15 Comments

My problem with most Christian Fiction.

Smile, you're on Candid Camera!Look, I'd love to help you, but this won't sell if it's found later in My Book.As most of you that read me are aware, I am a believer in Jesus (Yeshua in the English spelling of the original Hebrew pronunciation) as my Saviour. As such, I do have a leaning toward supporting any good material out there that demonstrates a proclivity toward supporting the Faith and our values.

The problem though that I have with most Christian fiction, and have to watch in my own writing too, is that as talented as some of these writers are they tend to show non-believers as if they are completely evil with no good whatsoever and even if the “good guy” or “good gal” believer messes up that it’s all right because they’re “good”; they’re going to Heaven so it makes it all right somehow.

One way this occurs is when a culture or group of people are shown very accurately as far as facts – and possibly flavor – goes, but ultimately since they don’t believe in Jesus as the Christ they have to be labeled as “evil” so that the “good” of Christianity can prevail. And if someone is “saved” that’s from that culture, they suddenly – automatically even – have the Christian American viewpoint on Jesus and life and the world as if that’s the only viewpoint that’s valid. This causes poor writing to be sold well in the Christian market and then people think they are doing well buying and reading these books, and “hoping” that some unbelievers out there are getting “witnessed” to by picking them up, when in actuality, if an unbeliever has read it they either put it down in frustration over the overt Christianity in the story, or start laughing and treat it as a humor book. One look at the one and two star reviews of Christian novels on Amazon proves this to be true.

One of the things I want to mention here is that I’m in full agreement with a sticker/t-shirt I saw in the past from Jay Bakker’s Revolution ministry which said something like “Jesus saves, not Christianity.”

We tend to forget that the Bible says, “There’s none good, no not one” yet constantly portray the Christian (or potential Christian) characters as good while everyone else is evil. What would it take to get an author that’s a Believer which can portray a person just as a person without a salvation agenda or a good versus evil agenda, or an “us vs. them” agenda? It’s not that I don’t want to see Christian values portrayed, and it’s not that I don’t want to see a good story that shows a main character overcoming the odds. And certainly, a well written salvation story is few and far between and when I read one I love it – Frank Peretti had some better ones as I recall. I just want to see a story that’s believable without expecting everyone reading it to automatically understand where the author is coming from concerning his or her world view.

People that criticize Christian fiction say that we’re too simple with how we portray things. I tend to agree. What I’ve seen is that Believers writing fiction try to treat the world in black and white terms when really, things are never that way in life. The young fellow with the chains on his neck and hat turned sideways with pants around his knees might be a growing Believer and not the hoodlum you think he is – even if that’s his roots. Meantime, the guy who dresses in a suit and tie and goes to church services and gives generously to the Dottie Loon fund and represents his company well and in general leads a great moral life might not even trust Jesus for salvation and goes to church as a part of the package he was raised to think he needed in life and works toward. One is going to Heaven, while the other is going to Hell. You put them side by side on the street and hear the occasional curse word out of the young man and you just might make the wrong decision about who’s going where. Especially since the man in the suit has a fish symbol swallowing a Darwin fish with feet symbol on the back of his car above the “Keep the Ten Commandments” bumper sticker. All a part of the package.

Christianity is something that has become its own worst enemy by letting rules and traditions govern it instead of the Spirit of God. Jesus is the only guide we have. He is The Word. We have the Written Word, and He is the Living Word. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. He is The Truth. We are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. That means we are to worship God all out in Spirit, but also by reading the Written Word of God and letting the Living Word of God tell us what that means.

If it ain’t found in the Word, it’s no good. Period.

Doesn’t matter how “good” it sounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s been around for years, decades, centuries, or even a millennium or two. If it’s not found in the Word, it doesn’t count. At all.

And one of the things I find in the Word is that the heart of man is wicked and deceitful above all things. It also makes it real clear that even when we are “saved” we have to struggle with sin. I think making every person that is a believer in a novel out to be the “good guy” and every non-believer out to be the “bad guy” or just inconsequential is just bad story telling.

Here’s a suggestion, and I don’t mind saying it where someone can take it and run with it, because five different authors could come up with five totally different ways of doing this and they all become bestsellers:

Why not have a novel where the reader is sure that someone is “saved” and the “good guy”, but in the end everything they’ve been doing really turns them out to be the “bad guy” and another character that the reader doesn’t really notice or maybe even thought was the “bad guy” turns out to be the “good guy” and the one who is “saved”.

Or even this: Why not have a novel where a “saved” person goes through the novel doing things that are clearly wrong, yet he’s still “saved”? I can’t help but think of the Crusades and how horrible they were when men and women of God got it in their heads that the only way to convert was to threaten to kill the non-believer and then follow through with it if they didn’t convert. Very likely a lot of those conversions weren’t for real, and also quite possibly there were a lot of killers on “The Lord’s side” that weren’t really “saved” and just joined because they wanted to take part in the killings.

Pretty much, I’m just tired of the status quo when it comes to the fiction I read from Christian writers and publishers. As much as the envelope gets pushed, it never seems to be pushed enough or at the right time. I’m seeing some novels coming out now that would have been great to have seen five to ten years ago and would have been phenomenal at that time. Nowadays, they’re still great reads and are finally cutting a trend in “Christian Fiction”, but they’re just a little bit behind the times.

It’s time for publishers in the Christian market to realize that when a writer submits something to you that stretches the boundaries that there are people out here that want to read that and will pay for it. Also, writers, don’t be afraid to put something down when you are writing. Get in your zone and just put everything down that comes to you. Don’t worry then about the “right thing” or the “wrong thing”. Get your story out. All of it. Later you can edit out all the bad junk and tighten things up and change words or whatever. You might surprise yourself and decide that certain things should stay the same that you would have never written if you hadn’t freed yourself.

I’m glad for publishers such as Marcher Lord Press coming on the scene and making a stand for Christian publishing and pushing the envelope. But that shouldn’t be the only publisher out there willing to make the stand. I know there are a couple more that have come along since then, but really, we need to be willing to write whatever story we need to write if we are both serious about being writers and serious about being writers that are writing for the King and His Kingdom.

Let's get loose from the shackles that bind us.

Write a story for the sake of writing a story, and have some fun with it. If you’re a believer, the right themes of our Faith will be there for you to pluck out and sharpen during your editing. God gave us the gift of writing, and so many times we are so concerned about what not to put down that we don’t put anything down and what should have been a first draft in a month turns into a first draft in two to five years. We need to break free and shrug off the shackles of the spirit of religion that has held us bound and shine with the Spirit of Christ that frees us to use our gift and not hold back in any regard.

The Bible is full of murder, incest, rape, adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, war and a gob of other atrocities. That’s God’s Written Word. If we can’t write about the same sins found in the Word of God, are we truly free from them in our own lives?

Not really sure how to end this. Indeed, I wrote half of this a couple of weeks ago and when I came back to it tonight I found my last sentence was a fragment, so I had to try to remember where I was going with that sentence. May or may not have continued this the way I was first thinking. So I’m just not sure how to end this, except that I’m pretty sure I’m at the end of this particular entry even if the subject matter comes up again sometime later on in another blog post of mine, but the bottom line is that there are those of us out there that are wanting edgier fiction, are willing to buy and read it, and are also willing to write it, so why not have more of this published too?

Does that not make some sense to the rest of you?

About David James

David James is a man of many attributes: He's a believer in Jesus as the Christ. He's a family man with a wife and two children. He's an entrepreneur with a fledgling business called Beyond the Charts, an Independent Marketer with Manna From Heaven, a writer of both speculative fiction and some spiritual matters. He's a listener of heavy metal with techno, goth, and industrial sounds preferred. He doesn't listen to "Christian radio" and can't stand most "Praise and Worship" music because it comes across so staged and more for entertainment than worship, but he loves the worship coming out of MorningStar Ministries because of the raw intensity of it. He loves scary movies whether it's a creepy ghost story or an intense slasher film, as well as strange humor films, and just loves the spoof films that have come out over the past decade. He thinks Kevin Smith films are very funny, but doesn't care for it when they speak bad of Jesus. His favorite novelist of all time is Stephen King. His favorite sci-fi novelist is Kevin J. Anderson. Other novelists he enjoys are too numerous to mention here. For Spiritual reading he turns to Billy Graham, Mike Murdock, Rick Joyner, John Bunyan, Ellen White, Herbert Armstrong, Martin Zender, and R.A. Torrey. He enjoys financial and self-help books ranging from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar to Donald Trump to Robert Kiyosaki. The one thing that irritates him is when people don't show respect, yet want respect from those they don't show it to.

15 comments on “My problem with most Christian Fiction.

  1. I think that one of the things that most attracted me to Jesus was that he could spot a phony a mile away. He turned on the “good” people of his day and called them snakes. He refused to toe the party line but instead kept company with the people who really needed him: the sinners. I often tell non-believers that if Jesus were here today we probably wouldn’t find him in a church but out on the streets, hanging out with the ones who really need him.

    Something else I like about Jesus was his use of parables. He didn’t “tell” people about God’s kingdom, he “showed” them. For me, the story of the Prodigal Son is an example of what we should aspire to as writers. Even though God and Jesus are not mentioned we know exactly what the story represents. And I think that, as stories go, the Prodigal Son is pretty edgy. You have greed, betrayel, gluttony, wild living, regret, redemption, envy, and love.

  2. Wow, so much to comment on here.
    1) Lottie Moon did more to advance the spread of the gospel than most Christians combined. The fund set up in her name is to help support missionaries with the same goals she had. Don’t make fun of her.
    2) @Paul… Jesus still went to the temple, so he wouldn’t completely forsake his spiritual duties.
    3) Religion is absolutely the thing that is killing Christianity today. What people need to understand is that being a follower of Christ was NEVER supposed to be religion, but a relationship. Look at the garden… look at the life of Christ. There you see relationships being built, not a religion. This is where the pitfall is in our fiction, writers tend to emphasize the religion. The simple fix of this is that in everything we write, in every character who is a believer, we show the relationship aspect of their belief and NOT religion. The world has plenty of religion, we’re supposed to be different.
    4) I’m patiently waiting for a publisher to surface that specializes in Christian Horror. Maybe then someone will pick up Winter.

    I think that’s all I have to say at this moment.

    • Keven,

      I’ll comment on each that you commented on:

      1) My intention wasn’t to make fun of Lottie Moon. Honestly, although I remembered the name from my high school days, I never really knew what the fund was for, and that was part of the point I was making by using an alternate name that sounded that same. So many people give to a fund their church supports without really looking at just what it does. Also, the change was to intentionally NOT ridicule the specific fund, but the similarity was to indicate some familiarity. The main goal was to show the person that was all “correct” religiously, but was “incorrect” spiritually. Honestly, no harm was meant to the fund or the person that started it. I hope no one else gets offended over this, and I hope any offense you had is now done away with.

      2) Jesus went to the temple to complete the duties He had as a Jew, but let’s not confuse the Israel/Jewish temples with the buildings the Church meet in. WE are now the temple as the Holy Spirit dwells within us and no longer in a box hidden behind a curtain that could only be viewed one time a year by someone that had a rope tied around their ankle so that if they died because they didn’t meet God’s requirements and the bells on the bottom of the robe aren’t ringing then the person outside the curtain could yank ’em out. So since WE are now the temple and indwelling place of the Holy Spirit, we really aren’t REQUIRED to go to any specific building unless we agree to as a group. Indeed, the early church met on almost a daily basis in each other’s homes and broke bread together (not to be confused with “communion” which is based on the Passover which still at that time was only done once a year), and as Jews would go to the Temple for Jewish obligations, but the Gentile believers didn’t have to make the trip.

      3) I fully agree with what you’ve said.

      4) I hope that this occurs real soon for you.

      • If anyone thinks the building we meet in is the church, then it is just sad. But that doesn’t absolve us of spiritual duties, such as taken care of the sick, widowed, or orphaned. The early church implemented many programs of cooperative support for ministry efforts. But that’s beside the point I think.

        WWJD?

        Jesus went to the temple out of his SPIRITUAL duties as a Jew. I don’t think any of us would dare say that Jesus went to the temple for religious reasons. How does that apply today? Yes, he would minister to the sinners where there was need. He would be the ultimate “missionary” by our definition. But he would still tend to those spiritual duties. I think we would see him gathering and worshiping with fellow believers, and working with them to further the gospel.

        Well, to me that’s the purpose of the church “building” anyway… to be a support system for the weary soldiers, and to be a training ground for the new recruits. It’s not supposed to be a retirement home or country club. That’s really rather disgusting.

        We’re on the same page here David. And the thing with Lotty… well, your choice of the word “Loon” is what makes it sound offensive. I get your point though. No worries.

      • My suggestion that if Jesus were here today we “probably” wouldn’t find him in a church but rather out on the streets has raised some debate. I would like to clarify my thoughts on this because I think it is quite an interesting subject. I used the word “probably” for a reason. I did not want to imply that Jesus would not go to church at all, but rather that the bulk of his work would “probably” take place outside of traditional church buildings. And, of course, this is just my opinion.

        Churchgoers certainly need Jesus, but how much more do the people out in the world need him? When Jesus started his ministry his message was new to everyone, both inside and outside the synagogues. These days, the people inside the churches already know the Good News. It is the people outside the church who need to be reached. I think that Jesus’ time in the church would be limited to comforting and correcting the flock, and gathering the workers for the harvest. I doubt he would spend much time in the church if he were here today. We know and believe the message. The real work is outside the church where people either don’t know, or don’t believe.

        The Bible makes a number of references to Jesus attending synagogues but these references are usually quite brief, presumably because there was nothing exceptional in him being there. What is interesting is that, when details are given, it is clear that these visits were not always peaceful:

        Matthew 12: Jesus entered a synagogue and healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath. He had to flee for his life.
        Mark 11: Jesus visited the temple in Jerusalem but ended up throwing the trader’s tables over. He offended the scribes and chief priests so much that they wanted to kill him.
        Luke 4: What Jesus taught in the synagogue caused people to be full of fury. They attempted to kill him.
        John 6: Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum but the things he said were so outrageous that many disciples stopped following him.

  3. Black and white character, eh? Not in my books – they’d drive me nuts. They annoy me in shows and books all the time. Heroes are too often decided by society and how the author portrays them. Titles mean little to me. Read bits of Twilight and saw how you are told and told that Bella is this selfless, innocent girl – but I don’t buy it. The character is poorly portrayed as illogical and her actions/thoughts come to me as evidence of a rather selfish, self-righteous nature. Like in real life, it’s not what people are labeled but their fruits that I deem reliable evidence – and even that should be taken with a grain of salt.
    My heroine of Hall of Masters is both innocent and ignorant – most of her learning comes from books only. Some would call her “good” but she is a coward. Emotional but running scared. Her father is superstitious and believes that magic is absolutely evil – even when his own daughter is born with it. Some would say he is “evil”, but yet he is a hero to his son and they have a good relationship. There’s nothing the father wouldn’t do to protect his son and his wife. My villain? He has all the trappings of benevolence and generosity. He has the cool, collect poise. Does he believe in God? Yes. Beyond a shadow a doubt, he knows there’s a God(this is Fantasy). No one is one or the other. Good people make horrible or selfish mistakes and suffer for it. Bad people portray themselves as good and sometimes have convinced themselves that they are.
    Personally I believe following Christ is more about being/becoming than about doing/having. The issue is that much of the becoming comes by doing. But there are plenty that think that the doing or going through the motions is enough. I think they are sorely disappointed in the results.
    Keven – when you say “religion”, I think of it more as a “system”, or the “institution”. It seems a natural cycle, even in business – there is the problem, then a visionary creates a solution (or discovers), a process is arranged to apply the solution(a policy, company or rules). As time passes and more policies are padded around the real issue, people lose touch with the the heart or the spirit or vision. They see the policy or outside process as their protector and grow lax. Eventually they seem to forget that there was ever a problem to begin with, or that it was really that bad, or maybe it’s gone away. Then they are well on their way to repeat the process. Happens all the time. It’s not an issue of religion – it’s human nature.

  4. May I respectfully say I agree, yet disagree? I agree: Christian Fiction is litered with paper-thin depictions of the world that are annoying in their simplistic appraisal of everyday life. I agree: “religion,” in the sense of “earning” our place with God, is a fallacy that is too easy to fall into and a stumbling block for many. I completely agree: too many books confuse “American” with “Christian.” I would sincerely love to see international faith-based works, with views that challenge our cultural perspective of Christ.

    But then: Your critique of the “package” is an argument I’ve seen elsewhere and while I agree with the essence of what you’re saying, I often worry that we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For example, I see nowhere in Christ’s teachings where we should abandon church; as Kevin noted, Christ attended the temple and observed feast days, even paying his temple tax and established the tennant of baptism, though he himself had no need of it. I believe we should meet together as bodies of believers: to lift each other up, to sponsor mission work and help the poor, to serve our communities. I’m not saying that you meant believers shouldn’t attend church, David, but I wanted to make this point because I think it is an important tennant of following God to honor the Sabbath, not in a legalistic sense, but out of sincere thanks to God and service to Him and His church. Having a good witness is important, which means following rules not out of a sense that enough tokens land me Boardwalk, but out of a desire to please and honor God, and shine His light. As James wrote, “Faith without works is dead.”

    Also: While I recognize you’re critiquing characters, your and other arguments I’ve read start sounding like an attack on “them.” You know, “those” people, the dominant American Christian culture, the ones who aren’t serving/don’t know God like “we” are/do. Yes, Jesus attacked the religious leaders of his day and challenged their hypocricy, something I think the church should always remember. But he also dinned with Pharisees (Simon) and met with them (Niccodemus), and was just as kind and loving to them as to the Samaritan woman or the blind man. Again, I’m not saying your intent is to be dismissive of others. But that’s what it comes across as: it sounds bitter. When I read anything written against “them,” it is offensive, since most of “them” are wondering caring people who regularly engage in good Christian service and have touched the lives of many. In my own church are people who regularly reach out and show love to people such as your described hoodlum without judgement; if they also want to enjoy Amish romances and movies like “Facing the Giants,” I do not begrudge them that. It’s not why I personally want, but I honor them for their faith and their service, which is often greater than mine. We should be careful, as Christian speculative fiction emerges, that we do not engage in and us versus them mentality.

    Finally: Again, I agree that it is frustrating to find so much fiction that has only good or bad people, no shades of gray. But it is equally frustrating to read secular novels that have only shades of gray, with no right or wrong. I recently finished a great scifi novel about Martian exploration, set in the very near future. The most frustrating part? Of the fourteen main characters, not one had any religious beliefs they held strongly (even the Muslim!) The “Star Trek” syndrome that man will eventually outgrow God as a fairytale is so prevelant in most speculative fiction that it drives me crazy. Same with fantasy, which is even weirder: socities based on medieval Europe with no central Church presence? People who never contemplate the afterlife, even though every culture throughout history has in some way, shape, or form? Morality (even if it is just the way they were raised) is not a basic part of at least one character’s life? I find that incredibly difficult to believe. My mother started reading Christian romances because she loves romance but hated that a lot of the genre had turned into soft porn. Many people turn to Christian fiction for similar reasons: it’s not just about confirming some myopic cultural viewpoint, it’s reading about people and characters they can relate to, who actually resemble people they interact with. They want something to inspire them. And that’s OK, even if it’s not what inspires me.

    While we seek to have richer characters and storylines, let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that complex characters automatically have to be flawed beyond belief. I want to read about people I care about, warts and all, but I do have to care about them. Making them “bad” for the sake of a point is just as awful as making them “good” for the same reason.

    • I agree Michelle. Church is a wonderful place and most people are trying – no matter their stage. I came to “Christian Fiction” because such is less likely to try and portray good as evil and evil as good. I have watch fellow Christians write stories too close to that edge – one that truly troubled me went so far as to have the Devil as a main character and have people telling the hero “He’s not really so bad once you get to know him.” And the people saying this were bus drivers and school teachers. Personally, Meyer’s “the Host” went too far for me because I know too much the reality of evil spirits seeking to take possession of those that let them in. I am rather offended by those books and shows that seem Christian but yet subtly mock it.

      And I agree, how can one write a book about people without beliefs. I ran smack into that myself. What about the saying “There are no atheists in a fox hole”? I say there are no atheists in the dragon’s lair either.

      I am not preachy and am not out to convert anyone with my books, but there is a god in my fantasy books and yes, he is patterned after the God I believe in. In modern culture there seems to be this idea that by censoring and scrubbing all reference to God makes something neutral. But look around – isn’t that what happened to prayer in school? Government rules? And now the Day of Prayer becomes a “Day of Reason”? Let no man fool you – for the God I know has no use for “lukewarm” that tries to be all things to all people. He does not ask us to be “neutral”.

      • I’ll use this reply button to reply to what you said below as well as to this post since the post below doesn’t have a “reply” button. This post first.

        Several things on this post:

        I’m not talking about portraying something evil as good or something good as evil. That would be a perversion. Rather, part of what I’m talking about is having a story that stretches our ability to discern the real good and the real evil. Too often we judge based on the outer surface and what we first see. Sometimes when we go a little deeper, we’re still only scratching the surface and we can be still just looking at the outward appearance and not the real inward man of the person we are viewing. How many stood in judgment over Jim Bakker when PTL and Heritage USA went under because of what happened to him? Yet how many of them know now that the verdict against him was overturned because of so many things that were wrong about the accusations and trial that was done to him? And God still worked it out for good and after being released, Jim is back in ministry and he and his wife Lori have a TV show that broadcasts out of Branson, MO.

        I don’t know about the Christian author you mentioned who had characters saying the Devil was good. You can e-mail me on Facebook and let me know who that person was and the name of their book if you don’t want to mention it here. I’d want to know how the end result of the story was, rather than just the path to get there.

        Meyer doesn’t count as a “Christian” author as far as I’m concerned. No offense to Mormon’s, but the Mormon religion is still considered as a counterfeit Christian group by most Evangelicals as far as I know which is why Mitt Romney was so controversial a candidate a while back.

        There IS a saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole. But since I’ve never been in a foxhole with anyone claiming to be an atheist, I cannot verify that statement. As such, I’ll not presume things onto characters. Indeed, just because someone finds religion in the proverbial “foxhole” doesn’t mean they find Christ. Indeed, they might convert to Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism just as well as anything else. If I write a story and the character goes into the proverbial “foxhole”, then I’ll write what happens to them realistically. I’m probably not going to be writing fantasy any time soon, but if I had religions in fantasy, there would be more than one choice just as there is in reality now and in the past most fantasy is based in.

        For the response below:

        When I mentioned “true vs. false”, I was not talking about absolute truth and absolute false. If you would follow the comments, in my blog entry I had been talking about people that call themselves Believers (whether they really are or not) that are judgmental, and used a few examples. Michelle had turned that into an “us vs. them” argument saying that I was talking about a battle between different believers and alluding that I was being judgmental toward those Believers myself. (Indeed, the time I mentioned “us vs. them” I wasn’t even talking about that, I was talking about the way I’ve seen the saved and unsaved portrayed in stereotypical fashion.) I thought I had clarified things with my distinction between the arguments of “us vs. them” and “true vs. false”, but apparently you took even that the wrong way. I’m talking about true Believers vs. false Believers, okay? And I’m not saying I’m the person to decide who that is, but typically, if the love of God isn’t shown in a person’s life, then that’s a good sign right there.

        Most of what you say after that misunderstood introduction I had to puzzle through as it was rather confusing.

        “But I believe that purity, fearless and guileless (nothing hidden or wavering) can and DOES EXIST IN A CHOICE FEW that give their whole heart and have been refined through God’s hand.”

        “They are EXTREMELY RARE, but I believe some do reach that level.”

        “On the flip side, I do believe that it is possible to give yourself COMPLETELY TO EVIL TOO – enough that no matter how much gray there may be, there is NO TRUE LIGHT LEFT.”

        “I believe that this again happens EXTREMELY RARELY.”

        So far, what I’m thinking is that you’re saying that out of all the people in the world, there are a few rare individuals out there that are acting just like Jesus and a few acting just like the Devil. Then you say something else that turns that upside down:

        “On the other hand, in the entire world at this point, there may be ONLY A HANDFUL – probably LESS THAN TEN AMONG BILLIONS OF US that are SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN.”

        So is the rarity in that people are fully good and fully evil, or is that the common thing and the rarer thing being that people are somewhere in between the two?

        If it’s the first, I highly doubt that there is really anyone that is all good or all evil. It may seem that way in some people (I haven’t found one that it seemed that way in, maybe you have), but even then I promise you that there is plenty of the other side in that person too.

        And if it’s the second, then 1) why did you suddenly change the point you were making and 2) I totally disagree that there are that many people that are sooo good or sooo evil that there would only be a few that were somewhere in between the two extremes.

        Then you say, “If I chance to meet such a person, would I know?”

        I seriously doubt it.

        For one thing, which “such a person” are you referring to? The rarity of the extremes or the rarity of the person who is in between? And which one do you consider yourself for that matter? Once you define that, then you might have a better chance of knowing.

        You’re post is really confusing to read.

        And of course gray is made from the combination of white and black. Even water when you get down to the microscopic level is still clearly two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, so what point were you trying to make talking about some piece of stipple artwork where when you get real close you can see that it’s all just a bunch of dots of either black or white? So with you’re argument, you could argue against the existence of water, and therefore the parallel of Jesus being a river of life to us. What is a river made of anyway but water? So now what is Jesus compared to in that parallel if there is now no such thing as water? Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but do you see my point?

        Ren, I’ve liked some of your other posts I’ve read elsewhere in this blog site we share as well as in the group e-mail, so don’t take this too harsh. But honestly, this was a very confusing post you wrote. Maybe you can go back and edit it some? Be at peace, and stay strong.

    • Glad to see that there are some things we agree on. On the things we don’t, I will comment on a few, but because of the depth of some of those things, I will not go into everything, but may touch on them.

      First, as far as “the package” goes, I’m not basing my observations on other people’s conclusions, so if the argument of “the package” has been used before, please don’t confuse where I’m coming from with where others may be.

      And Christ’s teachings would not have talked about abandoning the church because the church had not been formed yet since He had not died and resurrected. Also, if I or anyone else were to abandon a system that isn’t being what it claims to be, then am I not abandoning something calling itself “the church” when in actuality “the church” may be something else entirely?

      Honoring the Sabbath isn’t going to church. Honoring the Sabbath is much deeper than that and rarely done the correct way by Believers in Christ.

      “Faith without works is dead” isn’t talking about us going around doing good deeds.

      This isn’t “us vs. them” as you postulate, but rather “true vs. false”. Do not confuse the two totally different kinds of arguments.

      Shades of gray is the only way to portray reality in fiction because no one is ever how they seem. Even the most ardent Believer harbors deep sins they don’t want anyone else to know. Just look at yourself and ask yourself what you wouldn’t want anyone else to know. Doesn’t matter if you’re forgiven, it’s either a part of your daily struggle or a bomb from the past you don’t want anyone to detonate in the here and now. We all have these. And the “good” guy isn’t always so good, and the “bad” guy isn’t always so bad. And when you are writing in such a way that people who don’t share your beliefs might have the opportunity to pick up the story and read it, you have to have a detachment where your Faith doesn’t interfere with the story being told.

      For example: If I were to tell a story about a bank robbery and out of all the characters one was a Believer, unless the story is about that character and the robbery is part of the story, I’m not going to tell things from that character’s reference point or paint everyone else based on that character’s belief in God just because I happen to believe as well. Rather, I’ll have a main character, maybe the robber himself, and I’ll tell the story in such a way that it’s true to those characters. If the story is in the long run a story that is to portray my Faith in some way, I’m still not going to violate the rules of story telling to have the robber “suddenly” think about his deeds in a mentality that is more common among Christian Americans than non-Believers. I’m also not going to throw in any phrases like “Praise Jesus!” or “Glory Hallelujah!” just to have that in there. That doesn’t mean I’m against those phrases, but if used, they need to be appropriately done.

      Finally, I’m not talking about making anyone “bad” just for the sake of any point, and yes, making one “good” is just as awful. I’m just saying that we need to be as real as possible and not make everything as cut and dry as we wish things to be, but rather show the complexity of life as it really is and quit tip-toeing around when we’re writing our stories. That is all.

      • lol, I am amused by your declaration of this being about “true vs. false”, but yet human beings rarely comprehend absolute “truth”. I believe that it exists, but I’m not about to claim a perfect perception of anything – let alone truth. Everything we see is colored by our own pov. From my perspective, I do see somethings as “cut and dried”. And please don’t read me wrong when I say that I believe that for God there are cut and dried lines – otherwise justice would be a mockery on a sliding scale. However, I agree that people are so complex that they are rarely “just what they seem”. Yet, I disagree with your sentiment about how everyone is hiding something they don’t want others to know about. I think that the adversary loves us to believe that – to believe that no one is utterly trustworthy and that all have some level of dark side to them. No, I’m not saying that anyone currently this side of the resurrection is perfect. We have weakness, yes. But I believe that purity, fearless and guileless (nothing hidden or wavering) can and does exist in a choice few that give their whole heart and have been refined through God’s hand. They are extremely rare, but I believe some do reach that level. On the flip side, I do believe that it is possible to give yourself completely to evil too – enough that no matter how much gray there may be, there is no true light left. I believe that this again happens extremely rarely. So, in essence I do believe in pure good and pure evil. On the other hand, in the entire world at this point, there may be only a handful – probably less than ten among billions of us that are somewhere in between.

        I admit that this is merely my belief and is mostly theoretical. If I chance to meet such a person, would I know? Probably not for sure, unless God Himself opened my eyes or told me directly. Why? Because as I said, my perception is as flawed as my person. And if I do not trust myself to perceive such a person, how less likely would I be capable of attempting to create such a character? As human beings, we do not have that level of perception. Just as the famous artwork comprised of tiny dots, we stand at a distance and see only figures and gradient shades. I believe that what we see as gray are more likely mixed white and black dots. It is like trying to see cells and atoms with only the naked eye.

        What? Did I just declare that “gray” does not actually exist? Yes and no. Contradictive? Well, consider the psychology concept that says that if someone believes something enough, whether it’s “real” or not, to them it might as well be. A good, dramatic example are psychological ailments where it is possible for people to die from fire that does not actually exist as we perceive it. This probably isn’t the best place for such theological debate to go deeper, but I will say that I believe that we see what we are able to see – limited by our stage of development, through a lens warped by our past and colored by what we choose to see. Only a doctor with perfect sight can see clearly enough to “correct” such flaws. Until then, I may say what I believe, but who am I to say what is “true” or “false”?

  5. I whole heartly agree with you. First you can’t save anyone by telling them they are bad. You probably wouldn’t get to first base. Most non-believers don’t even want to talk about God let alone Jesus. When I thought of writing I wanted to write a purely Christian book. Then I realised that not ever my children would buy a purely Christian book. I though then to write a book answering simple Blble questions. Then God put a different thought into my heart. Why not just write a thrilling novel with pastionate romance and sutbtly promote Christion values. That has been sucessful. Exemple is the best teacher.

  6. Lol. Yep, it is a confusing post – I’ll give you that. Chalk it up to my habits of divergence as opposed to convergence. I am full of tangents just waiting to take over. I tend to more toward observation than conclusions. Sorry – it drives convergent people up the wall sometimes, like my Husband.

    My remarks about people is your first take – that majority of people are between “pure” good and “pure” evil. However I believe that it is possible that some people on earth can be refined (or corrupted) to a level I would consider “pure”, before they die. These are those I believe are rare. I will not say that they have not made mistakes or that those truly evil started out that way. I speak only of their current state of being. In that stage, I believe that those that are pure of heart and wholly good have no reason to hide their past and do not fear all things being known. I believe that someone who is willing to let the Spirit of God have full sway in their life can actually get to a point where the atonement of Christ purges the desire to sin out of their blood and they become righteous. So I speak not in terms of a persons past, but on their current state in their walk with Christ… what He has helped them to become. (1 John 3:2) You have stated already that you disagree that someone can be completely one or the other. That is fine. I have no proof of my belief in this, simply because we cannot perceive on that level.

    As to my books/fantasy world, you may have mistook me. In saying that my world has one god patterned after the God I believe in is a statement of what is – not what my characters or cultures believe. That is a totally different story.

    The book with the devil is not published as far as I’m aware. I only read a chapter or so in a critique group.

    The in the church vs. on the street debate seems odd to me. Why does it need to be one or the other? There are many reasons why I and others go to church. And yes, it is simplistic to assume that everyone who goes to church is ‘good’ and everyone who doesn’t is ‘evil.’ I think the more important question is Why? What is the point of church? In reference to some of the above comments, if your reason for going to church is to hold your place in the community, but you have no intention of letting the doctrine get under your skin and change your life and how you treat people, then yes you do end up being like the Pharisees of Christ’s day. To a certain extent you could say that is why they killed him… because like politicians afraid of not being re-elected, they feared that the doctrine of Christ threatened their position in the community. It wasn’t about worship at that point, it was about power. Yet even in a body as power hungry, politically correct, and corrupt as the Sanhedrin of Christ’s day, you find among them the honest in heart like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethia who recognized Christ for who he was.

    Another way to look at the whole ‘to church or not to church’ question is to look at life as a battle. When going to war, it is always nice to have a place to retreat to… a place where you can trust those around you to be on your team. For many people meeting together in worship fulfills this role. They share their experiences in their learning to walk with Christ and strengthen each other to go back out and ‘fight the good fight’ that week. Yes, you can also get this re-affirmation of your faith directly from the word of God, but for some the personal interaction touches them more deeply. There are many reasons why people go to Church. That is why it is wonderful that Christ who looketh on the heart is the Judge and not us. But to David’s point above, even just the exploration of why people go to church could create a more intriguing novel, because you aren’t assuming that just because all the “chickens crossed the road” that they did it for the same reason.

    I find no conflict in your water analogy and the question of whether it exists. I get the impression that you think it opposes my colors commentary, but I don’t think so. You speak of an analogy or comparison that Christ used to help the Jews – and the average person today – better understand our relationship with Him. He knew his audience well and spoke to them and to their understanding. Personally, I expect that He probably was aware of cellular/atomic substructure, if not understood it even in His mortal ministry. However, He wasn’t out to show off His intelligence, but to speak in a way that people would understand. In such an arid land, water brought life. Without it, all dies. So it is with God. To me it is much the same as His declaration that He is the Light of the World. He is the Life. Pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you say? For that principle, sure. Yet even here – so, what is light? We take it as white light – but isn’t white light actually a perfect blend of the full color spectrum? Or have we entered the age old debate of is “white” all colors, or the absence of all color? Then what is “black”?

    From my pov, the potential for speculation is vast and endless. The tangent about the black and white colors was more of a belief that many things that seem conflicting can actually be true at the same time, depending on one’s perspective and level of awareness. The most we can say we have are theories and how can your theories be any more valuable than another’s? However, I rarely engage in these sort of debates because of my instinct to diffuse. Most people feel threatened by it or are aggravated by it. They think that I am challenging them – or the existence of black and white, right and wrong or God himself. But I don’t see it that way. I believe in God and believe that there are many layers of truth, for those that are ready to perceive them. I also believe that ultimately truth does not contradict it self, even if it seems to. At those moments, I think there is the potential to perceive a higher truth which allows harmony to both when seen as God sees. I see it as an exploration of potentials and that is the value of philosophical or religious debate to me. But even so, as humans, we need the concept of black and white – right and wrong so that we can discern some level of rhyme, reason and order in the world.

    For example, if I took a glass out of my cupboard and set it on the table just as it was and asked you if it was full or empty, you could say empty and you would be right. Based on purpose of the glass and the absence of liquid, the glass is indeed regarded as empty for all intents and purposes. However, if someone said full, they too would be right. It is full of air, which we know exists, has elements, mass and all other qualifications based on scientific parameters. So both are correct answers and after a little explanation all is well. However, what do you think would happen if I did that to someone and they said empty and I informed them that they were wrong – that the glass was indeed full? Cheated – trick question! That wasn’t fair. Why? They might say something like “Because you didn’t warn me about what we were talking about.” The rules of the game are perceived to have been changed.

    I believe that if we could at this moment have our eyes suddenly opened to all God’s awareness, that to us it would seem utter chaos where He sees perfect balance. No my friend, I say do not attack simplicity of black and white, good and bad because sometimes I think it’s the best way for people to learn deeper truths. Granted, those stories may be flawed because of the author’s own limited perspective, but different types of stories fulfill different roles. Fairytales are infamous for “good” and “bad”, black and white, but they aren’t trying to portray reality. They extract and simply portray a few key values or principles. In the scriptures, even the apostles spoke of the need to start with “milk” or the simplicity of the gospel before moving on to more complicated truths just as a baby does. Some of Christ’s own parables could be called simplistic and the characters set as “good” or “bad”. He wasn’t trying to be realistic. Some of them I believe he was trying to help people discern the white from the black better among the muddled complexities of gray. So I say they have their place. Just because I don’t write that type of story doesn’t mean I can’t respect their value.

    Is that a bit more comprehendable?

  7. >>>The problem though that I have with most Christian fiction, and have to watch in my own writing too, is that as talented as some of these writers are they tend to show non-believers as if they are completely evil with no good whatsoever and even if the “good guy” or “good gal” believer messes up that it’s all right because they’re “good”; they’re going to Heaven so it makes it all right somehow.<<<

    This is annoying to be certain, but it is not a problem exclusive to Christian fiction (I don't think you're implying that it is). There are secular writers who fall into the same trap. Their villains are pure evil, and their heroes are too good to be true. It makes for rather unrealistic fiction, and suspension of disbelief will only take you so far.

    Personally, I think it is primarily a result of laziness on the part of the authors (and editors/publishers, if they allow it). I don't think it is as much a lack of talent or experience, because if they are being published, they must have at least a little of both (leaving me to lay the blame at the feet of the editors). It takes no real effort to write cardboard characters who neatly fit into such absolute categories as "good" and "evil." But writing real characters consumes much more of our resources of time and creative energy. And since publishers are clearly willing to publish low-quality literature (probably because they know readers will purchase it, regardless. Which brings up an entirely different topic), there is little incentive for these readers to improve their craft (e.g. Mercedes Lackey).

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