Why do many characters in Christian novels have little regard for God’s “novel,” the Bible?
Replacing humble yet robust love for God’s self-revelation, novel scenes may read like this:
“You can’t spend all your life ignoring God, Jim,” Thomas said. “You just need to believe.”
Jim knew that Thomas was right. Even more, he knew that he had been given much love throughout his life. To think that someone even greater than his own parents could love him like this was a nice thought. Imagine the world’s creator loving him. But Jim would need more than that. It wouldn’t do to accept the kind of blind faith these people had. He needed some kind of evidence or logic, something he could see, before accepting any belief in God.
— Original dialogue, based on that of an actual Christian contemporary/speculative novel
This is one alien belief of the invasive Christian novel-character “Child-People” I introduced last week: exclusive promotion that is not simply of childlike trust to believe in Christ’s own words about Himself, but of blind faith that God exists, loves, and/or saves.
As if real Christians have not historically accepted various emphases and reasons for faith.
As if God Himself didn’t give more motives for faith: rewards, eternal life, escaping slavery to sin, defeating the Devil, and moreover, Himself. As if the Bible, God’s Story, did not exist.
After reading one novel’s example of this trope, I tapped out the following e-reader note:
Right. It’s not [enough]. Not this kind of “blind faith.” Why focus on [blind faith, or else a spiritual-quest MacGuffin] when at least some emphasis on the Bible and why Christians believe it would make the story more realistic? Why must the Bible be barely mentioned?
I could say this is a Fiction Christian from Another Planet, and stop. We both know I won’t.
It’s easier to understand this perspective in real people. Even after Christ has declared His people righteous and sent His Spirit to start changing them, we’re flawed. We get distracted by other things. Even when we are reading God’s Story, we get things wrong. We base beliefs on overreactions. We invent theology systems apart from His theology.
But the problem doesn’t stop with characters simply ignoring His Word and viewing only “blind faith” as key to believe in God. Novelists even extol them as mature heroes, rather than at worst simpletons, or at best well-meaning “baby Christians” who are still growing.
Understand, I’m not condemning all Christian novels for presenting this view. Only some.
Also, I do not mean to devalue the fact that we do exercise a “childlike” dependence on God. But Biblically, this is not the same as naïve repetition of traditions or tropes such as “you just need to believe” or “seeing isn’t believing” or other phrases frequently used in holiday movies to defend the existence and love not of God, but of Santa Claus. Alas, in some novels these slogans are all I see from characters whom the story upholds as mature Christians.
So why do some authors adore characters who have wide, naïve, alien-like, unseeing eyes?
You can likely think of some reasons beyond a mere problem-diagnosis. Here I’ll give a few:
1. “Blind faith” is a proven controversy shield.
Let’s say I wrote a novel in which the main character started off as a silly-minded Christian but came to deeper faith — and later, thrilling action-adventures in a perilous overseas mission field — after he got ahold of thick books of well-argued Christian doctrine and systematic theology. Readers would go on red alert. Which doctrines? Which authors? Which (gasp!) church denominations? Too many Christians wish to avoid other doctrines or churches, so few authors or publishers will mention them. “Blind faith” is an easy out.
2. It’s close to an untouchable trope.
Every Christian knows Jesus endorsed childlike faith in some way. If you repeat that belief in any form, few would disagree without coming across as cranks like myself. Oh, so you say that Jesus was wrong? No, I would say that Christ taught many other things besides “come to Me like a child” — and He never once said, “come like a child and stay that way.” In fact, much of what He said, and what His apostles said and wrote, taught the exact opposite.
3. Maybe authors simply haven’t met or learned from other sorts of Christians.
“I believe in a Person, not doctrine”/“I just believe”/“Just let go and let God” all sound very spiritual, and they have some truth to them. If you’re an author trained to try to make your stories very spiritual, it makes sense to include the most “spiritual” slogans and beliefs that you know. And if you’ve only encountered — or seen as heroic — blind-faith-minded people in your life, Christian heroes in your story will naturally sound like those people.
But other Christians exist who emphasize the authority of the Bible, the need to believe it with childlike delight but also a Christlike mind, and the need for organized truth — in real life, not apart from real life, just as blood isn’t carried in a bucket but lets the body live.
Let’s see more of those kinds of characters, for God’s sake (and the sake of realism)!
Blind-faith characters can stay. They need to remind us that Christianity isn’t all reading and logic. But I’d be happy to meet more I-believe-because-of-the-Bible heroes in fiction.