my craft, as you have. In fact, you’re one of my early mentors. Thanks, Y! 

Kessie Carroll
Member

And the more people reading and writing Christian spec fic, the better! 🙂

Galadriel
Guest

It’s amazing how much power is in words and the letters that contain them on the page, isn’t it?

Janet Sketchley
Guest

So true, Yvonne… and how often do we dash off (or spout) words without thinking? 

I’m happy to see the growing variety (and quality) in Christian fiction, and as you say, we’re all on the same side.  

Liked the nod to Larry Norman too. I’ll have “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” in my mental soundtrack for the rest of the day now. Thanks!

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I know you couldn’t include all the Biblical references to God as a writer, but the ones you included reminded me of his Book of Life. Now that’s a story in which I’m happy to have my name! 😀

Thanks for this great post, Yvonne.

Becky

Jeff Reynolds
Guest
Jeff Reynolds

Thanks, Yvonne, for that wonderful blog, and thanks for mentioning it in the ACFW speculative loop. I might check into the blog more often.
Jeff Reynolds

H.G. Ferguson
Guest
H.G. Ferguson

You and I sound much of the same mind, though we write in different genres.  Like you I decry the name-calling and I LOVED your statement about some who see no reasons to keep their stories scriptural.  Far too much “speculative Christian fiction” right now is indeed that, more speculative than it is scriptural.  You have a heart for God and for His Word, which is your muse, your plumbline, your anchoring point of reference, and above all the source of what drives you and fills your work with holy power.  Because you seek to honor Him and be true to His Word, His blessing will be, and is, with you.  May the Lord empower you for every good work — and word — Sister.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Kessie Carroll
Member

My brother and I were discussing Christian science fiction today. How does one have science fiction without evolution to explain aliens? Either God made a couple different types of humans and some sinned and some didn’t, or the aliens are angels, or they’re demons. That really, really limits the scope of science fiction.
 
Or robots. I doubt a Christian would have come up with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, but Asimov’s wonderfully moral robots turn out to have all kinds of beautiful pictures of Christ.
 
Modern science fiction tends toward Bad Future. The post-apoc, the dystopian, the ruling oppressive religious regime. The Antichrist. We need some Good Future, like so much stuff written in the 50’s. Heck, I remember reading one where mankind had eliminated the mosquito and hugely developed the tropics as a result. It was intriguing.

Teddi Deppner
Guest

Great question about “Christian science fiction”, Kessie. I’ve pondered that one a bit, myself. Here’s one scenario I’ve pondered…
 
I thought to loosely base the future sci-fi world on what happened when people discovered the “New World” of North and South America. Suddenly there was more to the earth than we knew. Suddenly there were “types” of humans that we’d never seen before, with different appearance and different language and different culture. Suddenly there were new creatures we’d never seen, new plants, new insects — truly, like discovering a whole new world! So, in a story you could expand the scope of God’s “world” beyond the earth and speculate what would happen to Christianity if we DID send humans to other worlds and colonize them. You could have aliens that were simply different-looking people or you could leave all those worlds empty of sentient life and just populate them with different animals and plants.
 
In this scenario, you might have to explain the scriptures that limit the scope of God’s plan to earth by saying there was a translation error. Or you could simply ignore that part if you’re one of those authors who doesn’t need to make all their spec fic match scripture. (Although some might consider it blasphemous to suggest explaining it away as a translation error, too!)
 
I’d actually be interested to hear if anyone has ever done a cover-to-cover bible study to discover how many scriptures actually appear to limit the story of God to just this planet. How many would literally make a sci-fi story contradictory to scripture? How many only imply such a contradiction? How many do we assume imply a contradiction, but upon close examination actually do not?
 
In the scenario I outlined above (which is the story world of a sci fi story I began in 2010), my thought was that just as God gave the Jewish people the honor of being His chosen people, the ones through whom He worked His salvation plan, so also the Earth was the one planet upon which He appeared and worked His salvation.
 
In my far future story, imagine the Earth as Jerusalem seems to us. The ancient place where it all happened. The place where Jesus walked. Unique in time and space. Far away from the experience of you and I today, but we could travel there and breathe the same dust if we had the time and money. From that central place and time, the story of God and what He’s done for all His created peoples has spread out and out and out. Until the whole universe knows.
 
I figure that if Jesus can miraculously return for His Second Coming in such a way that the whole world knows at once and sees Him at once… why couldn’t He do the same across multiple planets and galaxies? If we think He has tarried two thousand years after He left us, imagine how they feel several thousand years in the future! Heh heh.
 
So, I’m not saying there aren’t challenges to making sci-fi biblical… but I’ve found some parallels that work for me (so far). Would love to hear what ya’all think and what you’ve come up with (or found in your reading)!

Paul Lee
Member

I agree with your post, but I want to emphasize this point:

In this scenario, you might have to explain the scriptures that limit the scope of God’s plan to earth by saying there was a translation error.

God’s plan is definitely not limited to Earth. If God is who we know that He is, then His plan incorporates all of His creation. I am certain that the vast universe must have a purpose, and I can’t accept that the only reason that the cosmos was created was so that we could see the stars in the night sky. The universe belongs to God, not to us.

Janet Sketchley
Guest

Kessie, I so agree about the need for Good Future fiction (and for Good Present in the non-speculative genres). Your point about the different races/species on different planets is one I’ve been chewing on as I think about writing SF.

God can certainly have created different intelligent species to suit the planets He chose, but the big question is, did they all sin? Where Jesus died once for all, God could have worked it so that was actually happening simultaneously on every affected planet, but that seems kind of a stretch. I like Teddi’s idea of Earth being the focal point for all the planets, and that works for me as an extrapolation of Israel being for all Earth people. 

I’ve always thought Jesus’ words about having other sheep could apply to life on other planets (although God is extravagant enough to have made the whole universe just to put us on this one planet with no other intelligent life out there). 

Kessie Carroll
Member

Teddi: I personally don’t think there’s aliens in our actual universe, Biblically speaking (based on various verses and things that I’ve studied). But I LOVE stories with aliens. The more unusual the aliens, the better. (Heinlein has some really fantastic ones.)
 
Your idea of using our exploration of the New World is a good one. Other explorers like Marco Polo running around Africa, or even the Conquistadors running around South America. (Did you know they used cacao beans as currency? The Aztecs loved their xocoatl.)
 
I think it’s better to start with a story first, then work out the theological implications afterward. Aliens attack Earth! Earth fights back! Or Earth encounters aliens! What now? (Reading the Halo novels, particularly The Fall of Reach, gives all kinds of interesting insights into alien invasions and space battles, especially space battles written like submarine battles. Excellent stuff.)
 
Janet: The question of other life forms and did they sin–that’s the big arguing point in Christian sci fi. Some write stories with Yes (making much more interesting heroes and villains among the aliens) or No (leading to scenarios like Galaxy Quest).
 
Another interesting thing would be to mix and match theologies. Aliens evolved! Can God still save them or are they damned? (I always thought it’d be interesting to play evolution out to its logical conclusion on an alien planet. Ever play the game Spore? If everything evolved and attached limbs and jaws as needed, all life everywhere should look like eldritch abominations.)

Kessie Carroll
Member

God’s plan is definitely not limited to Earth. If God is who we know that He is, then His plan incorporates all of His creation. I am certain that the vast universe must have a purpose, and I can’t accept that the only reason that the cosmos was created was so that we could see the stars in the night sky. The universe belongs to God, not to us.

I have a pet theory about that. There’s no way to prove it either way, but it’s fun to think about.
 
My pet theory is that before the Fall, mankind was supposed to populate all the planets in the universe. After all, there was no death, yet God told mankind to be fruitful and multiply (animals, too). So eventually overpopulation would become a problem.
 
Mars used to have liquid oceans and an atmosphere. The moon used to have a magnetic field. Venus used to rotate faster. The asteroid belt is the remains of a shattered planet. When did it all change? Possibly the instant man sinned. The other worlds we should have populated became closed to us, because now we had death, and overpopulation wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue.
 
So I’m not surprised that we keep finding Earth-like planets in the inhabitable zone. But I highly doubt they have people on them, because we’re the ones who should have lived on them. The most I ever expect us to find is a world with plants and animals on it.
 
But science fiction? That’s completely different. I LOVE reading about aliens. Tell me stories about what might be out there if my theory’s wrong! And better yet, what we’ll do about it.

Kessie Carroll
Member

Yvonne: Ooh, that’s tricky ground to tread, there, since that’s a racist claim that’s been made. Good thing you downplayed it. But wouldn’t a soulless being be like an animal, ruled by instinct and incapable of reason? How would such a creature get saved in the first place?

Terri Thompsonm
Guest

I love this, Y. Thanks for the reminder.