Speculative Faith uses a random quote widget that allows various sayings to appear at the top of each page. Some of the quotes are insightful, I think, and some thought-provoking. Two, for me, are simply provoking.
They touch one of my hot buttons—one of my pet peeves about Christian writers discussing fiction. First the quote that nudged my thinking toward rant level:
“The way in which a Christian who makes cars glorifies God is not by painting ‘John 3:16’ on the hood. […] Similarly, the artist glorifies God by making good art, whether or not it contains an explicit gospel message.” — Phillip Graham Ryken
Seems innocuous enough, doesn’t it. Why, then, am I railing against it?
There are two fallacies that grate on my sensibilities. The first is comparing car-making to art-making. Art, by definition, and particularly writing, involves communication. Making cars does not. Hence, the analogy breaks down at the beginning.
Secondly, and the one that goads me most, the idea that “good art” glorifies God is a fallacy. Lots of artistic expression has a worldview contrary to God. Contrary, not neutral. Take Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, for example, a book which won awards and which garnered many rave reviews. Pullman himself says
I’m caught between the words ‘atheistic’ and ‘agnostic’. I’ve got no evidence whatever for believing in a God. But I know that all the things I do know are very small compared with the things that I don’t know.
So maybe there is a God out there. All I know is that if there is, he hasn’t shown himself on earth.
Are his books, artistic as they are, still glorifying the God he doesn’t believe in? Apparently some people don’t think so.
Some people have accused Pullman of nurturing a dark agenda and an anti-Christian purpose. He was recently described in The Mail on Sunday as the most dangerous author in Britain.
– “A dark agenda?”
Did God give Philip Pullman his talent to write fiction? Absolutely, but instead of using it to glorify God, he used it to mock Him and denigrate Him and in the end “kill” Him (the conclusion of the His Dark Materials series).
As I see it, Philip Pullman epitomizes Romans 1:21-23.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Emphasis mine.)
He has chosen against God. His writing may be artistic, but he slanders God with it. He is not glorifying God.
As if that isn’t enough, another random quote knocked me over the edge:
“Science fiction is the result of mankind’s God-given sense of adventure, wonder, creativity, and imagination. It emerges from being made in God’s image.” — Randy Alcorn
Science fiction emerges from being made in God’s image? How then do we explain all those who look at science fiction with loathing? Are they not made in God’s image? And what about those whose science fiction is an invention to explain away God? Is their science fiction still a result of their God image or is it a twist of their God image, more akin to their sin nature?
In short (since this post is drifting toward the long setting on your dial), I believe too many Christian writers claim a mulligan to cover up our unwillingness to work hard at creating a story that neither preaches nor pacifies, but causes readers to think deeply about spiritual things, especially about God.
After all, if we “only” have to write a good story or let God’s image show itself in our imaginative science fiction, then we are free from having to craft meaning into our story. We avoid being preaching and still get to claim a mantle of spirituality.
I don’t buy it. I think Christian writers should strive for more.