Horror and Philippians 4:8
It isn’t uncommon, especially if the subject is horror stories by Christians, for someone in a discussion to quote the following verse to conclude why Christians should avoid writing and reading anything that might focus on evil, death, or gore.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phil 4:8)
Presented out of context, it would appear to be a Biblical command to avoid thinking about the formerly mentioned concepts. The following are five reasons why the use of this verse to denounce the darker elements of fiction is a misapplication of its contextual meaning.
1. This verse is a general principle, not a command.
In the context Paul is applying this verse, he is exhorting his listeners on how they should conduct themselves. It is obvious this is a general principle and not a command for the simple reason if we followed it as an absolute command to not think on its opposites, none of us would pay our bills, disciple our children, or take out the trash.
2. The converse of the verse is not necessarily true.
Notice Paul does not say, “Don’t think on these things: death, evil, ugly stuff, violence . . .“ He is rightly suggesting that we should think of these virtuous things. He is not saying we shouldn’t ever think on anything else. To do so is putting words in his mouth he didn’t say.
3. The Bible itself would violate this “commandment.”
The Bible has a healthy dose of focusing on evil and sin. People are brutally killed. Evil kings reign over God’s chosen people for years. Even the central focus of the Gospel involves deceit, scourgings, mockery, and violent deaths—not only Jesus Christ’s on the cross, but even depicting the death of Judas as him falling into a field and his bowels falling out. (Acts 1:18)
To apply this verse consistently to fiction, as some do, would require throwing away the Bible as well.
4. As an absolute “commandment,” it would prevent Christians from ministering and addressing the many evil circumstances most all experience in this life.
Indeed, if this was a commandment to not think about evil, it would result in ignoring the vast suffering caused by sin so we could retreat into our idealistic bubble . . . hey, wait a minute, a lot of Christians do do that!
Okay, just note it prevents us from fulfilling Jesus’ commands to love one another as He has loved us. We become the priest, the Pharisee, and the scribe who pass by the bleeding Samaritan on the side of the road.
5. You can’t know the good without knowing the bad.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is called that for a reason. The two go together. A focus on one highlights the other. That is why Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre, said of horror:
Horror movies do not love death, as some have suggested; they love life. They do not celebrate deformity, but by dwelling on deformity they sing of health and energy. By showing us the miseries of the damned they help us rediscover the smaller joys of our own lives. They are the barber’s leeches of the psyche, drawing not bad blood but anxiety . . . for a little while anyway.
The deeper the darkness, the more brightly the light shines.
Balance is the issue.
Certainly it would be bad for anyone to only focus on the bad and evil without thinking about the good and the virtues. Likewise, without focusing and thinking about evil regularly, we become like Adam and Eve, who having taken God’s bountiful goodness for granted, coveted what they didn’t have. Because they couldn’t appreciate the evil, they couldn’t appreciate the good. Not until they lost it.
I’m not advocating that we gorge ourselves on evil, gore, and horror. I’m not suggesting that any one person is wrong if they’ve decided to avoid certain fictional horrors. I am suggesting Paul’s statement in Philippians 4:8 is about balance, not an either/or scenario, and that people who refuse to stare evil in the face also tend to not think about the good as often.
Ironically, making this verse out to be a commandment to not think about the horrors of evil end up leading those same people to violate the true intent of the verse: to spend time thinking on those good things of God.
The next time someone whips that verse out to prove Christians shouldn’t partake or write such material, point them here. Maybe they’ll buy a clue.
Okay, choir, did I miss any key points?
Greg, I think you are reading into this much more than what is there. None of what I said promotes an undiscerning devouring of worldly things. I think I said as much. Rather, discernment should be based on what is in line with Christ’s teachings. I doubt Paul would approve of much of our worldly entertainment, actually.
But the point I’m making here is that this verse is taken out of context when used to suggest Paul would automatically ban anything with negative content. He never said don’t think on those things, only that we should be thinking on the good things.
By making that point, it doesn’t translate that I’m saying engorge yourselves on horror, it’s all okay. But the fact is we tend to use the horrors of fiction to deal with the horrors of real life, as I noted in my column last week.
So I feel your concerns are valid, but in relation to my article, it is a straw man. Plus, you didn’t deal with any of my points. I still contend that using this verse in order to suggest the Bible commands us not to watch or read anything concerning evil or of a sinful nature is a misapplication of the verse within its context.
That’s a far cry from saying, “All horror, gore, and sinful activities are safe to indulge in.”
You quote Stephen King as an authority. Consider the following please.
” I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church. Nowadays, we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that,—things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage!
Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children, you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, ‘How far may we be like the world?’ but your one cry would be, ‘How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?’ Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, ‘How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”‘
Brethren, the use of the Church in the world is that it should be like salt in the midst of putrefaction; but if the salt has lost its savour, what is the good of it? If it were possible for salt itself to putrefy, it could but be an increase and a heightening of the general putridity. The worst day the world ever saw was when the sons of God were joined with the daughters of men. Then came the flood; for the only barrier against a flood of vengeance on this world is the separation of the saint from the sinner. Your duty as a Christian is to stand fast in your own place, and to stand out for God, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, resolving like one of old that, let others do as they will, as for you and your house, you will serve the Lord.”
“Avoid the appearance of evil. “But we must not be too rigid,” says one. There is no fear of that in these days. You will never go too far in holiness, nor become too like your Lord Jesus. If anybody accuses you of being too strict and precise, do not grieve but try to deserve the charge. I cannot suppose that at the last great day our Lord Jesus Christ will say to anyone, “You were not worldly enough. You were too jealous over your conduct, and did not sufficiently conform to the world.” No, my brethren, such a wrong is impossible. He Who said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” has set before you a standard beyond which you can never go.”
The prince of preachers and great champion of Calvinism, Charles Haddon Spurgeon from sermons preached in the 19TH CENTURY. He would fall on his face and weep bitterly. Aghast and crushed if he were to see what is condoned today. Dear Lord Jesus rescue your church!!! Oh how far we have fallen.
That kind of stern, world-denying Calvinist puritanism was impossible to live by even in his time, and the drive to perfection winds up bringing back a works-righteousness to what was supposed to be a gift of grace. You blame yourself for not being perfect enough, not hating the world enough, and for having the normal human desire to consume art and play sport.
It’s a horrible thing to deal with, and I think no few Christians have fallen away because of that. You get a long-faced Christ who frowns at you because you dared, dared see a play or watch a movie, and people rebel against that false conception of Him.
I’m sorry sir, but this is an utter falsehood. No Christian has EVER fallen away. That’s number one. Also, you assume a strawman further than even Spurgeon would have gone. (Spurgeon had a moderate love for cigars for instance) Finally, you’ll just have to forgive me if I give him more credibility than I give you or anyone else here on topics like, worldliness, sanctification and living the mind of Christ.
He’s absolutely right. <strong>”Things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated”</strong> are for those calling themselves “reformed” today, now simply normative indulgences. Lived with in peace under the flag of a completely reworked notion of <i>”liberty”</i> built from the gross manipulation of scripture that teaches no such thing.
What he describes, when taken properly IS Christian morality. Anything less is compromise at very best.
Mr Copple, would you clarify something for me please? Perhaps I am reading what you were saying incorrectly. It seems to me that you have left us with the implication in your statement # 5 above that it was a good and necessary thing that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:
“5. You can’t know the good without knowing the bad.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is called that for a reason. The two go together. A focus on one highlights the other…….”
Are you really meaning to imply that Adam and Eve could not have known what good was until they ate of that one tree? That they had to disobey the only recorded commandment of God that they had at that time in order for them to be able to know good?
Do we as God’s children today really need to consume imaginary horror in order to know that it is evil? In order to know that God’s ways are right and good? Is seeing the real life horror that goes on around us all of the time not enough to know that this world is an evil place? We must have horror in fictional form in order to REALLY convince us of that?
There is a traditional teaching in Christian history that Adam and Eve would eventually have been allowed to eat from the TKGE. But they were not yet ready to do so without dying in the process. It is clear that the serpent didn’t lie to Adam and Eve. They would become like God in that aspect:
That indicates Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Life. In that understanding, they first had to eat of that tree, then they would have been ready, fully united to God’s life, to eat of the other without falling as they did, and dying to God.
In essence, Adam and Eve didn’t follow God’s directions. He never said that they should never eat from the TKGE for all time, only that at that time, they could not eat of it without dying.
But aside from that, it is simple logic that without some understanding of what is evil, there is no concept of what is good. Any concept of what is good necessitates some knowledge of what is not good.
Jesus said in Luke 7:47, ” Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
It is not that Jesus is saying we should go commit some more horrible sins, so we’ll have more to be forgiven for, and thus love more. But that the fact of the matter is, one who has such knowledge of the evil can appreciate much more God’s forgiveness and respond as Paul was exhorting us to do in Phil 4:8.
You’ve made my point here. There is enough horror in real life for us to know the good and “think on these things.” It isn’t, however, that we need fictional horror in order to convince us of that (though some people do try to avoid the topics and stay in our own safe bubble), but that a good Christian horror story, or a horror story with good Christian themes, can be an encouragement and support in dealing with real life horrors.
That’s not to say all Christians should or need to partake of horror. Personally, I’m not a big horror reader, as I confessed last year. I’ve been slowly, ever so slowly, working my way through Dracula, which contains some Christian themes. (I’m almost halfway through it!) But horror can have its positive place in Christian lives. As in anything, whether promoted as Christian or not, one still needs discernment in partaking of it as to whether it is beneficial or not. As Paul said, be careful what you approve of.
Rick, I was going to stop by and mention the same post Greg apparently has a problem with. In my own study—not something I think any commentators have said—I’ve considered that Philippians 4:4-9 might actually be responding to what Paul said regarding the two women in the church who weren’t getting along: that the way to live in harmony is to rejoice in the Lord, be gentle in our speech, be anxious for nothing, to set our minds on the excellent things. If we think in reverse—things that aren’t true, aren’t honorable, aren’t right, aren’t pure, aren’t lovely, aren’t of good repute—it’s easy to see how, if directed at a brother or sister in Christ, we’d have disharmony. The next verse then says the God of peace will be with us if we listen and learn from what Paul says.
My point in bringing it up here is that I think we believers get into trouble when we yank Scripture from its context and apply it in places God didn’t specify. So when we are looking for a guideline about what kind of books to read, coming to this verse seems to me to be not handling God’s word aright. There are other passages about what we intake. I don’t think this one belongs to that set. But I could be wrong.
Certainly, dwelling on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute is never wrong! And if someone feels under God’s conviction to measure reading and viewing by those standards, that’s something I would never try to talk them out of. But at the same time, I don’t think that passage can be used in a legalistic way to bludgeon others over the head about their own choices.
Unfortunately it’s this use of the verse in a legalistic way that has done harm, I think. One piece of harm is for those who see how exploring a Presidential candidate’s record, for example, immediately moves us out of the “dwelling on excellence” category, and then induces them to throw the verse away as impractical or for another time or some other excuse for not actually applying it.
Anyway, if you’re interested in reading my post, I’ll bring it up in Comment Luv so you’ll have the link.
I appreciate your thoughts here, Rick.
I hadn’t read your article until now, Becky. Couldn’t agree more with your points, both there and here. Thanks for providing additional context.
This isn’t the first time we’ve hit on the same subject in a small window of time without realizing what the other was doing. 🙂
It’s starting to seem a little more than coincidence that we so frequently write on the same topics, Rick. 😉 Great minds, and all that? 😀
The Bible certainly has several chapters that could be considered “horror” by today’s standards. The book of Judges has several examples of material that most people would mark with a giant X if these stories were made into movies.
Reading the Bible as the whole Word of God is always preferable to reading just one verse and attempting to make that verse fit every situation.
I think we need to encourage each other to read the whole Bible. I think we also need to treat each other with love and kindness. If I’m going to take verses and throw them out into a discussion like this one, I think I’ll stick with these:
Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Whether we agree with each other on the tiny details or not, we need to remember Jesus’ words in these discussions.
Tyrean Martinson says “tiny details”
See, that’s just the problem. Modern Americans see things like this as “tiny details.” Points of liberty and individual choice. Men like Spurgeon and the whole of reformed orthodoxy before him, saw them as the spiritually crippling, morally corrosive, power draining carnality that they are.
Let’s get this straight. (if one more person says this to me 😉 )God’s divine prerogative of historical reportage for purposes sufficient unto Himself, does not translate into a license for His creatures to freely indulge their fantasies. Certainly not the way it is many times advanced today. Which is not to say that story telling is wrong in itself. Of course not.
My goal in comments like the ones on this page is not to be a legalistic joykill who thinks having fun or enjoying life is unspiritual. People who know me in real life would snicker at such a characterization. I am tired up to here with watching the church of Jesus Christ inflict new and novel and post modern relativistic morality upon God’s word and thereby making the cross of Christ of none effect. Yes, that is exactly what is happening as Spurgeon most accurately pointed out even in HIS day.
Rebecca, your article is not idiotic. I wouldn’t expect that from you. While displaying some plausibility, it is nonetheless incorrect. The response I’m working on is respectful and gracious.
Horror really is a touchy subject in spec fiction and I think rightly so. It needs to remain that way. As Born Again Christians we need to consider this. The purpose of Horror is “seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears” according to one definition. But in truth the vast majority of Horror does not just play off of horrifying acts, it Dwells on them and Glorifies them. I will point out that I have seen a couple of exceptions, but I am not a proponent of Horror fiction because I always see that evil acts are glorified in that genre with every piece I have ever seen.
It is true that there are horrifying things in the Bible, but those acts are never dwelled upon and the eternal consequence of those deeds is clearly shown and the light exceeds the darkness. I have yet to see a piece of Horror where the light overcomes the darkness. It seems an inherent flaw with the genre.
In your article you say “…if we followed it as an absolute command to not think on its opposites, none of us would pay our bills, disciple our children, or take out the trash.”
I must disagree for the clear reason that there is Virtue in all of those things. They line up with the clear teaching of Scripture. It is right and good to pay our bills, disciple our children, and to take out the trash.
I am not convinced that Horror should be accepted by Christians as a positive thing, and I am convinced that everything we spend our time on should be for our spiritual profit.
But I am glad that this is being discussed because all things (including horror) need to be out in the open to be evaluated on their merits. And I am convinced that includes the merits of Phillipians 4:8.
Thanks, Scott, for you well reasoned response.
I do think there are some things in much horror that is not spiritually beneficial. But I don’t think that is inherent in the genre, but inherent in the world view and treatment of the author. Same for fantasy, science fiction, or other types of literature. That’s where discernment comes into play.
And it sounds to me you are practicing that based on your comment: evaluating what is spiritually beneficial for you.
The ugly stuff in the Bible certainly isn’t of the kind I would call glorifying it. I’ve not read a ton of horror, but it is my impression in most of them that the horror or monster is defeated and good wins out over evil. You seem to have read more than me, so correct me if I’m wrong on that. Or others more widely read in horror can chime in. If true, however, that wouldn’t be glorifying evil. The dwell on time would obviously be different, but if light/good shines in the end, it does highlight the light that much more. One does not want to dwell there, but there are obviously some good Christian messages that could play out in a horror story.
Point I was making is not that the horror of the Bible is of the same type as current day horror, but that based on applying Phil 4:8 as an opposite meaning (don’t think upon these other things) one would have to ditch the Bible because it does indeed lead us to think on those things. It involves a consistency of application.
You make a good point on stuff like taking out the trash. That goes back to context for sure. Not that yucky stuff like taking out the trash doesn’t have virtuous purposes, but in and of itself it isn’t something virtuous, was my thinking on that, and most people consider it an unpleasant task that has to be done or our residences would turn into a true horror show. 😉 So I think one can make a difference between virtue inherent in some task, and a virtuous purpose to an otherwise unvirtuous task.
To that end, it becomes possible to make most anything virtuous as long as you can relate it to a virtuous purpose. Like killing, for instance. Generally, we consider it murder. But if someone kills a school shooter, they would be praised as having saved a lot of lives. So suddenly thinking on killing someone else isn’t anti-Phil 4:8 as long as there is a virtuous purpose to it. Then it can get dicey when the purpose is a gray area, like someone killing an abortion doctor. There would be those who would ascribe a virtue in the same manner as the school shooter, for saving the lives of unborn children he/she would have killed. But many would also condemn the act as worthy of punishment, including most Christians I believe.
So if a horror book or movie helps someone deal more effectively with their own real-life horrors, is it then virtuous and worthy of being thought about per Phil 4:8? That of course is an individual subjective application. What helps one person may seem totally pointless and senseless to another.
Good thoughts, and I’m not suggesting readers should read and watch horror undiscerningly. That said, I still think applying Phil 4:8 on what not to read is taking it out of context and misusing it. There are other verses in the Bible that might apply more directly toward discernment on our entertainment choices.
I do think we need to explore what horror is more in depth. I think I’ll make that a topic for next weeks article. I feel too many, myself included in the past, have had too narrow a definition of it. It may be enlightening to make that study.
Thanks again for your good thoughts on the subject.
I’ve always found it interesting that horror is perhaps the most moral literary genre in its traditional framework:
1. Evil exists, whether or not you believe it exists. It is not an illusion dependent on one’s perceptions and bias.
2. Evil is unambiguously and irredeemably bad. It corrupts absolutely. You cannot negotiate with it, it will not go away if you “understand its motivation,” and it will not be merciful if you surrender to it. If you ally with evil, you will die, messily, once you outlive your usefulness to it.
3. Evil can and must be resisted and defeated. This will not be easy.
4. A defeated evil can re-emerge in a different place, time, or form if good men fail in their virtue or vigilance.
Where many modern incarnations of the horror story depart from the traditional narrative, I think they become less about horror and more about terror. Terror focuses on all the nasty things evil can do without offering any hope of overcoming it. Where horror offers a warning against insidious evil and a call to action against it, terror tells us to curl up into a helpless, shivering ball as our inevitable demise approaches because evil always has been and always will be in control.
I think your call for balance and discernment in our approach to fictional horror is on-target, Rick. It can also be a useful conversation-starter with people that allows us to offer the Christian perspective on the nature of evil, the source of good, and the insufficiency of human virtue to combat evil.
Fred, an excellent comment. For years I understood horror as only “terrifying,” but you’ve made a helpful distinction between the two. I’ve read enough Christian horror now to know that in fact there is redemption and light at the end of the dark path.
But I also know I don’t want to walk that path. It’s not for me. Not because I think these stories go against a Scriptural mandate. After all, the purpose of these godly Christian writers is to glorify God and bring others to Him out of the darkness.
My one caution is that by giving Satan and his forces a lot of attention, some people may open themselves to his activity. I personally choose to err on the side of caution, but I’ve learned I ought not make my decision the standard to which I hold everyone else.
But here’s another thought. Some of the Christian horror I read wasn’t particularly horrific. I could read it much as I would fantasy. I suspect, then, that the purpose of reaching out to those who gravitate to horror stories in order to show God’s perspective and victory over the forces of evil, might be lost on them.
In other words, if people are going to write Christian horror, it should succeed as a horror story, but if it does, I’m not going to read it. There’s your dilemma. I know at least one Christian horror writer who has written off Christian publishing because their books didn’t do well. But I think the stories unmasking evil might be misplaced if their target audience is Christians. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it seems to me Christians writing horror would have a greater outreach if they wrote for the general market.
Becky: My one caution is that by giving Satan and his forces a lot of attention, some people may open themselves to his activity. I personally choose to err on the side of caution, but I’ve learned I ought not make my decision the standard to which I hold everyone else.
Nah, as long as you show Satan losing the battle, you’ll be ok. Jesus ran into some funky stuff, the guy with Legion in him, dealing with Satan in the desert, and other possessed Linda Blaire people would send anyone running for the hills. But Jesus took it in stride. Paul had to deal with his number of possessed people and the bible really just glosses over them. But I’m sure it was freaking and terrifying. I feel that as long as God reigns in the end and defeats evil, you’ll be ok. It’s when evil wins that it gets bad. In fact, people focus more on God winning than Satan losing. It can be very a powerful witnessing tool.
Kim, this “it was this way for so-and-so, so it will be this way for you” is the thing I’m most leery about in this topic. It goes both ways—those who take an adamant stand against horror and those who think horror is just fine.
This is not like other genres. There is real fear that can be generated, real horrific images that can be implanted in a person’s brain. I would NEVER be so bold as to tell someone, don’t worry about it, it can’t hurt you. Or to say, Shame on you for reading such anti-Biblical stories.
I don’t think all are anti-Biblical (I’ve read some that aren’t), and I do think some could cause others to open themselves to depression and fear in an unhealthy way, no matter how they end.
The bottom line—these are real people we’re talking about and each is an individual with their own history. I’ve heard from people who can’t read stories with pretend wizards because of their history. Why would it be different for supernatural activity?
So in case I’ve seemed as if I’m waffling—I don’t think one Christian can say what another Christian can or should do when it comes to reading horror. I don’t believe Phil. 4:8 addresses the issue, but even if it did, some can use it to show why horror ought not be something we read and others can use it to show how horror actually does reveal truth.
Becky, what I”m saying is Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. As long as the writer follows what God leads them to do, then you’ll be fine in reading it. Now I wouldn’t advise reading Stephen King but I would say you’ll be fine in reading Christian Horror as long as it revolves around God. Now if it’s not your cup of tea then fine. I don’t like romance stories. Any romance stories. Satan is more afraid of you. I”m bold enough to say it’s ok b/c I know who my God is and I know who I am in Christ Jesus. It’s all about Jesus, not religious does and don’ts. It’s one thing to write to just make $$, it’s another to follow after God and let His anointing lead the story.
I really could care less if folks stand in judgement of me and criticize the genre God has given me. I bow my knee to God, not others. I too agree let’s not take scripture and twist it to mean what we want it to mean. God gives each Christian a job to do and I will do as God has called me to do. It’s so important to follow as God’s leading.
I think it’s very wrong that folks on this board are judging those who do write Christian Horror. It seems like things revolve around does and don’ts, not around Christ Jesus. Jesus is all that matters and doing His will. I’m always so shocked, and I shouldn’t be, by those who decide they are the ones who have the right to decide what is ok and what isn’t without knowing what God is doing. Oh well. Not my circus, not my monkey. :)) Peace out!!
And yes, folks, this is my ministry. Leading the wiccans and atheists to Christ Jesus. I know, shocking!!!
Kim, I understand, and praise God, that He is greater than Satan, but I don’t agree that this truth gives us a license to put ourselves in harm’s way. For example, I believe my time is in God’s hands, but I don’t think that means it’s OK for me to run out onto the freeway.
In the same way there are books, as I mentioned in my previous comment, that Christians have told me they can’t read because it brings up remembrance of their old life and evil power which they’d embraced. I haven’t asked a lot of questions about why or what is behind those feelings. I simply respect the fact that they find books that spend the majority of the story describing the power and effects of evil to be hard.
The ones I mentioned I’ve read, I’ve decided they simply don’t edify me. When I finish, I may be relieved, but I don’t feel uplifted or encouraged or challenged. For me, tramping through 300 pages of horror with the protagonist isn’t worth the 50 pages of victory at the end.
But these are decisions every reader needs to make on his or her own. I think it is just as legalistic to say, OH, these are Christian so you ought to read them (as one guest blogger said here at Spec Faith some time ago) as it is to say, You all, everyone out there, ought not ever read those books.
We are not God and should not act as if we know what’s good for all other people within the sound of our voice or the reach of our writing. Kim, you think it’s wrong for people to say horror is wrong, but I think it’s just as wrong to say horror is a must.
What we ought to be concerned about most is fostering discernment so each person can determine what God has to say about these matters. And He isn’t necessarily going to say the same thing to you as He is to me.
I know that bothers some people. They think it’s “gnostic,” that it is claiming some “secret knowledge” from God. I disagree with that notion completely. The Holy Spirit is our guide, and it’s right for us to listen for His voice. He will not tell us things contradictory to Scripture, but He will help us discern what Scripture is saying to us in our circumstances.
Some people want to take the Holy Spirit’s place and tell everyone what’s right for them, and others want to negate the Holy Spirit and say, Here’s the verse or that reason that you need to use to determine what God does or doesn’t want you reading. That can lead to cuss-word-counting to determine if a book is “safe enough” to read.
God certainly can use counsel from other believers to help us make decisions, but He’s a lot less formulaic than a lot of people want Him to be. He’s far more gracious and far more righteous than what I think we realize.
I’m not much of a horror fan either. Other genres speak more effectively to me, like science fiction, probably because I grew up during the Apollo project and the idea of people living and working in outer space lit up my imagination.
This is a valid concern, and I think some Christian horror/supernatural fiction veers into this more than it ought to. It feels unbalanced to me. Some of the loving detail put into the machinations of the forces of darkness sets me back a little. Dude, exactly what sort of research did you do for this book?
Yeah, I hear you. It can be done, but I think horror is usually more effective as a component of a story rather than the centerpiece. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength manages to be science fiction, fantasy, and horror all at the same time, and I think he captures the idea of evil being something that can sneak up on a person until, by the time they realize it, it’s almost too late. Of course, this is the guy who gave us The Screwtape Letters, so it’s not so surprising.
Scott quite rightly says: ” It is true that there are horrifying things in the Bible, but those acts are never dwelt upon and the eternal consequence of those deeds is clearly shown and the light exceeds the darkness.”
They are also recorded historical reality and the inspired inscripturated word of almighty God. Not stories about brain eating zombies or blood sucking vampires. The two are in no way analogous. I am not even necessarily against fantasy or Sci-fi for instance, but what is this constantly creeping content envelope among many Christians today?
Scott quotes RLC as saying: “In your article you say “…if we followed it as an absolute command to not think on its opposites, none of us would pay our bills, disciple our children, or take out the trash.”
And then responds with
“I must disagree for the clear reason that there is Virtue in all of those things. They line up with the clear teaching of Scripture. It is right and good to pay our bills, disciple our children, and to take out the trash.”
This is also absolutely correct. In places other than America people are forced into real life horror on a regular basis by circumstances entirely beyond their control. THAT is the perfect time for Phil. 4:8 to see you through. The remembrance of Paul’s gospel and the truth that for a Christian to live is Christ and to die is gain. for example.
To think on the eternal reward for withstanding such horror in the name of Jesus.
Finally Scott says: “I am convinced that everything we spend our time on should be for our spiritual profit.”
You and I just may get along friend. The question I ask myself about everything in life is whether the decision I’m about to make will enhance my equipment for service in the army of the Lord. If not then why would I do it? Although I’ve seen some truly innovative ways that folks can convince themselves that all manner of unspeakable wickedness (when properly contextualized of course) is enhancing their walk with Jesus. All bets are off it seems today.
A perty dern good comment here Scott.
I saw a show on Netflix that was about the evolution of Horror Films. Did you know that a lot of Horror screen writers wrote their horror books/shows in protest of a social ill? Did you know that Freddy Kruger represented President Bush in that the sins of the adults would trickle down to the children and the children would pay for it? Stephen King’s Shining represented King and his alcoholism and how it almost destroyed him. Halloween represented: The film set in motion the Puritanical, psycho-pathological principle that one’s survival was directly proportional to one’s sexual experience. It also asserted the allegorical idea that sexual awakening often meant the literal ‘death’ of innocence (or oneself). With the title character Laurie (Curtis) a virgin, she is able to escape mostly unscathed (as does the asexual Dr. Loomis and the young pre-teen Tommy Doyle), but others who are more promiscuous and sexually-charged are less fortunate and suffer deadly consequences as victims. In this film, murders often occur after sexual encounters when victims are distracted and off-guard.http://www.filmsite.org/hall.html
Hostel shows us the horrors of the Sex Trade. The Conjuring showed the power of God against evil. My lovely publisher, Ellen Maze wrote Rabbit, Chasing Beth Rider in that the vampire represent the sin that sucks the life out of people. Almost every horror film out there has a philosophical thread running through them. And no, I’m not a fan of horror. Suspense? Yes. Blood and gore? Yuck!!
I teeter on the edge of horror, but my horror represents Satan and how evil he really is and how Good God is. I use the spooky stuff as a sort of Autobiography of my spiritual walk with God these past 27 years and there were some rough spots, let me tell you. So I bring that out in my book, the second book really gets into what I went through years ago when Satan used me like a volley ball. And it was tough. But God got me through it.
My books are dark, dark, dark. But I made them dark b/c Satan is dark and God is light. I showed what Satan does to the unbeliever and the believer and what God does in response.
I have no problem with using horror to represent something bad in society and in the church and it is almost art. But to use horror to scare someone? PFFFFTTT. Don’t waste my time. I love it when a writer slips in his stance in the guise of something else. It can be powerful. So yeah, I’m all for horror as long as it has a message. I might not agree, but I admire anyone who takes a stance.
As for those who don’t want to read my book, that’s fine. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.
link to your website and book please?
My book will be out in the Fall and it’s called Hidden Secrets the first book in a series of three by Little Roni Publishers. Here’s my blog, but I haven’t kept up with it. I don’t have a website as I had one and the hackers killed it so I refuse to have one now. Too much $$$. Here’s my blog https://kimdkus.wordpress.com/ I lost everything from the last blog and I”m now rebuilding it. OH well. live and learn.
OH and you can read the first chapter there too.
Oh let me also add, I had a woman at my job read my novel to edit it for me and she is a wiccan. She loved my book and wants to read the completed work. Now I can reach folks you all can’t. I can reach the unreachable with my novel in that it is a spiritual autobiography that uses horror without the preaching. And isn’t that what matters? Reaching the lost? Or are we going to argue over religious dos and don’ts? I don’t care if every christian hates my books, but every unsaved person loves them and comes closer to Jesus. That’s all that matters to me.
I agree with R.L.’s points. Secular horror is difficult though because it often relies on gore to make its points, and it does come loaded with a nihilistic message. The points are perfect as a general guide to evaluate reading works, but the specific example is a little rough.