f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Problems with Non-CBA Christian Fiction

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Problems with Non-CBA Christian Fiction

So, I’m hoping to summarize the critique that non-CBA Christian fiction has often received from folks within CBA. Remember this isn’t me speaking. It’s my coalescing of the overall prevailing criticism that I’ve seen or heard over the years.

If I’ve missed some, feel free to add them. (I added one Wednesday morning.)

1. Such books and/or authors are too wrapped in earthly standards of “good” writing rather than caring about eternal impact.

2. We’re ignoring the Bible’s command to watch out for the weaker brother. When our fictional characters act inappropriately, it may serve as a stumbling block to others.

3. We are ignoring the Bible’s command to focus on whatever is pure, lovely, or admirable when we depict acts of sin, use coarse language, or otherwise cross established CBA boundaries.

4. We’re watering down the Gospel. The world is full of naysayers. This is a time to lift up God’s word, not cloak it in characters who doubt and struggle.

5. We’re ignoring storytelling and plotting for well-crafted sentences and plots that readers don’t care about.

6. We’re willfully ignoring the reading desires of an established group of readers.

7. Every time a boundary is pushed, that’s just one more foothold the world/the Devil has in an otherwise godly industry. Those that promote it may unwittingly (or intentionally) be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

8. Often explore, sympathetically, theological viewpoints or traditions (i.e. Catholic, Orthodox, Quaker, even Pentecostal) that don't seem to meet evangelical standards of "Christianity."

I think that’s most of them.

Frankly, these arguments don’t get voiced very often. Every once in a while someone like Reed Arvin or Andy Crouch or PW comes along and voices a public opinion that criticizes CBA fiction and these are the more popular retorts. Otherwise, there’s no “group” at which to aim complaints.

That’s changing a bit now. More and more voices are expressing a willingness to at least explore the notion of change in CBA. And within CBA, there’s now such a variety of writers across the spectrum that opinions vary wildly about what the future of Christian fiction should and will be.
The debate seems to be gaining momentum. I hope it’s not merely polarizing people on the issue. Given a debate, the easy answer is to simply choose a side and dig a trench.

Some of these critiques are incredibly valid, however. And so how does the “edgy” writer address them? Such answers are the key to the next phase of conversation.