1. sheesania says:

    “stories have long espoused or refuted a systematic, ordered way of thinking”

    YES. Reams of great speculative fiction is very politically/philosophically/religiously charged, and people are happy to read it that way. Please, can Christian speculative fiction authors be as willing as their non-Christian counterparts to try to speak passionately, skillfully and openly about their beliefs in their work?

  2. Exactly, Sheesania. I think at this point we need to emphasize the “skillfully” part, because as I see it, many people are reacting to less skillful writing that doesn’t incorporate a theme or, more accurately, embed it, but rather leads with it the way we were once taught to write a topic sentence for every paragraph. Too much Christian fiction has given us topic sentences instead of themes.

    The counter to that problem has created a worse one, from my way of thinking–theme doesn’t belong in stories. Well, it does, and as you say, non-Christian writers have no problem speaking passionately about what they believe.

    We Christians need to step up our game. As I see it, too many writers are complaining about what they “can’t” do in the Christian publishing world instead of working to master what we can and should do.

    I maintain if we had more writers producing stories of the quality of Narnia and Lord Of The Ring, we wouldn’t have trouble selling the books outside the Christian bookstores.


  3. HG Ferguson says:

    Please post more wisdom on this topic, Becky. I agree with you 100% and have no qualms in doing so. The snippet you quote is both laughable and lamentable. What difference does it make whether the reader has or does not have 2,000 years of “tradition” to bring to what he’s reading? What matters is bearing witness to the Truth, the very thing Zachary encourages us to do on another post today. You don’t have to possess a master’s degree in theology to write what is biblically true, you just have to know the Word and submit to it, and prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance. A little perspective: back about 30 years ago there was a rash of Christian fantasy novels all obsessed with the “message,” where nothing mattered but the “message.” As a result many of the tales were clumsily told and pretty unconvincing. The theology may have been sound, but the stories were subordinated to it. But what we’re seeing today, right now, is a pendulum swing to the other direction, where “theology” becomes a dirty word and striving to remain “biblical” is termed “fuzzy” and above all, “ambiguous.” So let’s don’t worry about theology, let’s just tell our stories because it’s okay. Wrong. I keep saying this because it needs to be said. Today, story is becoming all that matters and Truth is being lost and replaced with our own foolish and vain imaginings that bear no resemblance to what is taught in the Bible. I advocate for balance, as I have said before, though I am more than a little hesitant to use the language of Lucas. His “Force” is another god and its trappings should never be on a Christian’s lips. But we do need a balance between good stories, excellent craft. engaging prose in tales that don’t promote teachings you won’t find in scripture. God is not served by these things. He is served by a humble heart committed to remain faithful to what He tells us. Therefore, we need more theology, not less. More Truth, not things made so much like the world there is no discernible difference. Tell us more. Show us how to do this. Thank you.

  4. I totally agree with your premise. I have only one small tweak to make and it’s not in your intent (I’m sure we’re both on the same page) but in your terminology: I might change the word “theology” to “truth” in the title. A nuanced distinction maybe, but an important one. “Theology” carries with it a connotation of churchiness. “Truth” simply speaks for itself. Non-Christians don’t need theology; they need truth. The truth will teach whatever theology they need.

    If this seems picky, let me illustrate. A Christian writer decides, “I have a fantastic story and I’m going to make it theologically sound!” Right away, that premise blares “disguised sermon.” A second Christian writer decides, “I have a fantastic story and I’m going to make it True.” (Capital T to distinguish truth of general things like gravity to Truth of weightier things like our need for redemption.) Hear the difference?

    As for the rest of the article–super well done. I agree that people really don’t have a problem with strong themes or worldviews. For example, I was astonished at how blatant the privacy v. protection theme was in Captain America: Winter Soldier, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. In fact, people loved it, and not just the Christians. Okay then! People love thoughtful themes, even those espoused by sparkling clean gentlemen like Steve Rogers. So Christian fiction isn’t out. It just needs a stronger and more artistic voice.

What do you think?