1. bainespal says:

    On the opposite side, glorifying God is reduced to excellence in what one does, no matter the content, that anything goes and some use that reasoning to justify reading spiritually damaging books.

    Motivations are not irrelevant. You could read something for the wrong reasons. However, I think content ultimately is irrelevant to the act of glorifying God.

    Books can’t be spiritually damaging on there own. The idea of carefully monitoring one’s media consumption is probably a hold-over from the early twentieth century, when media scholars theorized that media could inject new ideologies into a population, to brainwash the people.

    This doesn’t mean we are subject to everyone who has a gripe about the spiritual condition of an author, but if reading a book called, Satan’s Glory, would cause another Christian to sin against their conscience by reading it, it is not very loving to ignore your brother so that you can fulfill your own liberty.

    I once took out one of the New Atheist books from the library of my old college, an anthology edited by Christopher Hitchens. I felt a duty to read it. I had asked an atheist in one of my classes to show me a book that explains atheism well. I was not reading it to have a good time — it made me quite miserable. But being miserable is not necessarily spiritually damaging.

    So, yes, I might read a book entitled Satan’s Glory, in order to confront and reject the worldview contained within it. The only definitive way for Christians to disable the power of such an outright evil message is to confront it and to endure it with the faith that God is greater.

     Applying the above credentials, does my old flash fiction that appeared at Everyday Fiction, The Captain’s Chair, glorify God?

    That’s not the right question. The right question is, did I practice proper discernment when I chose to read your flash fiction a few minutes ago?

    By your standards, probably not. I had glanced briefly at the comments and saw that someone called it “gritty,” and that’s all I knew about the story before reading it. I didn’t investigate the extent or type of “grittiness.” I didn’t ask anyone whether the themes would lead me to greater grace in my spiritual journey. I just read, undiscerning, because you said to.

    • R. L. Copple says:



      Good points. I mostly agree with you. I would only add there is some content which is usually or mostly negative to one’s spiritual walk and condition. Stuff that no matter your discernment, is going to be harmful to you and others. For each individual there will be content they should steer away from. That of course is per each individual. So I think the question of whether the content will be spiritually beneficial to a person is a valid question.


      Most of your examples deal with non-fiction, which is a different animal than fiction, where the goal is to experience a mindset and life. So Glorify Satan as a non-fiction may be helpful in responding, but experiencing it might not be.


    • R. L. Copple says:

       I didn’t ask anyone whether the themes would lead me to greater grace in my spiritual journey. I just read, undiscerning, because you said to.


      I didn’t suggest you read it undiscerningly. I suggested you read it applying those questions to the story, to see whether for you, it glorified God as I’ve suggested. I specifically intend one to read it with discernment.


      I expect some, maybe most will say it doesn’t for them. Others will see the theme and come away with a stronger love for God because of it. I may spell it out later, but I don’t want to preempt the reader’s view of it.


      The point being that if glorifying God is our goal in reading fiction, ultimately, whether it promotes greater love for God and each other is the means of glorifying God. That is the key discernment filter we should use both in what to read and in what we read.


  2. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but the last point is something that is almost impossible to adhere to. If I tried to take into account everything that could possibly make my brothers and sisters stumble, or that might offend them, I would have to just not write at all. (Or write the sanitized dribble Christian fiction is always accused of being).

    Anyway, this ties in with a blog post I started working on yesterday, so I think I need to link to this one in there. I’ll hopefully have it up later today.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      Which is why I said it the way I did, Kat. While authors can’t be accountable for how every person might take their writings the wrong way, intentionally writing something you know will cause others to sin, like say hardcore erotica, I think would be unloving to one’s readers. Or writing a story that glorifies anti-Christian values like Satanic worship, or other sins that would likely to entice others. Keeping in mind it is the message as a whole, not a scene, chapter, or individual character.


      I think we often end up at extremes on this. Either legalistic censorship to sanitize everything or there shouldn’t be anything off limits in reaction to legalistic censorship.


      That said, keep in mind, this article isn’t speaking so much to the author’s perspective, but as readers. If I, endowed with discernment, can read something that could be labeled soft porn without sinning myself, maybe use it to sharpen my own views on why it is destructive, then turn around and freely recommend the book to fellow Christians, knowing some of them would be tempted to sin by it, that is not loving them, but focusing on my own pride.


      IOW, I as a reader have the right to decide what content I can and can’t handle. To intentionally partake of something I know is likely to be harmful to me will not glorify God, will not be to love God and the Body. Likewise if I promote content that I know will be spiritually harmful to others, that is not loving of my neighbor.


      The questions I gave are to be asked as a reader for themselves, not an author writing a book. That is a different animal.


  3. Kessie says:

    Each person has to read and write according to their own conscience. If a person is writing thrillers, they should write the very best they can, and that includes standard thriller fare–high body count, chases, suspense, nasty bad guys, and a pretty girl.

    If a person is writing romance, or kid fiction, or mysteries, or any other genre, they need to hit that genre’s tropes. But Christian sit in judgement on every single genre!

    “You’re writing a mystery with MURDER IN IT? God commands us not to murder, therefore you’re going to burn in Hell.”

    We can only write what God gives us ideas to write. We’re not responsible for the reader who reads our books obsessively over and over, or the one who screams that our book caused them to think bad thoughts. They bring their problems along when they read.

    • R. L. Copple says:

      I agree, Kessie. Which is why this article is about the reader side of the issue, not the author’s. Though I do think there are boundaries authors risk spiritual harm from by crossing. If I write hardcore erotica, am I in part responsible for encouraging people to commit sexual sin? Is it loving God and my neighbor to write it? What if I wrote a book glorifying suicide? Would I be guilty of encouraging people to kill themselves? Are there no boundaries for authors?


      Going to one extreme in reaction to another can be just as bad, just as unloving.


  4. merechristian says:

    My standard would be that if something is okay with your conscience and you can read it without sinning, then you decide whether you should actively advertise or not. For instance, I would, and do, actively read and watch Japanese media, and that is fine for and most people. But they have a very fantastical view of religion where they treat religions in an INO (in name only) way. They also have some other issues that I don’t think are sins, but might straddle dangerous territory for one weaker. So I wouldn’t say to a new or otherwise weak Christian “hey, here’s a great manga or anime here”. Why? Because it would lead them astray and confuse them via the purposely INO portrayal of Christianity (and other faiths too, for that matter).

    For me, I marvel at the fantastical adventures, but think to myself that if this were true, I would really hate the world as the wonder of Heaven, and other things would be not there. I admire the self-sacrifice and so on of characters. Same thing with DC Comics and Marvel. In those worlds, witches, magic, the occult, are a natural phenomenon and so on, not religious. I enjoy the story, am inspired by the heroics, but I am glad that such things are not real on the earthly (super-villain battles) or metaphysical plain. I am reminded to look forward to the New Heaven/New Earth.

    In general, I guess I say that I will admit what I am reading/doing, but will not go the extra mile to push something on someone who can’t handle it.

    And then there is the notion of scenes that are appropriate for the genre/story/plot, so on, that could be harmful to others as they are in other films. Porn is bad, obviously, but the love scene with Leonidas and his wife in 300 is typical of such older tales, has import for how the rest of the movie flows and so on. I Am Charlotte Simmons has a fairly graphic sex scene that is absolutely squicky, to show how far Charlotte is falling. Both scenes are absolutely (in my opinion) appropriate, and I think belong in the stories. Both scenes are hard for some people to handle.

    I could throw in Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, Batwoman, Buffy, others, for some examples. You know, this reminds me of the Mortal Kombat debate Christians and others had in the ’90’s.

What do you think?