f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: On a Scale of 1 to 10 – Answers or Questions

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, October 08, 2004

On a Scale of 1 to 10 – Answers or Questions

I was thinking a lot about this topic on a recent trip out east as I reread Lying Awake. I really, really, really, like that book. Even more the second time through. And part of what I so appreciated about it was that Salzman let me draw my own conclusions about Sister John of the Cross and her faith.

When I got back I really wanted to launch into a week about how I think that’s the point of novels. Letting readers draw their own conclusions. I wanted to argue that, too often, CBA novels have answers, even whispered, at the ready for readers to discover like Easter eggs. And ABA novels, too. The DaVinci Code and Left Behind are one-in-the-same to me. A single perspective put forth without balance or examination.

I wanted to draw a comparison to standing philosophies on evangelism. There is a camp that feels that street-corner evangelism, four-spiritual laws conversion is the way to go. There’s a second camp that says we need to focus more on tuning ourselves to Christ, becoming like Him, because people will be more deeply changed by drawing conclusions themselves about faith from our example. What we say—the answers we offer—they mean nothing if our lives don’t back them up.

Where do you folks stand on this issue?

Are you writing God’s answers for (insert hope, joy, grace, salvation) into your books or are you writing a story that invites a reader to—I think as someone said on the discussion board—see through another’s perspective, if only for 350 pages. Do you think God calls us, sometimes, to write his answers? Or is that merely propaganda?

The reason I never moved forward with the discussion is because, frankly, I felt like I’d be arguing out of both sides of my mouth. On the one hand I deeply believe in the power of the novel to teach through the lives of its characters rather than the lessons of its authors. On the other, it seems that we have to be able to intentionally incorporate Christian themes into our books without being accused of propaganda.

Where’s the line for you? What side are you on?