1. Very nice post. I agree with it all. So I guess that means you get the Sally Apokedak Seal of Approval. For what it’s worth. 🙂 

  2. Patrick says:

    Good message, Becky. Thank you. I believe I have fairly good discernment myself about what is true and not true in my reading. But I should probably have more discernment in what I suggest to others as good reading- just in-case their discernment muscles aren’t as conditioned as mine. Or at-least give a heads up, that although I enjoyed a story I had some moral conflicts with some of the messages. I recently had a friend do that for me on a book she saw on my To Read list. I appreciate her looking out for me, but I’ll likely read the book anyway.
    Currently I haven’t been taking the Truth of a story as a deciding factor on what to read. I’ve only been concerning myself with what seems to be quality writing and story telling. I live in a fallen world and brush elbows with Godless people every day. Their existence does not offend me. I am grieved at times by their condition, but nothing in their lives is a personal insult to me. I can read about life- it just is what it is- and not feel I’ve been wronged because I don’t agree with an author or character’s point of view. I accept that as their honest perception of things- true or not- but I love to hear their stories anyway. I love to hear the stories of what conditions, and choices shaped them into the person they’ve become- not so much what they believe, but why they believe it. These things fascinate me.
    I have to admit I tend to rationalize perspectives I don’t agree with as I read. Going with The Wizard of Oz example, I don’t flinch at the humanism in it. I accept that as the author’s perspective, and I believe there is a little truth in it. There is a lot to be said for will power. A person with want-to will accomplish a whole lot more than the person who lays in bed wishing or praying for good things to happen to them. So I read Dorthy, and yeah it’s humanistic self-determination- but I tend (as I think many do) to feel myself in the place of the POV character and so it isn’t just her or me, God is automatically included in the equation for me because I know God is with me, in me, created me, has great plans for me… God is part of the story because of who I am as I take the role of Dorothy in the story. I don’t buy the ‘I can do anything I choose to do’, but instead believe ‘I can do all things through God who gives me strength’. I know I can’t do it without God, but I also know God won’t do anything in my life without my participation. I have to act in faith to the best of my ability and trust that He will do the rest. Christians of faith should be able to accomplish so much more than the humanists, because they may live the Dorthy story with success as far as humanly possible, but we should be able to accomplish things that are humanly impossible- by faith in the one who is in me who is not myself.
    Just some thoughts on the topic. Sorry if they aren’t completely relevant.

    • Patrick, thanks for your comment.

      I understand what you’re saying about “rationalizing” the perspective of the stories you read. When I first read The Lord of the Rings, I didn’t know anything about Tolkien. I began to see these parallels to Christianity, but didn’t know if they were actually there or if I was putting them there because of my own beliefs.

      More recently I read a Christian fantasy called Blraggard’s Moon, a book the CSFF Blog Tour featured. I remarked that I saw a certain character as a type of Christ. When the author commented on my post, he said he had not intended that typology at all. So in that instance I “saw” something that he hadn’t put there because it’s how I view the world.

      I think that’s the writer/reader collaboration, though. And I think as long as readers go into a novel with eyes open, we can read anything. We may not want to read certain things, but we can.

      As you said in your real life situation, we can rub shoulders with non-Christians and not be offended. I mean, should we be surprised when someone apart from Christ acts like a person apart from Christ? So too in books. Sinful characters will act sinfully.

      But do I want to read about their lives? I don’t think there’s a rule that says we have to. I know some Christians who have addressed child abuse in their stories. Good. I think it’s a subject that Christians can deal with in a truthful way. I’m glad they wrote the books. I just don’t care to read them.


  3. Stories have so much they can lend us, but they all must be filtered through the One True Story.
    Also, make sure you are not confusing “The Wizard of Oz” book with the movie. The film emphasizes the idea that each of the characters already had those qualities within them. The book emphasizes the fact that, although the silver (not ruby) slippers could have taken Dorothy home whenever she wanted, the Scarecrow, Woodman and Lion would not have gotten what they needed if Dorothy hadn’t come. And not only did the Scarecrow become the wise new leader of Oz, but the Woodman became the loving leader of the Winkies, and the Lion became the true King of the Beasts, which none of them would have been able to do before their ordeals with the witch. So in a very fantastical way, the lessons could be “Trials lead to joy” or “Standing up to evil will strengthen me for greater things.” These lessons merely give us a glimmer of the biblical truth: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) But without the biblical model, the lesson of The Wizard of Oz might be twisted into “Be on the winning side so you can reap the rewards.”

    • Betty Ann, you’ve identified the only way we can discern Truth as we should. Great line.

      And you caught me. Though I was talking about reading, the example of The Wizard of Oz movie came to mind.

      I like the way you’ve shown the two different looks at the theme of the book — one with Scripture and one without. Again, this is the idea of readers collaborating with authors.


  4. SoniCido says:

    Good thought-provoking here, Rebecca 🙂 Didn’t the Wizard of Oz have a hidden political message as well?

    Very true, Patrick! I believe God calls us to balance everything as, “no thing is evil in and of itself” …it is what we do with it; the action that we take using ‘it’ as the launching board. 

    And, Rebecca, one of the many reasons that I write, and am pursuing a career in it, (and the a reason that most of my friends write) is indeed to “change the world” and the “world view” of the hoped-for audience… I am guilty!

    If that were not the case, I’d be only writing in a private journal. But then, how many journal writers, deep down, hope to be heard one day? Most.

    I think it an interesting idea however, to put in the Prologue:

    Discern at your own level.”

    Hahah! I might do that!



    • Soni, I appreciate your feedback. I don’t know about a political message in The Wizard of Oz. I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean when the leader of a country is shown to be a fraud, it’s hard to think that plot line came from nowhere.

      I have equated that aspect to the movie writers’ view of God, however. I honestly don’t know which they intended. I do know that the humanistic worldview became rampant soon after the movie, especially around the time it was re-released in the mid-1950s. How much of a part did it play in changing the culture? I’m of the opinion that it contributed.

      The film was named the most-watched motion picture in history by the Library of Congress,[4] is often ranked among the Top 10 Best Movies of All-Time in various critics’ and popular polls, and is the source of many memorable quotes referenced in modern popular culture. [Wikipedia]

      Soni, I also write to change the world. 😉 Of course, I know I can’t, but the God I exalt, can! Too many Christian writers, it seems, are shying away from this power of story, as if we aren’t allowed to use our influence though the rest of the culture most certainly is using theirs.


  5. I enjoyed the post, Becky, and found it encouraging to again see someone else I trust coming to the same conclusion I’ve tried to teach so often: the practical need to discern, and the need to practice discern. Thank you for this post.

    • Chawna, thanks. I don’t think we can say it often enough or loud enough. Reading is something we need to approach with our minds in gear and our Bibles in hand. Recently I’ve read on a couple blogs the idea that Christians might be analyzing fiction more than most people. Good, I think. We should. How else are we to engage the culture. We either run from culture, are conformed by culture, or engage culture from a Christian perspective. We can only do the latter if we know what they’re saying and what Scripture is saying.


  6. Kessie says:

    I’m trying to figure out exactly what you mean by ‘Truth’. Are we talking the moral of the story? The author’s worldview? Or what is true to the characters within the context of the story?
    If you’re talking worldview, then I totally understand and agree. I always read with an eye toward sniffing out the author’s worldview. Phil Pullman’s Dark Materials is positively frothing with hatred toward God and religion, so much so that by the third book, it’s verging on the ridiculous.
    Whereas Diana Wynne Jones, with her multiple words, occasional  appearances from gods and other non-human beings, and loads of magic, is respectful of all of the above. She rejected Jesus, but her books seem open to the idea of a Supreme Being, and she never slams anyone or conversely promotes her own viewpoints as The One True Way. I think that’s why I enjoy her books so much.
    Now, if we were talking about the ‘truth’ inside the story, that’d be a whole other ball of wax. Like, in the Dragonlance books, the pantheon of gods is what is ‘true’ for that universe. But I don’t think the writers are trying to say that’s true anywhere except in the story. They’re just writing good stories.

  7. Hi, Kessie. I was using “truth” to refer to the way writers think life “works,” what they believe to true about the world, so, I guess you’d be accurate to say “worldview.”

    I’m of the mindset that someone like Phillip Pullman is pretty easy to discern. We know where he’s coming from (he has said more than once how he feels about C. S. Lewis), and we can either steer clear of his fiction or see his false views a mile away.

    In other words, from the start we don’t trust him, and he doesn’t do anything in his story to change that view. Of course there are thousands of young people who undoubtedly were not equipped to identify what he was saying. Did his books add to the other segments of society who are calling into question God’s existence and even His goodness?

    I like the way you phrased the second idea about truth — the truth “inside the story.” Sort of like, inside the Harry Potter stories, witches and wizards could be either good or bad. I call that the Pretend Aspect. 😉 But truth inside the story (and not outside it) works, too.


    • Kessie says:

      I know when I read the Dark Materials the first time, I had no idea where Pullman was coming from, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth when I finished. (The books weren’t even completely published at that point.) I hadn’t expected such a vile message, and his story and characters were so good up to that point.
      As for other kinds of messages, though, I do think the readers often read in more than the author intends. I’ve written copious amounts of fanfic (I can hear you laughing from here), and I had written two male characters who move from a master/slave relationship to a father/son relationship, and I’ve gotten lots of fanmail of people assuming that I’m writing these characters gay. It makes me want to bash my face into the keyboard. I didn’t write it that way, but people read in what they want to see.
      I think Stephen King said something like, theme is in the realm of the writer, but interpretation is in the realm of the reader. I need to dig out his On Writing book again, he had some great quotes.

      • Heheh — you’re safe with me, Kessie. I haven’t read any fanfic, so don’t have a predisposed response to it.

        You bring up one of my early fears — people misusing the stories I write. I remember when the Lord of the Rings movies were first coming out, all these Wicca groups seemed to adopt Tolkien as one of theirs. I thought how horrified he’d be if he knew his “very Catholic work” was being used in that way. It made me think about my own story. What if readers missed or misunderstood or misused what I’d put in my stories?

        I came to the conclusion that my responsibility was to write the story the way I believe it needs to be written. I am not responsible for what the reader does with it. There’s the collaboration again. You can only do your part. The other party has to come through on his end.


  8. John Weaver says:

      I have mixed feelings here. I don’t think that “collaborating” with an author’s worldview, even if non-Christian, necessarily leads us to accept the “false.”. Indeed, some secular authors’ worldviews can be more truly Christian than the fluff that comes out of CBA fiction. Take Kafka’s The Trial, for instance (particularly the “Cathedral” scene). Kafka leads us to far more profound meditations on God than is possible through reading Tim Lahaye.
    I think you overly credit how much books can morally affect people . . . which is not to say they can’t, just that they don’t do so nearly as often as you think. But then again, a non-stop diet of spiritually poisonous material (pornography, for instance) will definitely hurt people’s faith and their compassion for others.

    • Hi, John, I don’t know as I’d say readers are collaborating with the writer’s worldview. They collaborate with the writer in taking meaning from a story. The writer (usually) has in mind what he believes and what he wants to say, what he hopes he has indeed said through his story, but the reader comes along and adds or takes away or absorbs. What the reader understands, and how the reader is changed, then, is dependent upon, not just the writer, but also what the reader does with the story.

      Consequently, you can voice opinions about Kafka or Jenkins that other readers will contradict and they will be right, as much as you are. I think reading really is a relativistic activity.

      I think some Christian writers are uncomfortable with that, as I was. And that’s very possibly why some Christian stories were preachy — the writer doesn’t want to trust the reader to understand what the story is saying, or, I might add, the Holy Spirit, to do with the story what He wishes.


  9. Patrick says:

    Sounds a bit like a child that could pass for a Marilyn Manson look-alike responding to his father’s criticism of his music tastes “But, Dad, I just like the sounds. It’s not having any effect on my life”. But it does. It affects him more deeply and pervasively than he will ever realize.
    We can all throw our opinions around and slap each other with them all we want, but if Dr. Oatley has done research then I believe that’s a bit better than my subjective experience of not perceiving the changes in my thinking after each dose of media I consume.

    “In a song I sing along and right or wrong
    the concept sticks I get my fix
    and I become a part of the glorious
    propaganda machine that hates me” -Blackball One More Sucker


  10. Patrick, well said. I think this study apparently validates what those who believe in the power of story have been saying for some time.

    And why shouldn’t it be true? Look how many stories are in the Bible. Look how many times Jesus answered a question or explained a point by telling a story. Would God use an ineffective means of communication if story didn’t reach people in ways that didactic expression can’t?



  11. Galadriel says:

    A very interesting discussion. I really enjoyed reading through and seeing the different perspectives.

  12. Allison says:

    Thank you for the profound and insightful article. I enjoyed it.

  13. SoniCido says:

    Hi Rebecca 🙂

    I think sometimes writer’s do change views of the readers without even meaning to.

    All writers should know that being well-read doesn’t hurt. And even a measure more, we need to be very confident in ourselves, i.e. where we are in life, and how we stand before our Maker. If we lack, we will not be able to discern the work of other writers; and if that is the case, we surely will not be able to discern what WE want to say.

    It is a huge world out there, and depending upon where the driving forces be, a series of articles, poems, or any book or movie could cause a revolution in the right direction, or in the wrong direction.

    Several times, (I can relate with Kessie and Dark Materials) I have read a book or article that did have a creative way of saying something profound, yet, I missed it.
    Once I was told, I went back and re-read and realized what the author was driving at.
    I had to be told by someone, because spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually, I was not there.

    Whatever  Baum meant to stir up with his writing of the Wizard of Oz, he was successful in the “stirring up” part. It is important for the movie-only audience to realize that in the book, there are silver slippers as well as ruby. And Teosophy soon gained a rolling engine.

    Thanks again!


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