1. notleia says:

    This seems about control to me, but how much can you control another person? How much SHOULD you control another person?

    The thing is, you can do everything right but still not have things go like what you want.

    • Right. The practical outworking of it is that you have to, at a certain point, put blinders up and say, “It’s not under my control. I did what was reasonable.” And what’s “reasonable” looks different for different people in different situations.

    • Travis Perry says:

      The only point I can think of at which my statements can be interpreted as a desire to control is I state that Christians ought to restrict themselves as creators according to the guidance of God. That we ought to think and pray about what we create. Now, it’s true I’m trying to use the power of laying out a logical argument to get other Christians to see my point of view. But that’s not trying to control them.

      I’m tempted to see your comment about “control” as a slander designed to make my points less persuasive to anyone who happens to read them. Because you know, Travis doesn’t actually mean what he says about sub-creators submitting voluntarily to God–he’s only trying to control people.

      But I don’t actually know if you’re trying to torpedo my 3000 word article with a false insinuation about my motives that weighs in at less than 30 words. Maybe you actually really think I have a desire to control things and people I can’t.

      I remember meeting a Special Forces officer who told me he didn’t believe in luck–he believed it was possible to control everything by working hard enough and training hard enough. He seemed a bit out of his mind to me–yeah, it makes sense to control what you can in combat, but no human being has control over everything, not even close. It’s enough to do your best, including in prayer, and be willing to face the unexpected that will surely come about, no matter what you thought was going to happen.

      • notleia says:

        I think it’s a common pitfall that anxious people get stuck in. Maybe you don’t have anxiety issues, but there are definitely people in this pool of thought who do use that as a coping mechanism.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I would say I’m not very anxious compared to most people. I am on occasion anxious, but not commonly.

          As I remarked to Autumn, that may be ironically why I feel the need to point these sorts of things out. What others may do without even thinking about, I won’t do unless I identify an issue and face it head on. Because otherwise I tend to ignore issues and do what I want.

          It may be that I’m not the only person in the world like that though…

        • notleia says:

          Now that I have a full keyboard, Imma expound upon this.
          Travis’s version of separatism doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the more common version of Christian separatism largely concerns itself about purity and protection from corruption.
          For example, how do you make sure your kids become good Christians, happy and successful? Ken Ham will sell you this stuff so that your kids will become good Christians, and if you don’t, they will learn about evolution and die in a ditch with a hypodermic in their vein.
          Or Focus on the Family. Do you want your kid to be happy, successful, and Christian? Buy Dr Dobson’s stuff and spank your kids into submission, and they won’t turn gay and die in a ditch from AIDS.
          Or Campus Crusade for Christ. Do you want your kid to be a good Christian? Do you want to protect your kids from eeeeevil librul professors? Give us money.
          They let their kid trick or treat? Don’t they love their kid enough to protect them??!? Jack Chick will sell you these pamphlets to hand out to those compromising backsliders, so everyone can be safe again.

          It’s the same place where the idea comes from that Christian fiction needs to be squeaky clean and safe from swears, sex, gayness, and jaywalking so that it doesn’t corrupt any little minds. Don’t we spend half our time on here complaining about how absurd and boring that kind of pearl-clutching thinking leads fiction to?

          • Travis Perry says:

            Notleia–I’m not a pearl-clutcher.

            And my personal perspective here is arguing that a sizable chunk of people here on Speculative Faith are in effect making a knee-jerk reaction away from something that actually can work–or I say it can–but has to be done differently than Focus on the Family et al.

            This knee-jerk reaction I’m talking about does rather remind me of someone who just got out of their parents’ house into a house of their own and “free from all the rules” immediately trash the place. Then, people normally grow up a bit and say, “Ok, some rules aren’t necessarily bad. But the rules have to make sense.”

            For what it’s worth, something like 90% of the comments you make argue for my position indirectly. You are pretty much indistinguishable from any other feminist SJW person–except you apparently read a number of books by Christian authors and you choose to comment here. Since I have never seen you defend what we might call a Christian cultural position–not even a liberal Christian cultural position, since you don’t even pull out the Bible to suggest we ought to love refugees and the poor and downtrodden, you represent what I do NOT what to see Christian fiction become. You represent cultural extinction by Christian authors as they become exactly like non-Christian authors.

            Actually, while I avoid swearing and graphic sexuality in my writing because that’s an expectation for Christian writers. I don’t think getting gritty is necessarily bad. What is bad, in my opinion, is shying away from broad issues like the nature of good and evil, the work of God in redemption and creation, etc. I.e. I’m in favor of not being afraid to tackle a deep idea from a Christian perspective. So to borrow from Jesus, I believe in Christian from the inside of the cup, not the outside.

      • I see what both of you are saying. She does have a point that this whole topic comes back eventually to what control (“influence”) we have over others. It’s an important element of all this.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I tend to think of the responsibility towards other people as being directed towards God, though. I believe I have a duty to care about this issue, but that duty is primarily fixed in my relationship to God. If I’m sensitive to the leadership of God, I believe he will let me know if I’ve done enough.

          • Yet he leaves much ambiguous for us to work through. Which means we have to consider how much influence we hold over others, and that impacts how we behave publicly, what we write, etc. What your saying doesn’t negate the necessity to consider it.

    • notleia says:

      I guess my general problem is that I don’t understand what we in the peanut gallery are supposed to take away from you expressing your comfort zone and the reasons behind it. Like, what are the wider implications supposed to be? Do you just mean to express your opinion?

      You are uncomfortable with magic in fiction because of the reasons you mentioned. But you also mentioned that treating magic as a sort of alternate science is more okay. Except, anymore that’s the norm. It would actually be harder to find an example of a fictional magic system that doesn’t have science-like rules. (That’s the real substance of my problem with that topic. But there are also a lot of other, littler ones about the nature of how pagan practices corrupt, which I keep getting lost in the weeds over.)

      You’re leery about Burnett’s article about Christian freedom because you feel a greater sense of responsibility to the social order. Okay, cool! But the only concrete things you’re offering here is pretty much along the same lines as a garden-variety legalist. So how are you different? All I’m getting here is a “these guidelines, but not like that.”

      • Travis Perry says:

        “But the only concrete things you’re offering here” is a telling comment on your part. I put my emphasis on honoring God, developing personal methods to answer hard questions, and staying in prayer, all of which are things that emphasize personal freedom before God and put responsibility in terms where I am not dictating to anyone exactly what to do. Yet these notions for you are apparently “not concrete.”

        When I offer some specific recommendations intended to shape the thought process required to deal with these sorts of issues, a process I recommend all Christian creators go through, and those for you are the concrete parts of what I said. “Seek God as an individual,” apparently for you is not concrete.

        And the rules I offered, even if you treated them as hard and fast rules, which I didn’t do, are NOT the same as the standard legalist approach to these issues. I am not suggesting Satan will get you if you ever talk about magic, like a Jack Chick tract. As you yourself noted when observing my “rules,” they would allow the production of pretty much any kind of magic. Yeah, that’s true, but they would require the author to think of some way to point that system back to God via the in-story system.

        Even my own personal preference of avoiding polytheism in stories, which is pretty close to a solid law for me, I went around to publish Dawn Before the Dark because I think I can direct series so it points back to God over the length of the series. So I’m not following hard rules and I’m not preaching rules, either.

        What’s bizarre is I offer flexible guidelines based on making tough individual choices. What I’m really arguing for is taking cultural issues seriously and working for individualistic ways to honor God, instead of employing a checklist that clears a writer from responsibility (do I know anyone with this problem?–nope–YAY I’m good to go!). I make the case for all these things that you apparently consider nebulous–you ignore all that as “non-concrete” and extract rules from what I offer as guidelines based on the idea that those things are concrete. Then you go, “That’s standard legalistic fare.” Hey, the problem here is what you are judging to be concrete!

        Though I must say your implication that I’m in essence a pearl-clutching legalist is powerful here on Speculative Faith. There’s a lot of people fleeing legalism here, to the extent they are willing to say things that really make no sense in order to ensure we are nothing close to legalism (i.e. one author suggested that if you feel too guilty about something you’re doing, that might be a sign you are a legalist—OR MAYBE it’s a sign you’re doing something you shouldn’t, I would say).

        So you’re making your case in a powerful way. Your case is in opposition to good, I would say, so I’m against what you stand for. But you are making your case cleverly. I’ll grant you that.

        • notleia says:

          I’m not saying you’re a pearl-clutcher, I’m saying your articles are not very helpful (to me, IMO, etc)

          • Travis Perry says:

            Well, let’s do a little comparison and contrast. E. Stephen wrote an article about when to worry about temptation and concluded, in short, that unless you know someone in person going through a particular problem, you shouldn’t worry about it. Was that useful to you? I’d guess “no,” because you don’t even worry about the issue of temptation to sin at all from what I know about you.

            “Seek God and here’s some guidelines but no, you are not so simply clean from responsibility as E. Stephen said” cannot possibly be less useful to you than what E. Stephen offered. Yeah, granted, if you still aren’t worried about temptation to sin, it isn’t very useful, but instead of me in essence cutting you free to basically do whatever you want (which as far as I know is your attitude anyway) I’m challenging you to think about it first. And pray.

            You may not find someone recommending you think about what you create before you create it useful. Okay. But if so, I think I detect some hypocrisy on your part.

            You have shown you do really care about some issues. For example, how women are portrayed in fiction. I doubt you’d adopt the position that misogyny in literature is OK as long as a story creator doesn’t personally know anyone who has confided that he (or she) is struggling with misogyny. Which would be the equivalent of what E. Stephen said.

            I imagine you would like writers to think about their portrayals of women before publishing. At least a little–and if you’re capable of caring about that, you logically should concede I was correct versus E. Stephen. Even if my specific examples are issues you don’t care about.

  2. Well, I can’t personally say I was relieved by E. Stephen’s post. (No clue if you were including me in the relief thing, but thinking about it, I found it interesting why I didn’t feel relieved OR directly upset by the article) Honestly, the things I wrote in the comment section of Stephen’s post have been things I thought and felt for a long time. And it’s not that I don’t worry about how people might react to my stories.

    Quite the opposite, actually. I pay a ton of attention to other people’s thoughts, and constantly worry about the effect I have. I do want to help people and make things better through writing. I’m conscious of the experiences I give other people, whether they are entertained or made comfortable or motivated to change. I can’t help caring about that and derive fulfillment from it. But then it still leaves me stressed and exhausted.

    And it isn’t just with the weaker brothers issue, either. I try not to invite trouble, but know it could easily come from anywhere, like some of the uber strict liberals. Ultimately, there comes a point where, after all my worrying about quality control and the impact and reactions I get, I have to draw boundaries for the sake of self preservation. There’s due diligence, and then there’s baby sitting. There’s being considerate for others’ feelings, and then there’s compromising my own right to have my own convictions and discuss important issues.

    There have been some things I’ve been concerned about with my writing. For example, one story I’m going to try and write WAY off into the future shows how a religion develops in a world that’s fantastical but has an edge of technology to it. It contains personifications of certain psychological aspects, and I worried that people actually could identify with it enough that people could adopt it a little too much. But, I know that some of it is just me worrying. Most people won’t adopt it to any real extent. I think discussing how a religion could form is important in many ways, (heck, you could even use it to point out why the magic in fiction thing could be a problem). And so is discussing the psychological aspects that fake religion will point out. So instead of censoring it, I will use it as something to discuss(in this case, that it is for discussing psychology and the religion part isn’t needed) One reason I’m going to have a youtube channel for my writing is so I can talk about stuff like this. Although I can’t control how people receive my stories, I think it’s important to be able to get out there and make assertions about certain things. Plus, it can be fun for readers.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Autumn, I found this statement of yours very interesting:

      “Quite the opposite, actually. I pay a ton of attention to other people’s thoughts, and constantly worry about the effect I have. I do want to help people and make things better through writing. I’m conscious of the experiences I give other people, whether they are entertained or made comfortable or motivated to change. I can’t help caring about that and derive fulfillment from it. But then it still leaves me stressed and exhausted.”

      I in contrast don’t understand very well what other people think at times and rarely worry about it. I’m occasionally aware of being in the minority and realize what I have to say may be unpopular, but I usually say it anyway.

      It may be the message you need is “stop worrying so much” and the message I need is–“hey, be more responsible.” But each of us, I would say, should be getting the message we need from the relationship we have with God.

      No, we should not be paralyzed by fear. But neither should be ignore our responsibilities to others. A balancing act is definitely called for.

      • Yeah. It’s a complex mix of psychology and life experiences. I struggled with social interaction a lot growing up, and looking into certain aspects of Jungian Depth Psychology lately, everything makes so much sense. When truly understanding how my personality type (INTJ) works, it’s scarily detailed and accurate on how I’ve developed, including why I felt misunderstood and bizarrely different. INTJs make up an tiny portion of the population, and have their own weird brand of intensity that makes them easily dislikeable in many cases.

        Te (Extroverted Thinking, which has to do with rational thinking and other people’s thoughts.) Brings awareness of reputation, rank, and social standing, since those things depend on what people think of each other. I don’t like fame or being in the center of attention for long, but as an INTJ Te is my second most dominant function, and thus my second greatest awareness. I care about Te things because of how strongly they affect how people treat each other.

        On the other hand, Fe (Extroverted feeling, which has to do with other people’s feelings and social norms) is my second to lowest function(and thus pretty much my biggest blind spot). A person’s second to lowest function is often nicknamed the Trickster function. A person kinda sorta tries to be good at their Trickster function, but since it’s such a low awareness in their mind, it just doesn’t take a very high priority. People might even think they’re good at their Trickster function, but they’re not(and thus the Trickster nickname). So basically, it’s easy for me to walk around thinking things are just fine, until I randomly find out I upset someone or tripped over a social norm.

        Honestly, I still would take high Te over high Fe any day, though. Not having an innate sense of social norms is hard, but Te (along with other functions like Fi and Se) do help me compensate enough to function. Furthermore, Fe just sounds vague and not very actionable. Ok, it might grant a better sense when someone’s mad/going to be mad, but that doesn’t tell me all the hows and whys and what I can do about it. And then, even though I care about other people’s emotions, I prioritize other things higher (like their safety and overall well being). I want people to be happy, but many times, people hurt others or themselves because of their emotions (as I’ve learned from first hand experience) so I don’t think emotions should be the primary/only tool for decision making in most cases.

        Not nearly every INTJ has had my life experiences, so they don’t actively worry about it or handle these issues like I do…quite frankly because they haven’t run into enough reasons to. But when certain things happen, these issues can trigger them and it becomes quite clear that they do care about reputation and such even if they previously didn’t think they did.

        As you said, it’s about striking a healthy balance. To an extent I do have to worry a lot, since it motivates me to improve and I would be downright careless otherwise. But I’m working on developing discretion on the whens and hows and whys of that. And then there’s developing a sense of peace with certain things, like the fact that I can’t change everyone. Like…do what I can and realize that the rest doesn’t necessarily need to reflect on me as a person.

        The spiritual aspect can be hard for me sometimes. But something I did a lot growing up was ask God to give me life experiences that would sculpt me into something better, and I think he’s been doing that, at least.

        • Travis Perry says:

          I test about equally INFP and INTP. A blend of those two categories matches me best–but I’ve been told those two categories are not supposed to blend.

          And even combining them, I do many things that don’t really match either of those two personality types. Such as my general tendency towards risk-taking.

          Perhaps it’s no surprise that I find personality tests to be of limited value, capturing only part of what a person is at best. I’m glad you found yours helpful, though.

          Anyway, thanks for the empathy. I appreciate it.

          • Neither of those would surprise me, though the test is more of a Myers Briggs thing. The type of psychology I’m looking at tends to kinda reject Myers Briggs tests in a lot of instances, except maybe as a starting point to help ballpark someone’s actual type. And then of course nurture affects development and manifestation of traits. So it wouldn’t be enough to say ‘INFPs and INTPs don’t take risks’. Everyone takes risks, but how often and why? And although those two types don’t ‘blend’, they have enough similarities in behavior that they’re easy to confuse in some instances.

            The strain of Jungian Depth Psychology I subscribe to types people based off assessing speech patterns and behavior to determine their temperament and interaction style. Difficult to learn, but well worth it for those that are interested.

            Thanks for bringing that up, though, since that’s an important point to clarify when discussing this type of personality stuff. But yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks for letting me ramble XD.

  3. You know what I’m loving about this whole debate?

    At no point did either of you say, “Other person isn’t a Christian because he disagrees with me.” Instead, you both wrestle with an issue and present your viewpoints and where you specifically disagree with a person. At the end of the day, you’re still friends.

    Going back to the idea of writing, which is where this all seems to of started, instead of the theoretical crazy scenario of causing a person to sin (I think the pedophilia example is a terrible one because it’s recognized as sin no matter what).

    In my writing, limited as it is, I’m not going to portray magic in a way that seems it could be realistic. I liked your reference to Tom Clancy and not giving a clear written example of how to construct a nuclear bomb. In the same way, I’m not going to try and recreate how people truly use magic in this world.

    However, I’m not doing so from the “Weaker Brother Argument” and more because of other reasons I’m still trying to puzzle out what they are. It just feels wrong, and I couldn’t give you an exact reason Biblically I’m going to say it’s wrong. It’s also why I’m not going to call someone out who behaves differently than me, because I recognize this is what God has called ME to do.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Thanks for reading it through. I know it was long. Thanks also for noticing neither of us are in effect excommunicating one another. Totally true.

      I know the child porn example felt icky but E. Stephen’s approach to the issue as shared in his article didn’t cover the portrayal of obvious sin. Though he did say his approach was for Christians, he actually only thereby allowed an implication of a positive reason not to do something like that, i.e. I shouldn’t want to do kid porn because I want to please Christ. The influence I may have on others wasn’t an issue at all from his perspective as he explained it–unless you happen to know someone personally who has told you, “I have an issue with that.” I felt there’s something fundamentally wrong with thinking that way–concern for negative influence should go beyond people we know have an issue, especially when we know not everyone will say what issues they have. I felt the extreme case I used helped make that matter clear. Perhaps I could have picked a better example.

      Yeah, Tom Clancy of course knew he couldn’t stop someone determined to build an atomic bomb (who managed to get the materials) from doing so. But he didn’t feel right that someone would learn how from him. He told the story he felt inspired to tell, but made some alterations to it out of a sense of responsibility. I clearly think a sense of responsibility is a good thing, something Christians should care about.

      So I applaud the fact there are certain things you don’t feel right about including in a story, even if your specific reasons are different from mine. Yes–that’s what I’m talking about!

    • Travis Perry says:

      By the way, I went back to the original post and used an example of producing erotica that doesn’t affect me personally instead of using child porn. Maybe that example is more on point and won’t needlessly offend people.

  4. Obviously I can’t know for sure what E. Stephen meant in his footnote, but some things occured to me while reading it.

    Authors can’t necessarily know if a stranger will read their stories. But, chances are, someone they know will. Taking the church example, if someone is open about their authorness, their fellow church members are probably going to get curious and check those books out. That is a big reason for an author to worry about content in that instance. It’s not that they should dodge their impact on strangers, but who a person knows is more within their locus of control. They have a lot more impact then.

    I do agree the stuff you’re mentioning matters, but current social issues and the way Christians behave has a lot more impact on whether or not people keep their faith, so I tend to be more concerned about that. We should still talk and care about magic and paganism, but if a less common issue like that should take prevalence, our communication to others as Christians should be even higher. At least in a general sense. I do think that everyone has different areas that they should be able to specialize and focus on, though(so there’s nothing wrong with paganism being yours).

    I’m not ashamed of my faith, and believe I should be free to talk about it. But aside from being too lazy to use avatars or signature banners most of the time, I don’t stick bible verses or ‘If you love God copy and paste this in your signature!!!’ Type things on my profiles. I’m well aware that I’m a difficult person, so no matter how hard I try to be nice I will slip up sometimes(or even a lot)

    If upset, most people won’t see a flawed person that is genuinely trying to get better. They’ll see a jerk that they want to get rid of or dismiss. I don’t hide my faith, but I don’t hang flashing neon signs on myself because I don’t want to make my faith look bad. Not only is that obnoxious and stereotypical(upending stereotypes can actually go a long way in convincing people). But instead of just realizing that maybe I had a bad day or had a legitimate reason to defend myself, people will see the Christian symbol on my profile and blame Christianity instead of me. Or they’ll blame me and not know to leave Christianity out of it.

    So, I talk about my beliefs, but considering how big an impact my behavior as a Christian can have, I try to be conscious of how I do it, because failing at that will drive people away from Christianity far faster than Marvel will.

    • Travis Perry says:

      An interesting aspect of speculative fiction fans is often we are outliers from the society at large. So Lelia Rose Foreman, my friend and a Christian author I admire, is autistic. Kerry Nietz, another Christian author I admire, has enormous inside knowledge of computing that goes way beyond what most people have. He can talk about cyborgs and programming in a way few people can match. The two of them are among many examples I could use.

      I am an outlier, too. I am in so many ways different from how most people are, in part a product of spending a great deal of my childhood in isolation, that it’s really hard for me to predict how the things I say will come across. Perhaps in compensation for that, I’m sensitive in person and often read immediately if I’ve gone the wrong direction in a conversation from the facial expression people have.

      It does occur to me that my emphasis on responsibility may be what I need more than others. That I will say things other people find very offensive without it having occurred to me that what I said was offensive at all. That other people will naturally refrain from saying something or portraying something in a story because it doesn’t seem right to them, whereas in my own nature I will say pretty much anything–so I need specific reasons to hold myself back.

      Maybe that’s the case, but one of the things I have come to believe is living the Christian life requires the power of God every moment of every day. I’m far from appropriating the power of God 100%. But I’m striving for it.

      The answer E. Stephen offered to seemed to me to say that for the most part, Christians, you don’t have to give any thought about the consequences of your actions. Only if you know somebody and only if the event is happening in the present. Perhaps he said that while unconsciously restricting what he says and does in numerous small ways out of an unspoken sense of responsibility that he might not even be aware of, responsibility not only to himself, but also to others.

      But I actually need to state, “Responsibility is important.” And things along those lines. Subconscious performance without conscious understanding doesn’t work for me.

      • Eh, yeah. As implied earlier, I can definitely sympathize with feeling isolated and having a hard time dealing with other people. I wasn’t geographically isolated, but I was from a psychological standpoint. When something bad happens, it hurts, so I’ve practiced predicting/understanding people’s thought patterns so I can figure out how to keep the bad things from happening as often as possible.

        Obviously it’s impossible to be accurate all the time, but it’s staved off some of the worst things for me, so I think there’s definitely something to what you’re saying about compensating. Maybe you do that more through an awareness of other’s feelings than their thoughts. I don’t know since I don’t know you well enough to type you. I’ve always believed thoughts influence emotions(people think and therefore they feel), which is another reason why I pay more attention to thoughts. Maybe to you it’s the other way around?

        But yeah, responsibility is important. The fun part is navigating how to go about it, and where the boundaries are.

        • Travis Perry says:

          In a way, embracing responsibility is like embracing any other artistic limitations. I mean, certain things you just cannot do the same with water colors as oil paints. You accept that, do your best, and move on.

          Likewise I think people who are going to produce literature they identify as Christian will have to accept limitations that secular writers don’t have to worry about. But that’s ok–and it’s a long way from the end of creativity.

  5. Mike Duran says:

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that Christians have no responsibility to examine their art or motivations. Rather, the issue is “are there clear biblical parameters for the type of art and fiction Christians are responsible to make”? That question seems a lot more sticky than the author appears to concede.

    I think that’s what’s missing here — an allowance for the often ambiguous nature of art. No matter how clear an author’s intentions, offense may occur in the reader or viewer. Indeed, offense may be an important effect of the piece! Exploring the topic of spousal abuse, sex trafficking, or occult experimentation SHOULD trouble the reader! Even a circumspect approach to storytelling could potentially result in misinterpretation on the part of the reader. Compound that if said stories navigate sensitive subject matter. Isaiah prophesied naked for three years as a testament to Israel’s shame. The potential for “stumbling” his audience must have been incredible. Likewise, good art seems to walk a similar balance. Shocking our audiences is often necessary. Despite the offense that may ensue.

    The great Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggested that grace, when preached rightly, will always be misunderstood. Likewise, I think that even the most well-intentioned art can be misunderstood. In fact, being misunderstood may be a reasonable test of its relevance.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Mike, but I am the one arguing for stickiness as it were. I’m arguing that a Christian ought to embrace the idea that responsibility is real, even though we can be misunderstood. That we ought to do all we can, even though we know not everyone will get it. That we ought to be in prayer and we ought to TRY.

      I never said not to shock the audience–though I think some shocking has no redemptive value at all. (Sometimes shocking is just shocking.) But I can agree that sometimes shocking is good.

      I said SEEK GOD not “write safe stuff.” My point though was to direct the reader to God, not to go into the danger zone just for the heck of it.

      It is E. Stephen Burnett offering a simple checklist on making art–do you know anyone in person who struggles with a particular sin. No? OK, good to go!!!

      Almost always the answer will be “no” because it’s rare for people to discuss deep issues (sadly). But in those few cases where it isn’t a “no,” E. Stephen suggested a conversation with the person you know has a problem. Presumably you can persuade this one person to avoid your artwork, “OK, then, good to go!!!” This amounts to a guideline that doesn’t actually represent what Scripture actually says. Because the Scriptures says to love our neighbor as ourselves, not to cut excuses to do what we want, to hell with any effect on our neighbor.

      Responsibility is real. Embracing that is walking the tightrope. And yes, I really do think looking for a simple checklist answer to this question really can function as a way to avoid examining one’s own art or motivations. Key word is “can.” I did not say it always functions as such–but looking for simple answers “can” function as a means to escape examining one’s motivations.

      That’s why I am overtly and openly saying we must examine our own art and own motivations. Don’t pull out a ridiculously simple checklist.

    • Travis Perry says:

      One more thought–Martyn Lloyd-Jones is not someone I’m greatly familiar with, but first of all, his words are not Scripture. And his idea that grace will always be misunderstood as you are quoting him makes me think you are actually misunderstanding him. He had to mean the unbelieving world would misunderstand grace. It seems unlikely that he meant that everyone, Christian or not, would misunderstand.

      If being misunderstood is a reasonable test of relevance, than what I said in this post must be relevant, because not just you, but the majority of commenters here misunderstood my point.

      However, “being misunderstood may be a reasonable test” of relevance doesn’t hold up to scrutiny very well. Yes, some things that are relevant are misunderstood–certainly we see that in the prophets. Certainly Jesus was often misunderstood. But some things people understand just fine–but don’t want to hear anyway. (Please refer to the reactions to the preaching of Jeremiah–they understood what he was saying. They just didn’t like it.)

  6. A.W. Downer says:

    Thank you. This article is very encouraging. While I agree that we aren’t ultimately responsible for other people’s choices, we do have responsibilties as writers and especially, as Christians.

    I heard once of an author who wrote a middle grade novel that glorified suicide. When several middle schoolers committed suicide after reading the book, the author made no apology and claimed no responsibilty. I found the story disturbing and have often contemplated our responsibilties as authors. I am thankful you put into words what I have always had a difficulty expressing.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Glorifying suicide at the middle grade level? How awful! Wow, I’m a bit surprised that got published because when it comes to younger kids, even this corrupt world engages in a bit of caution.

      Thanks for getting what I’m talking about, though. I appreciate it.

  7. Sarah Parks says:

    I don’t think erotica is a much better example than child pornography, because i think there are solid Biblical arguments that erotica, whether you personally find it titillating or not, is wrong to write or read. The matter of tempting weaker brothers is tied to things that are explicitly not sinful — Paul is quite clear that there is nothing wrong about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols — but nevertheless affects the consciences of other Christians.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Sarah, I don’t mind embracing complexity and you’ve opened up an issue that’s actually complex. Some people would argue that erotica is OK under some circumstances. I would not be one of those people, but they do exist.

      Also, the matter of tempting weaker brothers itself is complex–it reveals that some things are sins for some people and not sins for others. What matters is violation of conscience. So while it is not inherently sinful to eat meat offered to an idol, it really WAS a sin for those who believed eating the meat involved worship of the idol. So the picture there is one person thinks that something is not a sin and other thinks it is–and they are both right.

      I consider Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 to deal with “moral middle matters”–because on one side of them are things that are clearly always correct–like “pray without ceasing” and on the other side things that are always wrong, like blaspheming God. But some things are wrong based on how the person does it, what they are actually thinking at the time. Some things can either be right or wrong, and that’s what the passage deals with. I would not say that passage is actually about things that are explicitly not sinful.

      But let’s say that passage really is about things that are not explicitly sinful. And erotica in your thinking is sinful, period. Then E. Stephen was being super inappropriate in dealing with temptation in writing, wasn’t he? Because if writing really can be sinful no matter what you the writer think about it, he should have offered some kind of guideline focusing on that FIRST and then getting around to the case of the weaker brother afterwards.

      Whereas what I intend to be my emphasis–seek God in all you do and do your best to consider the consequences of your work–holds up against work that is sinful all the time and also against causing a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.

  8. E. Stephen edited his footnotes, in case you haven’t seen/wanted to read 🙂

    • Travis Perry says:

      I’ll do that. Thank you.

    • Travis Perry says:

      His edits don’t change much of substance, but I’m glad he at least acknowledged a couple of things.

      • Yeah, just thought you and maybe anyone else interested in the conversation might like knowing there was a response, even if it doesn’t change anything for you 🙂

      • Mainly the insertion of a related theme, such as “here’s how this may apply to pagans/nonbelievers,” really needs to be done while showing the work, as it were. The central point is that sin comes from an inward attitude and is not directly transmitted by external things, such as food (Mark 7) or creative works. This biblical concept applies to both Christians and non-Christians.

        • Travis Perry says:

          E. Stephen, while I agree that sin comes from an inward attitude, the idea that what you are calling “external things” has no connection to sin people commit doesn’t match what I see in Scripture. Wasn’t ancient Israel influenced by the culture of their Pagan neighbors to worship gods other than God? Don’t people normally let their hearts be influenced by what they see other people doing? Of course the strong believer should be like Joseph or Daniel–who could live surrounded by Pagan culture yet maintain a witness for God and doing things God’s way to such a degree that when men jealous of Daniel’s success were looking for a way to accuse him, the only thing they could come up with was that Daniel would pray to God without concealing his prayers. (Daniel 6)

          But Joseph, as much as he is an example of a strong believer in a Pagan culture, did he physically remain in the presence of temptation in confidence that his heart was strong enough to resist? At least on one occasion, no. He physically ran out of the presence of Potiphar’s wife, fleeing the external stimulus she provided, to ensure the battle in his heart would be won (Genesis 39).

          As far as sensitivity to Pagans and their false worship, when Paul and Barnabas were at Iconium and they faced a crowd willing to see the two of them as Zeus and Hermes (based on a miracle they did in God’s power), their reaction was not indifference to the Paganism of people arguably committing the sin in their hearts already. No, they were afflicted that they might reinforce such Paganism–they tore their clothes and begged people not to worship them (Acts 14:8-18).

          Though of course they didn’t abandon doing miracles at all for the sake of avoiding giving anyone the impression that they might be gods. Yet when faced with the reality that they could be seen that way, they were not indifferent to the fact. They tried to influence people not to do that–and couldn’t we call such an influence an outward thing, since refusing to receive worship as gods did not actually cure the Pagan beliefs of those who sought to worship them?

          In Acts 19:19, people who had practiced magic yielded up their books of spells to be burned. Note I don’t believe such works are inherently full of demons or anything like that. I think it is possible for a Christian believer to own such works and be protected from demonic influence–yet the original users of these magic books saw nothing but temptation in their works. So they destroyed them. This example isn’t a call for censorship as it has been mistakenly seen. But what it was, paralleled what happen with Joseph. Destroying something that tempts you or otherwise separating oneself from the outward source of temptation is not something the Bible says is an evil thing to do–instead, the act of burning books of magic was seen as a sign of the power of the prevalence of God’s word (Acts 19:20).

          Christians are directly commanded to flee from sexual immorality (I Cor 6:18), flee from idolatry (I Cor 10:14), flee from the love of money (I Tim 6:10-11) and more broadly, to flee “youthful lusts” (II Tim 2:22). Yes, I understand the use of “flee” in these contexts is at least at times figurative, probably even most of the time, as in “do everything to separate your hearts from”–but at times it is NOT figurative, as in the example of Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife, King Josiah destroying the idols the Israelites had worshiped (II Kings 23:6-30), and Jesus driving out the money changers (because of the sin they represented).

          Physical objects and outward manifestations *can* actually provoke reactions from people that are wrong and disturb people’s spirits, even if that theoretically should not be the case. We can say that we all should be like Daniel and be able to surrounded but not affected. But putting aside the physical temptation if need be is seen in the Bible as a good thing.

          Yes, the responsibility lies primarily with readers in how they react to literature–but I’ve already said that. But as creators, could it be that something we do could cause people to react in the wrong way? Isn’t caring about that issue stem from loving our neighbors as ourselves?

          No, we cannot guarantee caring about such things will prevent harm–we can’t even get close to a guarantee about that. But since when does caring about our influence on others come with guarantees? Is parenting simple? Does being a good parent have guaranteed results? How about being a good friend or good teacher or good pastor? We cannot really be certain what our influence will be–yet we still TRY to be positive influences. We seek God and pray we can have positive effects. Why wouldn’t creators of stories or artworks be in the exact same position as a parent or a friend, in which we want to influence for good but can’t be sure what the outcome will be? We try, we pray, but in the end we have to trust God for any results.

          But even though we trust God for the results, we realize we are responsible for what we do. Even though we can’t predict it fully.

          Why would you want to suggest this issue is simple, boiling down to one way to look at one topic in the Bible, deciding that topic applies to only one set of people (a very small set)? When things aren’t that simple?

What do you think?