f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Problem of Talking About God: Day 2

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Problem of Talking About God: Day 2

You can tell from the comments that not everyone agrees that we need language to talk about faith. God is the same forever so the words spoken two thousand years ago are just as valid today as they were then. Simple plain words have been changing people’s hearts forever. After all, it isn’t the words themselves that have the power. There is no incantation eloquent enough to win a soul on its own. God need enter the picture.

I agree. But part of me can’t help but feel that it’s a bit of a cop out, too. “Who cares how I proclaim the Gospel as long as I do so?”

The problem is with fiction writing you’ve specifically chosen a medium where language and communication aren’t secondary to the message—they are on equal footing with the message. Or is that a bit of blasphemy?

I don’t necessarily want to go down the old, “Message driven vs. craft driven fiction path.” It’s been trod bare. We all know where we stand.

Instead I want to take a slightly different look at what’s going on in Christian fiction by looking at our intent in writing.

To me there are three main reasons you would choose to write Christian fiction. (And possibly a fourth.) All are valid. Two, I think, can be considered slightly “higher” in their aim. But I have no quarrels with any of these.

1. Entertainment – This one should be self-explanatory. There are books that are written to bring pleasure to readers. The goal is to engage, but not necessarily to challenge. These can be a wide variety of genres. That tend to be undervalued and underappreciated, particularly by those of us on literary pedestals. Writing a novel that is successful at entertaining broadly is not an easy thing.

2. Evangelistic – The second kind of book is written specifically with non-believers in mind. Personally, I think any book that contains a conversion sequence is intrinsically evangelistic. These are the CBA books that seem to get the worst rap from all fields…but at its core can you argue with its intent? Can you even argue with the fruit that these books have long borne? Souls are won through Christian fiction. Through Left Behind and Janette Oke. Through Marilynne Robinson and Leif Enger.

3. Doctrinal – It’s perhaps not the right word, but I mean to convey that some Christian fiction, rather than focusing outward, instead turns its intentions on the church itself. The goal here IS to challenge. The Christian life—not the sake of the soul—is what’s at stake. It’s a slightly newer breed, but (from my viewpoint) seems to be growing.

(4. Worship – I think you can write a book solely in worship of God. But whether any of these have been published, I’m not sure. I think the writing is the most important thing.)

Tomorrow we’re going to look at #2 and #3 and discuss the issue of language and “God talk” when approaching these two different intentions.

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Go to Day 3 of the Problem of Talking About God.