1. Galadriel says:

    I haven’t read Randy Alcorn at all, but the other four are good. Especially Ted Dekker…I absolutely love his Circle series, but a lot of his other stuff is great too. He does a great job of showing passionate faith

  2. Kessie says:

    You know, Christians are so willing to swallow Narnia. Nobody ever mentions the strange look my mom got on her face when she was reading Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time, and we got to the bit where Jadis was Adam’s first wife before Eve and therefore not human. Not being as familiar with mythology as we are now, we didn’t know what to make of that. But Christians don’t squawk about Lewis’s crossover fanfic weirdness anymore. Nope, Aslan = Jesus and that makes Everything All Right.
    People really need to read more George MacDonald. His work is so profound as to border on the Really Weird. Like, in Princess and the Goblin, the princess’s Grandmother represents Jesus (Oh noes! a woman representing God! Wait, the Shack did it …) and the magic string on the ring on the princess’s finger represents prayer. And yet it’s still a great story. The sequel, The Princess and Curdie, is also a great story, when Curdie gets the ability to touch a person’s hand and tell if they are human or animal on the inside.
    What does this have to do with Churchian dragons? No idea! 🙂

    • Kessie: I think it strongly relates, because even if the author is not intending to toss the Churchian Dragons “red meat,” they’ll pretend it’s exactly what they want and gobble it up anyway. There’s a fine line between “redeeming” a story that its author wrote in sin (as almost anyone would) by finding the parts that accidentally echo Christ, and salvaging it for spare parts while disrespecting the author’s true intent. The latter practice is what Biblical Christians hate when it’s applied to Scripture — then they go off and do the same “eisegesis” on secular or even Christian-author fantasy because:

      Aslan = Jesus and that makes Everything All Right.

      And someday they’ll learn what shocked your mother (and others) — that the mythological Lilith gets a nod (falsely, we find out in The Magician’s Nephew) in LWW; and that fantasy “magic” can actually work in “this world” and apparently apart from Aslan; and that Emeth, the “noble pagan,” could “get saved” without knowing it! Without studying the issue thoroughly — without knowing actively how we see other stories in light of God’s epic story, the Gospel — confusion will continue.

  3. Krysti says:

    Y’know; you do have a point about the Left Behind Series. I never read it because of the associated doctrinal issues (do we really KNOW when or how Jesus will return and everything prophesied in Revelation will turn out), and I didn’t want to get into it everlastingly with someone close to me who is post-trib.
    I think if I could have seen past that, I might have been willing to read the books. So in a way, this is the whole Churchian dragon thing working a little backwards.
    I loved George MacDonald’s books, and I really liked the Shack. And I do NOT read horror. But I didn’t know when I picked it up what it was. lol
    Anyway, for what it’s worth…

    • Hmm, Krysti, methinks that if you can do fine with The Shack —which I just couldn’t get into, especially before the doctrinally tricky stuff really got started — you would do all right with the Left Behind series, even in a “just for fun” way. (That’s how I read or enjoy its installments now, as a guilty pleasure, the same reason I enjoy The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! animated episodes.)

      On truth: despite LB‘s controversial end-times views, the presentation of God’s nature and the Gospel, the most important Biblical truths, are superior to The Shack‘s.

      On “beauty”/quality: I would say Left Behind‘s style is superior (by comparison!). Sure, its writer(s) may err on the side of practicality. Yet in this reader’s view, anyway, that is better than forced attempts to get the reader on a character’s side with more-direct attempts at sentimentality and omniscient authorial intrusion, e.g., you gentle reader should feel sympathy with the character at this point now, yes? kinds of statements.

  4. Fred Warren says:

    I think there’s certainly an element of perceived safety, what you call “pre-existing solid Christian cred.” If a writer has been vetted in some way by the wider community–a successful pastor, theologian, missionary, or someone who moves in those circles–and is a known quantity, it’s easier to gain acceptance when they strike out into unfamiliar territory. 

    Thus, C.S. Lewis can employ pagan imagery and metaphors, Peretti can bring spiritual warfare into the physical world, LeHaye & Jenkins can speculate about the apocalypse, and Alcorn can wrestle with social hot-button issues, because people are confident about where these writers are going to lead them. They’re not afraid to dance with the Maenads when they know Aslan is going to sort it all out in the end.

    It’s like traveling. You can debark in a new country and take the Gray Line bus around town, or you can follow the guy hanging out by the dock with the cardboard sign that says, “I Do Good Toor – $5 US.” The sign guy may take you to some unforgettable places that you’d never see from the bus, but you also might finish the day in a back-alley with a concussion, minus your wallet. I think people want some assurance that they’re going to have a good experience when they open a book. I know I’ve had times when I’ve finished a story and thought, “Well, that’s x hours of my life I’ll never get back.”

  5. Patrick says:

    So, the Churchian Dragon is a stereotype to illustrate how Christians form their opinions in discerning good meat from rotten meat in fictional stories? Let’s see if I understand this right:
    Pretty much, if your faith beliefs are public knowledge (published in non-fiction or you have a prominent history of involvement in the church) then you have street-credit with the Churchians, and they will gobble up whatever meat you toss them fully trusting that it’s not laced with dragoncide. Such an author can write whatever they want and the Churchains will keep eating it up- but it helps to have some familiar Churchy stories thrown in occasionally to keep building your credit. Usefulness. These authors have it automatically granted to their works, and it gets applied in ways they may or may not have intended.
    If you don’t have this credit the Churchians are more cautious of your wares: sniffing for poisons and ripping at it for hidden razorblades, sending it to the CSI Lab for testing, and then blast it with flaming breath to be sure no parasites or diseases are transmitted from it. Some Chruchians may claim such-and-thus comparisons to faith stories that really aren’t there, but gobble them anyway; and others will toss out perfectly good stories because they didn’t get through their rigorous tests that only stories written by people who are not on the All Star Christian list are subjected to. Still digging around for useful application, because enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake alone is a breach of the 11th commandment. 
    I may be way off, but that’s what I gleaned from this. The moral of the story: if you want your books to be gobbled up without hesitation, first establish a your real-world faith as solid public knowledge. I didn’t get the stealing past the dragons part. Some authors earn a Security-Bypass-Card, and others sit in long lines going through customs.

  6. Hmm, I’d agree with a lot of that, Patrick, though with some clarification about the term Churchian (which “dates,” in this series, to last week’s part 1).

    Some Churchians are mostly discerning folks. Real Christians. But they don’t understand how manmade stories could honor God apart from either Harmless Entertainment or else Allegory. They mean well. But they’ve “benefited” from Christians’ frequent silence on the subject. However, they would (mostly) practice truth-discernment in what they read, see, listen to. Yet it takes a writer with solid, popular, “practical” cred to get their attention.

    Other Churchians, I suggest, are people who are along for Christianity’s or even their local churches’ rides, but as a means to other ends. I want to keep my family healthy, my marriage decent, practice good ethics. Looks like Jesus is the best way to do that.

    Still digging around for useful application, because enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake alone is a breach of the 11th commandment.

    Actually, I would agree with that part, not because enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake is a breach of some commandment, but because it’s a circular statement or a reification fallacy. There is no such “person” or entity as enjoyment; therefore it’s impossible to enjoy only for the sake of enjoying. Rather, I suggest enjoyment is either done for God’s glory or done for self’s glory — ultimately there is no “neutral” enjoyment.

    Getting a little ahead of  next week’s column, I believe this understanding is at the root of how Christians see any kind of story, particularly visionary story: one’s theology of Enjoyment. Lewis had a lot to say about this, using that term, while Scripture has a lot to say about the root word: joy. However, that is contrary to many people’s perception of doing good deeds, or being saved, or even the actions of God Himself, being all done for goal of Doing One’s Duty or Just Because It’s Right — not a Biblical concept.

    I’m a very practical guy. I like pragmatism: the shortest distance between two points. So I don’t oppose this kind of Churchian Dragon “practicality” as much as I seriously question what this kind of practicality/pragmatism is trying to get. Does God give His adopted children good gifts primarily to Teach Us Moral Behavior? No. That will follow, but rather, He does all things with the goal of helping us Enjoy Him personally.

    Once people understand that, and apply it beyond the usual territories of spiritual disciplines and local-church involvement to the fields of finance, vocation, and even Story and entertainment, I think we’ll have the right kind of “practicality” in place.

    I may be way off, but that’s what I gleaned from this. The moral of the story: if you want your books to be gobbled up without hesitation, first establish a your real-world faith as solid public knowledge. I didn’t get the stealing past the dragons part. Some authors earn a Security-Bypass-Card, and others sit in long lines going through customs.

    Switching metaphors along with you … which ones do you think are awaiting, unfairly, in customs? However, I hope I haven’t hinted that this is the moral of the story: to use or do whatever you can, including forged visas or fence-hopping, to get past the barricade. The above article was mostly intended for illustration and observation: that this happens. However, I do wonder if many authors could work on their nonfiction faith “cred” for their confused Christian readers, and “think incarnationally” to reach out to those folks who can’t help holding their wrongly “practical” assumptions. Some of the authors above have done that, and I think we can at least imitate their example somewhat, while still being who we are and writing exactly how and what we believe God would want us to write.

  7. Jenni N says:

    It’s interesting, some people are very aware of this, and don’t read/let their children read any of the above authors. I’ve run into anti-Lewis people. It’s frustrating. 

    (I only recently read Dekker, and was rather sorry I hadn’t read it a couple years ago when I was still under the impression that it wasn’t any good from a theology/doctrine standpoint because of some things that some people had said to me which I see were based on incorrect data) 

    Of course, it is equally frustrating to me to take apart a story to look for allegory. (I’ve heard people do this to Doctor Who, and I’m like… “uh… story? just watch the story! It’s a fun story! We all know that the writers are most probably not Christians so… story! Nice story! Follow the story! Do not add to the story!” <grin>) 

    So I figure that the best thing to do is ignore the critics and move on because if someone is really into SF, they’re likely to pick up your book anyhow if it looks like quality. 🙂  

What do you think?