Last week, guest author Matt Mikalatos reminded us that visionary authors should also write contemporary fiction. On Tuesday, Fred Warren added three reasons to write secular fiction. Last year, also, author Marc Schooley reminded us that all Christians, including fiction authors, should frequently delve deep into nonfiction, particularly Bible doctrine and theology.
While Spec-Faith’s mission is to offer blog columns, Library resources, and (soon) FAQ articles for visionary readers and writers, this what-writers-should-read-and-write topic is important.
So if you’re a Christian visionary writer, come on up into the secret treehouse club. We’ll pull the rope ladder up after us. Yet if you’re only a fiction reader, not a writer, keep reading anyway, because this matters for us all. And I may have some I-hope-grace-minded ranting to do.
First off: none of this applies to you writers who do have callings to read or write contemporary fiction. And from what I know of many friends here, including Fred Warren, they seem to have unique gifts for writing secular fiction. God does call different people to different jobs: here a butcher, there a baker, over there a church candlestick-maker. The Apostle Paul was clear in 1 Cor. 12: don’t take the “eye” lightly if you’re an “ear,” and definitely don’t think that because you don’t have the job or spiritual gifts of someone else, you aren’t a vital member of Christ’s Body!
Yet if the whole body — of novelists in the Church — were writing contemporary fiction and only urging others to do the same, where would be the sense of visionary fiction?
And if the whole body of Christian novelists were writing for the Secular Market and promoting this, where would be the sense of fiction for other Christians?
Again, some Christians should be writing for secular audiences. I’m writing this series not to fault their endorsements of writing for secular audiences, but to add balance. Whether it’s about more-overt missionary work or writing new novels, it seems the loudest voices at present talk most about storming secular mission fields, cities, countries and publishers — without equal reminders that existing Christians also desperately need truth and truthful, wondrous stories.
But we need authors in all these fields, not pushing primarily into one or the other.
One gift is not less than another. The Body needs us all as its diverse, Spirit-gifted organs.
Here, then, I’ll give reasons why the Church needs authors writing fiction for Christians.
1. We may have a glut of common-grace-endorsing visionary stories.
When it comes to false dichotomies between “secular” and “sacred,” or “the world” and “God’s Kingdom,” I’m fully on the side of those who dislike accidental Gnosticism and fire off Biblical truths that God is redeeming not just human souls, but the whole physical universe. Even now, under the corruption of sin, this world is in fact a Christian world. It is destined to become the physical and wondrous New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21), under Jesus Christ’s kingship.
Therefore a Christian writer need not feel constrained to believing he must write about only specific religious themes or Faith Crises or spiritual things in order to write a “Christian story.”
To think otherwise not only falls into Gnosticism, but ignores the Biblical teaching that God’s Spirit gives His people various gifts to glorify Him, both within the Church and outside it. And I doubt the gift lists in Paul’s epistles are exhaustive or limited only to clearly “churchy” gifts.
Also, because God gives “common grace” gifts to non-Christians, and even evil people know how to do good things (Matthew 7: 9-11), we would do well to learn from their talents and excellence.
That said, I would go on to ask: don’t we already have a surplus of authors, artists, filmmakers and more, giving us “common grace”-style echoes of truth in general markets? So if even the (presumably) non-Christian producers and writers of superhero films like Thor and Captain America can echo themes of true heroism and sacrifice and true love and respect for men and women, why should all or most Christians feel they need to join that particular cultural chorus?
Could not some of us instead say, “Well, thank God a lot of that is taken care of!”, and then feel free to explore in our stories the particular grace truths of the Gospel? So far, such truths are being overlooked in both secular storytelling and Christian fiction. That has left a vacuum. And both Christians and non-Christians may want to explore these depths.
Plenty of bands already crowd the stage to perform the warm-up acts. But all the “songs” about God’s general revelation — how God reminds us about His wonders in sunsets, secular stories that echo good and evil, and vaguer reflections of Hope and Goodness in the World — can only go so far. Again, perhaps some Christians should join that chorus; that is their task, and it matches their unique gifts. Yet the true Star of the show has arrived. So let us remember that …
2. Only Christians can best explore God’s specific Gospel in stories.
If — because this is a Christian world in which God give common-grace gifts to sinners — secular writers are echoing general truths in their stories, and Christians also want to echo general truth in their stories — who’s left to explore in fiction the specific story of the Bible?
And if everyone writes for a “secular” audience, who is left to challenge and exhort the Church?
Author Steve Rzasa — who is coincidentally our guest author tomorrow — put it this way:
I can’t help but wonder if “secular” writers sit around talking about whether they should try writing religious/Christian fiction. Oh wait — they don’t need to, because Christians already read secular work.
Contrary to the myth that most people would get Christianity only if they heard or saw it done better, and without hypocrisy!, many nonbelievers already know the message of Christianity. But they do not care for it. Nor would they explore in a novel the natural results of the Gospel worldview. All they can give is messages about Hope and Love and Faith and perhaps Sacrifice. That’s great, if compared with the opposite “values.” And those messages do help, coming from non-Christians and Christians who are so gifted. But only Christian storytellers can take Biblical truths further and deeper and do more than simply recite them — they can apply and explore them, fleshing them out realistically in ways that only fiction can do and mere recitation cannot.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
— 1 Corinthians 2: 14-16
Coming on Thursday: let’s not accidentally endorse “the Gospel is only for nonbelievers” myth, or neglect sincere Christians who’ve simply only heard legalistic discernment cautions, or else make up an imaginary secular audience that would love us if we only wrote better stories.