In this new category—Whiplash Wednesday, an off-shoot of Throwback Thursday—Yvonne Anderson‘s article about preachy fiction delves into the Christian distinctive of Christian fiction.
From time to time Christian novelists inevitably look at the intersection of our faith and our stories. At the same time, readers wonder what they should expect from a novel put out by a Christian, whether as an independent or through a small or large traditional press, Christian or general market. A few years ago one of Spec Faith’s regular columnists tackled the subject.
For what it’s worth, I agree—sort of. I certainly agree in principle with what Yvonne wrote. I tend to think, however, that there are many approaches in accomplishing the shared goal. See what you think and let us know in the comments.
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How Can They Hear
By Yvonne Anderson
Before you prepare the tar and feathers, please hear me out.
Maybe “preachy” isn’t the word I want, if preachy means, as one source defines it, “Having or revealing a tendency to give moral advice in a tedious or self-righteous way.” The “tedious or self-righteous” bit is a valid objection; no matter what the message, those qualities make for bad writing. They’re not particularly desirable in conversation, either. That sort of thing is just plain annoying.
Merriam-Webster’s definition is a little more vague: “marked by obvious moralizing.” What, exactly, constitutes moralizing? and at what point does understandable become too obvious? Is it only objectionable when Christians do it? or should, say, the makers of the movie Avatar be taken to task?
While you’re mulling those questions, here’s another for you: How effectively can Christ’s disciples carry out the Great Commission if they never spell out what they’re talking about?
Yeah, yeah, I know: Jesus spoke in parables. But how many of those parables were directed toward the lost? Not many. Jesus told stories to confuse the faithless while illustrating truths He wanted His followers to understand (Matthew 13:11-13). And, as you may notice, even the disciples often didn’t get the point until He explained.
Another familiar example of scriptural storytelling is found in 2 Samuel 12. The prophet Nathan told King David about a wealthy man who took a poor man’s pet lamb to feed a his guest, thus sparing his own flock. Nathan got the desired response from David – outrage. But until he explained the parable, the king didn’t get that the story was about him.
In other words, unless they’re accompanied by clear preaching, most parables are lost on the lost.
If we truly believe Jesus is the world’s only hope, I think we have a moral obligation to say so. In 2 Kings 7:9, even the lepers knew they had to share the life-saving good news with the rest of the city. More to the point, Jesus commanded us to tell the world. I’ve never seen any scriptural justification for saying, “No, thanks, I’ve got better things to do.”
And let’s not forget what Paul said in Romans 10:14 (paraphrased): how can they believe in Jesus if they’ve never heard of Him? And how are they supposed hear without a preacher?
I’m not suggesting everything we write must include a Romans Road-style plan of salvation. But as Christians, everything we write (as well as everything we say and do) should reflect His truth without distortion.
In his guest post on this blog last Friday, Robert Treskillard related how the Lord used Christian speculative fiction as a tool to draw him to Christ:
…a friend shared The Chronicles of Narnia with me and explained that Aslan represented Christ. This opened my eyes to things I had rarely, if ever, thought about. Within three years, God brought me to faith.” Don’t miss the part where he said “a friend… explained…
Because Aslan’s substitutionary sacrifice was so obviously a picture of Christ’s, it was easy for the friend to use it as an illustration. Nor was it difficult for Mr. Treskillard to get the picture.
“But,” you may say, “not every story needs to be about salvation.” No argument here. But whatever the theme, our stories should give an accurate reflection of God’s attributes. Christian characters (or those that represent them in speculative fiction) should be believable and lead lives a reader would want to emulate. Scriptural values should be valued and sin should not be glorified. Let’s show the world what Christianity’s really all about.
Though we should labor to get the point across with skill and finesse, we should, in fact, get the point across. Most importantly, let’s not be afraid to talk about Jesus—because it’s all about Him, you see. We can make all the vague allusions we want. We can write plainly about God and heaven. But unless Jesus Christ is the foundation of our stories, they’re flammable. Wood, hay, and stubble.
As Christians, our prime directive is to take the gospel of salvation to the world. How God would have each of us do this is between Him and the individual. For most of us, I suspect it will be a combination of writing and something else, something carried out through the vehicle of the church. But if we are called to write, let’s endeavor to make sure what we write is in line with our calling.