f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Problem with Talking About God: Day 1

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

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Problem with Talking About God: Day 1

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not listening closely enough. But, after having been in the church for thirty years—the last fourteen of which I’ve paid attention—I’d say that I don’t often hear that much new from the church.

Sure, we go in waves. Obscure guys like Jabez get their day. Or Narnia-mania gets us all talking about “safe lions.” But for the most part, the language and vocabulary of faith is rather limited. We spend a lot of time reworking plowed ground.

This came to me a bit back when I was reading your conversion stories. I read 75 in a row. No two were the same. And yet very few were…different. Please, in no way, should anyone take that as an insult. It’s a simple fact of what we’re facing.

Nearly everything important about faith and grace and the Gospel has been said before. We’re merely repeating it.

In reading the conversion stories, I began to see interesting parallels between “conversion dialogues” and chess. I’m teaching my daughter to play chess and since I don’t really know how to play, I’m learning along with her. I’ve been studying chess openings lately and to me, they are analogous to the logical parries and thrust at the heart of most witnessing.

For instance: the King’s Pawn Opening and Center Counter Defense = “Jesus was a great teacher” opinion and the “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” defense.

Just as a skilled chessman plays countless games and knows how to counter each gambit and move, so do evangelicals hold onto strong answers to the most common complaints against Christianity. In fact we even had a ready answer to those who ask us if we need to have a ready answer. Right? Isn’t 1 Peter 3:15 our admonition?

Which brings us to the first paradox that makes writing Christian fiction so complicated.

We need to approach faith with new words because it’s all been said before. Except we’re not writing for believers. We want non-believers to read our work—for whom it HASN’T been said before. Except, for the most part, our work is being read inside the church by people who are taking comfort in the message they accept. And therefore we should approach faith with new words. Because it’s all been said before.

We'll pick up here tomorrow.

(Thanks again for not abandoning ship during the great silence of early ’06.)

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Go to Day 2 of The Problem With Talking About God.