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Romanticizing Christ?

I suspect, however, that the problem for most Christian fiction isn’t in romanticizing Christ — because, quite frankly, He isn’t in most Christian fiction, not even in a lot of speculative fiction. Rather we might be romanticizing our relationship with Him.
| Apr 11, 2011 | No comments |

Romance for the "13-year-old soul"

I read an interesting, though late, review of Twilight by science fiction author (and former fiction columnist at Writer’s Digest) Nancy Kress. In it she criticized the story for its romanticism:

I was put off by that very excess of romanticism; real love does not occur instantaneously; other people and pursuits do matter; no love is unconditional, and shouldn’t be. Edward now seems to me not romantic but creepy: breaking into Bella’s house to watch her sleep, obsessing over her every move, all but stalking her. She seems to me immature in her disdain for everyone but Edward: the “friends” she makes at school, the father who gives her a home and tries to please her, the entire Olympic Peninsula. The vampirism, in fact, seemed to me more believable than the relationship

Her remarks encapsulated what I’ve heard from others, but they also made me wonder: In a similar way, do we Christian writers romanticize Christ?

It’s hard to do, He being perfect and all. How do you make perfect look better than it is?

Perhaps His very perfection makes it daunting for authors to put Him in their stories at all, even in their fantasies. After all, characters need to be three dimensional, the writing experts tell us. We need to show strengths and weaknesses if a character is to be realistic. Putting a perfect Christ-figure into a story, then, would break all the writing rules (even the ones that don’t actually exist 😉 ).

Maybe this is why Aslan and Narnia are so popular. Lewis showed Christ, depicting Him as strong yet loving, still without fault and clearly believable — hence, no hint of romanticism.

I suspect, however, that the problem for most Christian fiction isn’t in romanticizing Christ — because, quite frankly, He isn’t in most Christian fiction, not even in a lot of speculative fiction. Rather we might be romanticizing our relationship with Him.

Christ, like His unseen Father, might be talked about and even talked to. Occasionally characters might hear His voice, though not audibly. And yet this relationship seems perfect. It changes people inside out and heals hurts, provides answers, lifts burdens.

Are there no rocky times? Do characters ever say no to the voice of God? Do they, like Jonah, ever head in the opposite direction, knowing that they are the cause of the disaster that befalls them? Do we only show David defeating Goliah, never him deserting to the Philistines?

And after characters say yes to God, do they ever split from their ministry partner like Paul did from Barnabas? Do they ever act the hypocrite as Peter did with the Gentile Christians when the Jewish ones showed up?

Yes, those last things might happen in our stories, but do we show them as part of imperfect human relationships or part of an imperfect relationship with Jesus?

And in the end, do we resolve the struggle in a way that suggests it is forever resolved?

Fairytale love stories ended, And they lived happily ever after. Is the same ending the implied promise of Christian fiction?

And how, since we know that there actually is an ultimate happily-ever-after ending which comes from our relationship with Christ, do we depict the not so happy here and now that a character must face even after meeting Him? If we leave that part out of the story, are we not creating a romanticized version of our relationship with Christ, one that ends up actually looking immature if not a little creepy to someone on the outside?

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.

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Morgan Busse
Member

Great post and great questions. I lean more towards letting my characters be angry at God, lose their faith because of everything going on around them, confronted with the need to forgive and choose not to (and the consequences of that).

Real Christianity is not easy. Life hurts. Its where you end up at the end of those questions that makes you stronger or causes you to walk away.

Michelle R. Wood
Guest

A thought (or two!)

First, I find it interesting that in the reviewer’s quotation, she remarks casually no love is unconditional, and shouldn’t be; yet isn’t Christ’s love unconditional, in that While we were still sinners, Christ died for us? Yes, mortal (or in Edward’s case, imperfect immortal) characters do not have the ability to love as God does (at least not in their own strength). But if we’re making comparisons, I think the unconditional part of His love is an important distinction, because God’s love is perfect, beyond our understanding.

I think the best speculative representation of that supreme, overpowering love is presented in Dekker’s Circle trilogy, specifically Red. He even uses specific romantic language (the church as Christ’s bride, etc.), but trust me, that book did not feel “romanticised” at all (in whatever insulting way “romanticied” means; having not read Twilight or much Romance, I’m a bit out of my depth here). Instead, it kept me up to the middle or the night and beyond, crying, spiritually and emotionally floored by the pure love Jesus had to possess in order to die for us.

It seems to me that there is an extreme misunderstanding in most fictional mediums (both classic and modern) between lust and love. True love is God’s love, or sacrificial love: 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (there’s that relentless unconditional love again), and Jesus said Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. If love is selfless and unconditional, though, lust is selfish and completely conditional. In love there is freedom, serenity, and trust; in lust there is bondage, strife, and fear. True love brings lasting joy; lust is bipolar, with highs of happiness followed by the depths of despair. It’s important to distinguish that a couple relationship may be largely lustful in the early days of their relationship (let’s be honest, we’re all only human), and desire is a healthy part of any marriage. But if couple never progresses beyond skindeep lust into the boundless ties of love, there is not a firm foundation for them to weather the rocky shoals of life. If there’s a problem with romanticism in fiction (Christian and secular), I think it’s the confusion (or collusion) of these two terms.

I do agree with you, Rebecca, that writing in God in fiction is a daunting task not to be attempted by the faint-hearted; after all, we “write what we know,” and known of us can ever truly say we “know” God that well. I don’t think it’s wrong to choose not to write Him if the writer feels unable to do the character justice. I’d far rather that restraint than weird depictions of God that do not jive with me spiritually or make Him seem completely inept for a deity (**cough** Milton **cough**). Plus, while God did speak audibly to specific prophets throughout His word, He did not do so with every one, and I certainly can’t say I’ve ever sat down and had a normal two way conversation with Him. I pray, and I do feel He has led me in directions throughout my life, but a Voice from on high saying “Michelle, do this!” hasn’t happened yet (though it would make life much much easier).

Sally Apokedak
Guest

Wonderful post. Edward WAS creepy. 🙂

I love the “happily ever after” endings, and I’m not sure they aren’t good for us. We will live happily ever after and as we walk here and now, most of realize we aren’t in the “happily every after” stage. We have not reached the climax and gone on to the denouement and then closed the cover on our earthly existence and entered “ever after.”

But I agree that during the story there has to be rocky times in the characters’ lives. There has to be real struggle. Otherwise the book is boring. Whether those hard times depict the way sin hurts their relationship with God or not…I’m not sure because I don’t read many books with Christian characters. Most of the books I read, even if there is a God of the story world, have no Christ, though most of them have Christ figures.

Kaci Hill
Member

On Twilight, just to get it out of my system. To be clear, I have never, nor do I intend to, read book four.

I was put off by that very excess of romanticism;

I contend it wasn’t a romance. Sure, she idealized him, but there was nothing romantic about their relationship.

Edward now seems to me not romantic but creepy: breaking into Bella’s house to watch her sleep, obsessing over her every move, all but stalking her.

Edward had potential that’s never reached. I still contend he’s no Christ figure. Meyers had something interesting going when she started the subplot of whether or not he could be redeemed, but it kinda disappears after awhile.

She seems to me immature in her disdain for everyone but Edward: the “friends” she makes at school, the father who gives her a home and tries to please her, the entire Olympic Peninsula.

Bella devolves as a character. She loses her humanity and her personality. Her father is a bit clueless for a police chief, and her friends are equally immature.

The vampirism, in fact, seemed to me more believable than the relationship

That it does. That it does.

Her remarks encapsulated what I’ve heard from others, but they also made me wonder: In a similar way, do we Christian writers romanticize Christ

It’s hard to do, He being perfect and all. How do you make perfect look better than it is?

Well, to idealize something is to cast it in your own image, to make it something it isn’t and can never be. I don’t think most people so much as try to ‘over-perfect’ him as much as rewrite him. In fact, the entire “God is Love” thing, to the extent of denying very real aspects of his nature, is arguably one means of ‘idealizing him,’ in that people think that makes him more palatable.

Perhaps His very perfection makes it daunting for authors to put Him in their stories at all, even in their fantasies. After all, characters need to be three dimensional, the writing experts tell us. We need to show strengths and weaknesses if a character is to be realistic. Putting a perfect Christ-figure into a story, then, would break all the writing rules (even the ones that don’t actually exist 😉 ).

The main reason I wouldn’t put Jesus in a story is because I’m quite likely to screw something up. The idea of putting words in his mouth terrifies me.

That said, I don’t think perfect characters by default become one dimensional. Jesus showed the whole spectrum of emotions, and he had plenty of moments where he was physically and emotionally weak. He just didn’t sin in the process.

Maybe this is why Aslan and Narnia are so popular. Lewis showed Christ, depicting Him as strong yet loving, still without fault and clearly believable — hence, no hint of romanticism.

Aslan was kinda distant to me, to be honest. I mean, I understood him as a great person, and I liked him, but for me the story was about the kids.

I suspect, however, that the problem for most Christian fiction isn’t in romanticizing Christ — because, quite frankly, He isn’t in most Christian fiction, not even in a lot of speculative fiction. Rather we might be romanticizing our relationship with Him.

Hum.

Christ, like His unseen Father, might be talked about and even talked to. Occasionally characters might hear His voice, though not audibly. And yet this relationship seems perfect. It changes people inside out and heals hurts, provides answers, lifts burdens….Yes, those last things might happen in our stories, but do we show them as part of imperfect human relationships or part of an imperfect relationship with Jesus?

There’s a lot of voices in our heads. The trick is figuring out who’s saying what.

And in the end, do we resolve the struggle in a way that suggests it is forever resolved?

Real life doesn’t necessarily have a resolution.

Fairytale love stories ended, And they lived happily ever after. Is the same ending the implied promise of Christian fiction?

Admittedly, the entire “Jesus -as-lover” thing, while true, to me is kinda….odd. I don’t think that way, so it’s very weird for me to draw the connections. Another point where I think the Church has fixated for some bizarre reason.

And how, since we know that there actually is an ultimate happily-ever-after ending which comes from our relationship with Christ, do we depict the not so happy here and now that a character must face even after meeting Him? If we leave that part out of the story, are we not creating a romanticized version of our relationship with Christ, one that ends up actually looking immature if not a little creepy to someone on the outside?

Unless you’re planning on writing the Second Coming, there’s really no reason to write the final act. Besides, he might be the Hound of Heaven, but that’s not the same thing as the Vampiric Stalker. 0=)

Okay, so I’m probably the token weirdo….

Amy Rose Davis
Guest

I’m going to save myself a lot of time and just say “ditto” to what Kaci said.

That said… I did write in a whole vision quest thing into my current novel where one character ends up having quite an extensive sit down with a guy who turns out to be the Christ-figure (and for whatever reason sounds a lot like Liam Neeson in my head). Not sure I’m going to leave it in, though–primarily for the reason Kaci alluded to: I’m not sure I got it right. Plus, I don’t want people thinking I did my own version of “The Shack.”

Amy

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Michelle, I almost addressed the unconditional love line in my post, but I thought it would sidetrack me from my central point.

May have more thoughts on this great discussion later, but it occurs to me that it could be confusing to folks, Christian and non-, to say that God/Christ has unconditional love. In one sense that’s true, yet in another sense the condition of God’s love is also very true: we must obey His Law and be perfect! Yet Christ Himself kept that Law and fulfilled it — and thus for those who believe, God’s law is now unconditional. Without that specification, some folks take their own imaginations to the extreme of saying God loves us without regard for what we do.

But yes, that’s a different topic. Yet perhaps that’s another reason why Twilight‘s “romance” strikes many readers as so unrealistic. If even Christ had to die as an atoning sacrifice for His people’s sins, fulfilling God’s own condition for love between Himself and His human creatures/sons, why do we expect human love, apart from some higher vision of love defined (the Gospel) to be “unconditional”?

Carole McDonnell
Member

Am not sure if Christ’s love is that unconditional. Just saying. He has an awful lot of “if”s and perhaps many Christians are tainted by the “once-saved-always-saved” doctrine but “if you abide in me…” and “if you do not forgive, you cannot be forgiven.” True, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And we don’t have to earn God’s love but we are told to abide in his love and to show that love by obeying God and loving others.

Which leads to the second point. We can only be in relationship with God if we are in relationship with others. In Twilight, people can live without others as the height of “true” love if they want but in Christianity, nada.

As for romanticizing…. Christians romanticize everything. I’m always trying to tell people that the Esther story is not a love story but a “living sacrifice” story where some poor woman gets pushed into a marriage by her uncle and is forever doomed to be one of many wives, and who sees her husband once every three weeks if that. But American Christians romanticize.

In my stories, when I show a Christ figure, I tend to aim for the parts of Christ that offend Christians. He wept and was “sore amazed” and at his wit’s end in the garden. We don’t see that in Christian depictions because it isn’t manly enough. As William Blake said, “The vision of God that thou dost see is my vision’s greatest enemy. Yours is a friend to all mankind, mine speaks in parables to the blind.”

The wussy Jesus is very romanticized…the pale Galilean gentle Jesus meek and mild type…which doesn’t exist at all in the Bible.

Good post. -C

Heather Titus
Guest

Probably one of the main reasons it’s so hard to write a good Jesus or God-figure is because of our fallen nature. How can we accurately portray something that we can’t comprehend or understand? And yet, isn’t it interesting how we understand just enough to know when a Christ-figure has fallen short of the mark?

BTW, Carole, your comment about certain aspects of Jesus not being shown because they’re not “manly enough” made me think of Testosterone Jesus in Imaginary Jesus. 🙂

Katherine Coble
Guest

What troubles me most about Twilight is the overwhelming adoration many Christian adult women have with it.

The series’ treatment of interpersonal relationships is a female pattern of idealization which is psychologically identical to the male pattern of idealization which results in pornography. Time and again many of my Christian female friends wax rhapsodic over the emotional interactions as though they were harmless fun, but then I see the same wedge of disappointment and distance creep up in those marriages that I’ve seen in marriages with porn addicted husbands.

And yes, that’s also why a lot of women fall into that same pattern with Jesus. It’s that desire to stay always in the first flush of emotional excitement, to not grow past that into a mature relationship. The post WW II church has in many ways fallen into a pattern of, as an above commenter said, “romaticising everything.”

That is also why men are more and more likely to become disenfranchised with church.

Michelle R. Wood
Guest

As a Free Will Baptist, I certinaly don’t have any affliation with the “once saved always saved” doctrine or belief. But I think we’re getting into dangerous territory by arguing that God’s love is conditional: to me, that contradicts the entire point of the Gospel message. God loves us, regardless of what we do or who we are. We can do nothing to earn that love: it is freely given. Even before He laid the foundations of the universe, He loved us. I think the Bible is very clear about this concept.

Now, salvation is conditional on our accepting God’s sacrifice for our transgressions. Salvation involves repetence, which as I mentioned in my Sunday School class yesterday requires both a true pentient spirit for one’s sins and a committment to resiting that sin in the future (which requires God’s help to achieve). The blessings God has planned for us are conditional on our humbling our natures to His will. The wonderful destiny God has divinely planned for each of us is dependent on opening ourselves to His direction and accepting His plan for our lives.

But love? Nothing can stop God’s love. Even if we choose not to follow God, if we reject Him and turn away from Him, He never stops loving us. Like the Prodigal Son’s father, God desires that all would turn to Him. Again, that does not mean all our saved; until the Prodigal Son repented and returned to his father, he could not abide in and benefity from the love his father so keenly felt. But his father never stopped loving him, and our Heavenly Father never stops loving us.

Luther
Guest

“But I think we’re getting into dangerous territory by arguing that God’s love is conditional: to me, that contradicts the entire point of the Gospel message. God loves us, regardless of what we do or who we are.”

Does God love all unconditionally or does He love those whom Christ died for? Is God’s love conditional upon our place within Christ.

John 14:15
” If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John 14:21
” He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose

Romans 8:30
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

1 Thessalonians 2:12
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

The Father loved the prodigal because he was a member of the family even if separated for a time.

“Now salvation is conditional on our accepting God’s sacrifice for our transgressions. ”

is the acceptance a work which would place God in our debt for the act of believing?

but like others have said that is another topic and one that to often divides unnecessarily.

Life is hard and Christian fiction should reflect the truths of life. have we forgotten that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution or that the trying of our faith is like the refiner’s fire? Although we have entered into His rest we will not find the ultimate fulfillment of that this side of Eternity.

Kaci Hill
Member

First, I find it interesting that in the reviewer’s quotation, she remarks casually “no love is unconditional, and shouldn’t be;” yet isn’t Christ’s love unconditional, in that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us?” Yes, mortal (or in Edward’s case, imperfect immortal) characters do not have the ability to love as God does (at least not in their own strength). But if we’re making comparisons, I think the unconditional part of His love is an important distinction, because God’s love is perfect, beyond our understanding.

As far as Christ goes, I think the point of saying ‘unconditional love’ is to dispel the idea of “Christians don’t/can’t sin” or something.

At any rate, I’m choosing not to delve into an OSAS/not OSAS or a “sinless Christian” discussion, for my own sanity. Call me the weaker sister, if you will.

It seems to me that there is an extreme misunderstanding in most fictional mediums (both classic and modern) between lust and love. True love is God’s love, or sacrificial love: 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (there’s that relentless unconditional love again), and Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. If love is selfless and unconditional, though, lust is selfish and completely conditional. In love there is freedom, serenity, and trust; in lust there is bondage, strife, and fear. True love brings lasting joy; lust is bipolar, with highs of happiness followed by the depths of despair.

I just liked that part. 0=)

Maybe, too, we don’t mean ‘unconditional v. conditional love,’ either. Maybe we mean “perfect’ love v. ‘imperfect’ love.

Plus, while God did speak audibly to specific prophets throughout His word, He did not do so with every one, and I certainly can’t say I’ve ever sat down and had a normal two way conversation with Him. I pray, and I do feel He has led me in directions throughout my life, but a Voice from on high saying “Michelle, do this!” hasn’t happened yet (though it would make life much much easier).

Right. But I think the hard part comes in trying to translate God’s response onto paper. It might not have been an actual voice, but to explain what happened in words is to kind of ‘translate’ it into human language.

I was in a class one time where the prof quoted someone as saying “Fiction is saying what can’t be expressed any other way.” In other words, the second you try to dissect the story, it’s gone. A good story requires no other words.

Random sidenote:I I tend to dislike overly happy and overly depressing endings…

But yes, that’s a different topic. Yet perhaps that’s another reason why Twilight‘s “romance” strikes many readers as so unrealistic. If even Christ had to die as an atoning sacrifice for His people’s sins, fulfilling God’s own condition for love between Himself and His human creatures/sons, why do we expect human love, apart from some higher vision of love defined (the Gospel) to be “unconditional”?

For me, the Twilight romance was non-existent, so there was no conditional/unconditional love to even consider. Bella is infatuated, spellbound by the vampire allure, and Edward is both craving her blood and mesmerized by her. They have that conversation repeatedly. It solves, in my mind, a myriad of plot and character issues if they’re simply friends. I could buy their friendship. I could NOT buy their ‘romance.’

And now we’re getting into why I won’t read Breaking Dawn. Heh.

As for romanticizing…. Christians romanticize everything. I’m always trying to tell people that the Esther story is not a love story but a “living sacrifice” story where some poor woman gets pushed into a marriage by her uncle and is forever doomed to be one of many wives, and who sees her husband once every three weeks if that. But American Christians romanticize.

Hahahaha. Thank you! Imagine me hugging you right now. The “One Night with the King” movie did an excellent job trying to make Xerxes likeable and the entire situation mostly sweet ( almost a Beauty & the Beast story), but the real story is so horribly disturbing it’s not even funny.

Mordecai was the oddball to me in Esther. He loved his cousin, raised her as his own daughter, and seems to be a very godly man. But on the other hand, I think he was worried something worse might happen if they tried to refuse on the grounds of her Jewishness (he did tell her to keep that part to herself, until they didn’t have a choice). I can’t help but think he didn’t believe there was much other option, with Esther fitting the “every pretty young woman in Susa” description.

Sorry, I know that’s a tangent.

I liked Jehosheba–the queen who saved her nephew from Athalia’s slaughter, and Abigail, who stopped an enraged, vengeful David and his men with breakfast. Hannah. Anna. The widow Elijah saves. Ruth. Rebekah, even, I think.

The wussy Jesus is very romanticized…the pale Galilean gentle Jesus meek and mild type…which doesn’t exist at all in the Bible.

There’s this ridiculous song they taught us…oh, maybe in middle school at church. I can’t remember all of it, but the first lines start soft and go something like:

“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…”

And then the chorus shifts into drums and screaming:

“But our God ain’ no pansy!

[I forgot the next two lines] and crushed the hairy skulls of his enemies!
Just ask [ name here] and Og, Og, Og!!!!!”

We were ridiculous. But the boys loved growling that chorus out. Hehe. I’m pretty sure it’s from one of the Psalms that mentions God crushing the heads of Og and some other Canaanite king.

Katherine Coble – I have nothing to add to the comments on emotional porn other than “good thoughts.”

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Michelle wrote:

I think we’re getting into dangerous territory by arguing that God’s love is conditional

That’s why I would be careful about saying that to someone whom I happen to know believes that the Gospel is “be good and God will accept you.”

However, I would argue that God’s love is “conditional” on us following His Law, to someone I was quite sure is not a Christian and who believes God’s “love” (as he defines it) is the sentimental variety that patronizes and looks the other way when we reject Him.

For that person, the truth must be told: no, God’s love is conditional and can’t be separated from His justice. However, Christ Himself died as a substitute, a wrath-absorbing sacrifice to ensure that God Himself met His own condition. In this way, anyone who repents and believes in Christ can be assured of salvation, not just to Get Out of Hell Free, but to live forever in gratitude and genuine love for the most wonderful, infinite God Who is love/justice/merciful/holy, worshiping Him in all we do.

In summary: yes, God is clear in Scripture that His love is conditional. But because He is kind and good and merciful, He Himself fulfills that condition for all those who will repent and believe.

Kaci Hill
Member

It does seem that we’re veering into a Calvinist versus Arminian discussion regarding predestination and free will, which wasn’t my intention.

Which is why I bowed out. Love yall, but not going there.

Everyone doesn’t struggle with the same things: abusing alochol, for example, is not a problem for some people, whereas these same people might have issues with patience in dealing with their family members. Just because a person’s sins don’t make the front page doesn’t mean they’re any worse or better, or worthy of character exploration.

Exactly. And behind the obvious ones are ten thousand unobvious ones.

Martin LaBar
Guest

Well said. Thanks.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Still not sure how the issue becomes a Reformed-versus-Free-Willie debate (and I’m familiar with a few of those!). Either way, a Christian can agree with the statement:

God is clear in Scripture that His love is conditional. But because He is kind and good and merciful, He Himself fulfills that condition for all those who will repent and believe.

The non-Reformed Christian may look at this and says: Yes, God through the Law reveals what He wants: His “condition” for a person’s relationship with Him. Yet out of His magnificent love God Himself, in Christ, fulfilled His own condition by dying for those whom God knew would repent and believe of their own free-will choice.

Whereas the Reformed Christian may look at this and says: Yes, God through the Law reveals what He wants, which is His “condition” for a person’s relationship with Him. Yet out of His magnificent love God Himself, in Christ, fulfilled His own condition by dying for those whom God had already chosen to save, “unfairly,” to whom He gives faith and the desire to repent and believe.

If anything, it would seem the non-Reformed position places more of a “condition” on God’s love, by requiring that man come up with his own faith to accept Jesus in return, while the “Calvinoid” claims it’s God Who initiates all salvation, from start to finish.

Yet either side could agree that, in one sense, God’s love is “conditional” on a sacrifice being necessary for forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). If God simply skipped over that (and that is what is meant by “unconditional”), we’d no longer be talking about the Biblical God. That confusion, I think, can be based on referring to God’s love as “unconditional” without being more careful to qualify what that means! And that is the only reason I bring it up here, though others here likely already know the clarity.

Luther
Guest
Luther

Of course Calvinist can refer to someone rejecting Christ because they are doing the only thing their natural will can allow them to do.

God’s common grace is the manifestation of his mercy/love to the entire world but it is not a saving grace.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Blimey, and here I was attempting to get away from that subtopic. I know I’m not very good at that!

Becky, once again I think we’re in agreement at the end. What I note about your reminders is that while you say “God’s love is unconditional” you nonetheless include some statements that do indeed indicate “conditions”: “if he but looked,” “they had only to obey,” “put faith in Christ” or accept God’s free offer instead of tearing up the check.

Both Reformeds and non-Reformeds (my affectionate term is “free -willie” only because “Arminian” seems to me confusing jargon) must ultimately say that God’s love comes with some kind of a “condition,” even if it’s as simple as “you must accept that love.”

And thus both sides would be within orthodox Christianity for sure, and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

It’s the folks who take “God’s love is unconditional” and then go off into a derivative of that slogan, which could be confusing at best, and take it apart from the whole context of Scripture. You and I both know which popular author is famous for pushing the notions of “if it’s truly unconditional love — the only kind of real love, then why should we even say a person must accept Christ to be saved by Him?”

Again, that’s the reason why I’m even more skittish about saying “God’s love is unconditional.” Sure, some may go too far into defining the “condition” as “you must be very, very well-behaved on your own to get God’s love.” But striking back against that wrong view with another wrong view — saying “there’s no condition” at all — too often leads to Christ’s sacrificial death in place of His people / the world being disregarded. God does have a “condition”: we must be perfect. And He Himself fulfills it for us!

Sounds like I’m saying the same things repeatedly. (Checks) Yep. Maybe, in case the confusion continues, we should define “unconditional”? To me that means “it keeps on going despite any other interference.” For that believes that’s certainly true, but only after Christ has fulfilled the condition: God’s wrath against sin must be satisfied.

Kaci Hill
Member

But the real question is, was Stephen predestined to continue the subject, or did he choose to continue the subject? 😉

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Ha ha! Both! I’m a compatibilist. 😀 (Randy Alcorn makes one of the best presentations for that view in the latter chapters of his book on why the Lord allows death and human suffering: If God is Good.)

Kaci Hill
Member

I’ll have to look into it. Personally, I think both the Calvinist and Arminian position are wrong, because the logical conclusions of both are wrong once it’s all worked out.

Galadriel
Guest

And after reading all that, here’s what I have to say
Twilight stinks!
I haven’t actually read a complete book by Meyers, but I’ve skimmed a few pages and read summeries–I ain’t touching those books with a ten foot bookmark.

Barbara Robinson
Guest

The unconditional love line popped right out at me, too. We must be very grateful for His unconditional love. This is a very thought-provoking blog. I feel it’s one that can serve to help writers hone their craft and consider the wonderful points made as we write. I don’t feel I should try to be God in my writing or make Him into a character. I see my writing as a way to lead others to Him and to His Word. It is my hope that someone who does not know Him at all might happen to like romance, read my novel, and decide to give Him a chance and get to know Him better, or that Christians who read it will GET IT and enjoy a clean romance. Blessings. BJ

MS Quixote
Guest
MS Quixote

Come on, Stephen…God loved Jacob, but Esau He loved unconditionally 🙂

C.L. Dyck
Member

You are a rotter this week! 😀

Luther
Guest
Luther

The difference between the grace shown Esau and the grace shown Jacob is one is the common grace shown to all creation and saving grace shown to those God chooses.

Kaci Hill
Member

Esau’s an odd one. On the one hand you have:

Joshua 24:3-5 (New International Version, ©2011)

3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt.


” 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. ” ~ Hebrews 11.20

On the other:

Malachi 1:1-3 (New International Version, ©2011)

1 A prophecy: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.[a]
Israel Doubts God’s Love
2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD.

“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

And:

Hebrews 12:15-17 (New International Version, ©2011)

15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Andrea Graham
Guest

I have plenty of imperfect, flawed folk making poor decisions in my books, Christian and otherwise. I love redemption stories too much to ever quit doing that I suspect. I like to show the consequences of sin and the glory of God to restore even the worst of sinners. I will admit I have included Jesus in my stories, with fear and trembling and lots of prayer and, “Lord, help me not to totally mess up here.” My last attempts included lots of searching the scripture and prayerfully basing his lines off of words he actually spoke in similar contexts as in my fictional presentation–so far that appears to have worked well. Isn’t that what we’d do for the lines of any actual historical person we presented in fiction?

Andrea Graham
Guest

In my WIP I decided to do something original (for me) and let the hero be a good kid (albeit not a Christian–yet.)

MS Quixote
Guest
MS Quixote

Hey Becky,

Luther’s comments and mine are unrelated, nor is the meaning of miseo relevant, for mine, that is. For mine, feel free to utilize any sense of meaning for miseo…any at all, with one critical exception: ἠγάπησα. In this particular instance, the text doesn’t allow it. Jacob received A (ἠγάπησα), but Esau received Non-A.