I am an apologist. I don’t apologize for being a Christian. I defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. The word “apologist” comes from the Greek word apologos. This word appears in the scriptures, 1 Peter 3:15-16. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” That word “reason” is apologos and it means to give evidence as if you were defending yourself in court.
When we talk about the topic of evil, we have to consider the different types of evil. Fuz Rana from Reasons to Believe states: “Philosophers and theologians recognize two kinds of evil: moral and natural. Moral evil stems from human action (or inaction in some cases). Natural evil occurs as a consequence of nature—earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, diseases, and the like.”
We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the longest running science fiction television series, Doctor Who. My daughter, Casey, got me hooked on the new Doctor Who back in 2007 and now, my entire family is hooked on Who. I decided to go back and find the original episodes of the very first Doctor Who (he has regenerated 11 times since then) in black and white on youtube. In the first episode from 1963, Barbara, a reluctant passenger on the TARDIS (the Doctor’s spaceship) is captured by cavemen when they travel back in time to early Earth. During a pivotal scene, two rival leaders of the cave people fight. Their battle is brutal as would be expected from cavemen. At the pivotal point, the winning caveman bashes the other one’s head in with a rock. A close up of Barbara fills the screen and she turns her head away from the ghastly sight.
She turns her head away. Why? Because what she is seeing is so horrific, so appalling it is beyond thought; beyond consideration. It brought to mind that many of the shows from the 1960s have key moments when someone is so horrified they cannot bear to look. They turn their face away. They deny the evidence of their own eyes!
Fast forward to to the present. When was the last time I saw someone turn their gaze away from something because it was too ghastly to consider? Rather, what I have observed in the present is the opposite. Characters stare wide eyed and enthralled by the horrific sights they see. It is as if they cannot tear their gaze away from what is before them. In fact, many of the characters in today’s shows act rather blasé or fascinated by what they see. It is as if the capacity to be appalled, shocked, horrified no longer exists. Have we become too desensitized to the macabre, the horrible, the dead?
I asked my son, Sean, (age 28) for his thoughts on growing up in a culture that can no longer be horrified. Here is his incredible response as he reflects on a growing unease he has been feeling for months:
I’ve been chasing down this unease for months, at least since Hutchmoot, but the roots go back for years, easily into my college experience. I hope it’s not as pretentious as it sounds to say that I’m sketching out my worldview, because that’s how I can best trace the steps that lead me to a response – not just to desensitization or to political bile, but to the world, our Lord and the call to discipleship.
So what, then, is the world’s great need?
I’ve seen two trends: one over the course of my adult life and one stretching further back over my 28 years here. Over the past ten years, the information infrastructure of the whole world has been transformed – practically rewritten. For the first time in history, people of similar interest or temperament can share information and connect with one another regardless of geographic, social or cultural boundaries. As information multiplies, information and communications technologies allow tribes to form around every interest imaginable. The shift is value-agnostic : it allows people to affirm and solidify one another’s views, good or terrible, mainstream or fringe.
The upshot is two-fold. First, formulated worldviews are more numerous and extensively-documented and communicated than at any other time in human history. The Meta-Narrative windshield has been smashed, and we are looking at the thousands of fractal worldviews scattered around, crash-proof enough to still be distinguishable in the mess. Second, as a result, people are more aware than ever of this mess. At least subconsciously, we all recognize this diversity and acknowledge a need for co-existence to survive.
Second, since I was a child, the dominant language of social competition, of the interplay of ideas, has grown increasingly violent, increasingly personal and increasingly polarized. Being confrontational, once a rare tactic deployed when all else had failed, is now standard political and argumentation style. We have abandoned deliberation in an arms race to do the most harm in the fewest number of words. This adversarial frame dictates that all arguments are fights, that every fight has (close to) two sides, and that one side must win by destroying its opposite.
It is not logic, but rather a perversion of it: what was once about disagreement and discovery of truth is now a border skirmish between worldviews, a war whose casualties are multiplied by our newfound globalized tribalism. Our civil discourse doesn’t resemble an agora so much as a lynching, where the mob that’s the biggest puts to death those whose identities are different. We have returned to the era of foreign wars, of colonies and dynasties and unchecked power and ambition. In the absence of a common language, our confused interchanges know only one solid verb: to kill. This limitation frames our interpersonal struggles as a zero-sum game, a war of survival: family against family, tribe against tribe; ‘her desire shall be for him but he shall rule over her.’
But Jesus’ blood can mend even this.
I’ll stop for now and leave all of us with one thought. When Jesus of Nazareth; God in man form hung upon the cross, bloodied and dying his Divine self looked out from the dimensions of heaven and beheld his Son. God was so appalled; so horrified; so shocked by what He beheld — the sins of all time; the sins and wrong doings of all mankind from Adam’s first bite of the fruit to the horror that will end it all — every wrong and bad and awful thing and He could not look upon it; could not SEE it; could not abide it and God turned his face away!
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46
Tomorrow, I will show you Sean’s answer to this question of violence in our world. If you are interested in featuring me on a radio talk show, I would love to grant an interview. I am speaking on two topics, “Why are we so fascinated with the undead?” and “Are Violent Video Games leading to Violent Behavior?” Use the contact tab to drop me an email and we’ll set something up!
This Friday at 915 A.M. join me for the “Christian Writing Conference” by Athanatos Christian Ministries “No Compromise for the King: In Pursuit of Excellence”. This conference is FREE but requires registration. I will be speaking on “Apologetics as a Foundation for Speculative Christian Fiction”. This is an adaptation of a presentation I gave back in April. In addition to the discussion of several Christian Speculative Fiction books that utilize apologetics, I will discuss the necessity of a firm foundation in the Christian faith for fiction that conveys the Christian worldview.
In addition to my discussion I would like to share a few thoughts as you prepare for the free conference on Friday.
Every story conveys a worldview.
Best selling books such as “The Shack” succeed because the author takes a slightly different angle on historical, traditional Christianity. I do not want to offend the author or readers who have enjoyed that book. However, the “doctrine” presented in “The Shack” smacks more of New Age religion than classical Christianity. I couldn’t help but wonder if the story could have used a shot of doctrinal truth. As an apologist, I cannot express how many times I have fielded questions that come directly from “The Shack”. Again, the book succeeds in bringing readers into a fascinating story and does expose the readers to some ideas from the Christian faith.
American Christians aren’t really Christian.
I would like to consider George Barna’s book, “Seven Faith Tribes of America”. In that book, Barna relates that 67% of Americans claim to be Christians. But, when Barna asked these same Americans specifically what they believe, it turns out their belief system consisted of picking and choosing bits and pieces of Christianity that fit their lifestyle. They created a “boutique” religion that does not resemble traditional Christianity. Only 16% or 1 out of 6 Americans practice what Barna describes as “committed” Christianity.
Imagination can alter our perception of Christ.
Bearing this in mind, it would seem there is a need for writers to make certain that the basic tenets of Christianity are represented in any work that labels itself “Christian” fiction. To do otherwise is to swerve dangerously close to the heresies of the “gnostic” Gospels which also strove to re-create Christianity and re-define Jesus in terms that would match their “version” of Christ. Matt Mikalatos touched on this tendency for us to create Jesus in our own imaginary image in his book, “My Imaginary Jesus”.
May the Force be with you.
Let’s face it. Today’s fiction landscape is littered with dozens of “mash up” philosophies. Spirituality is the “religion” of our time. Anything that smacks of the spiritual is fair game for inclusion in one’s own personal worldview. With relativism running rampant, one man’s religion is just as valid as another’s. What we as Christian authors must do is to avoid falling into a blurring of the lines that separate Christianity from these philosophies. I see Christian speculative fiction works embracing concepts such as dualism, that is, that good and evil are opposite and EQUAL forces in the universe. The Force took care of that one. And yet, as Christians we know that Satan is nowhere nearly equal to the power of God. Yes, he perpetrates evil. But, Satan is far from an equal but opposite force. There are numerous other examples of this blurred theology. The masters such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis managed to practice “world building” and still preserve sound foundational ideas that are uniquely Christian. We can only hope to come close to their successes!
Authors should think critically.
One aspect of apologetics that has benefitted me personally in my writing is the development of “critical thinking”. Tough questions asked by my atheist partners are the force that spurred me into seeking answers that went beyond “the Bible says it and that settles it” or “God worked miraculously in my life and He can work in yours”. By entering into the field of apologetics, I was confronted with the necessity to use sound thinking, rational discourse, and reason in answering these questions. One need look no further than Jesus’ sessions with the Pharisees or the rich young ruler. He was the Master of answering a question with a question; of divining the true intention behind the question; of turning the tables on his opponents and leaving them open mouthed and confused instead of the other way around. This ability to utilize “critical thinking skills” has become indispensable in writing a novel. By looking at plot lines from all the different angles, a novelist can creatively lead his reader down one garden path and still have the outcome, though unexpected, be totally satisfying and ultimately logical.
We should be interesting and draw people to us.
I have also noticed that as authors, we tend to be poor speakers. We would rather spend time on the written word; honing it; polishing it; editing it until it is perfect. But, place us in a live interview situation and you would think we suffered from expressive aphasia! Becoming an apologist has also allowed me to hone those speaking skills. The ability to formulate a convincing “argument” on the spot is a powerful way to gain attention from those around us. William Lane Craig in his excellent apologetic primer “On Guard” talks about this principle. He says that apologetics will ultimately make us “more interesting”. Why would we want to be more interesting? To sell more books! To gain attention for our works! To have opportunities to tell our stories! And, this leads to furthering the Kingdom, our ultimate goal.
Are YOU being asked the tough questions?
A few years back, one of the employees at the hospital at which I work committed a murder suicide of his three year old son and his wife. Everyone was devastated as the news reached our department on that horrific Tuesday morning. I knew exactly what would be happening to me. I knew that within hours, employees in my department would be knocking on my office door to ask me “the question”. They seem to have the sense that I had answers to some of life’s hard questions. I never announced that I did. But, in our casual conversations, they sensed the way I think; the way I analyze; the way that I try and point everyone back to Jesus Christ. So, when bad things happen that puzzle and confound us, they turn to the nearest person that seems to have real and truthful answers. Sure enough, the next few days saw me trying my best to answer these tough questions.
This is exactly what we do as authors. We pose questions people never thought of asking and then answer those questions in creative and compelling manners. Jesus did the same thing with His parables. We should do no less.
I challenge those of you who want to write Christian fiction to consider rounding our your foundation by studying apologetics. Look at the tab at the top of this page labeled “Apologetics”. If you go to this section, you can download a document of resources that will lead you to numerous websites and books that will become a firm foundation for sound apologetics.
Fiction is something that we make up. But, our fiction must always point to the Truth of the Gospel. How can we lead someone to Truth unless we know that Truth intimately and fully?
I am stick to my stomach!
I am repulsed beyond repulsion!
I cannot believe what I read last week.
Two medical ethicists working with an Australian university have written a post in the Journal of Medical Ethics that if abortion of a fetus is allowable, so should be the termination of a newborn.
That’s right! If you missed your chance to have an abortion, then just have the newborn killed! And, we’re not even talking about throwing babies in the fire to worship Baal!
Here is more of what they said:
“Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in ‘circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.’”
They want to change the name of such a “procedure” to “after birth abortion” instead of infanticide because it
“[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.”
You must read this article NOW at this link:
Why am I making such a big deal, other than the obvious reasons this is INSANE and WRONG?
We have seen the devaluation of human life before. When humans become mere chunks of flesh or “meat sacks” then we have lost our way as humans. We are indeed animals. No surprise here. Look what Paul said in Romans 1:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Now, I have friends who are atheists, agnostics, evolutionists, naturalists, Muslims, and Hindus. I cannot imagine a single one of them condoning the killing of a newborn because the mother and father no longer desire to raise the child. This transcends world views! This transcends philosophies and theologies. If we, as a culture, condone killing newborn babies, then we, as a culture deserve to disappear; be destroyed; be cast down and ground under like dust. The killing of newborns is NOT an act of a civilized nation. And, any thinking person MUST stand up to this! We simply must! For if we don’t, then we are no better than those who killed 6 million Jews because they were deemed “inferior”!
But in doing so, beware. To take a stand on anything implies that we have an absolute value system about that issue. It makes the statement that there are transcendent values; moral values that cannot be made or destroyed by human agency. Our Declaration of Independence labels these as “inalienable” rights. The right to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Inalienable means a right that is transcendent and beyond human control. It CANNOT be taken away!
As published Christian authors, those of us who tell the Story of Truth can help to shape and mold public opinion. Writers have for centuries represent the forefront of cultural change mostly for the worse. But, we can do the opposite. We can write blog entries, essays, emails, Tweets, and, yes, stories that champion the kind of values that our culture has lost. We can be salt and light in the world, raising the beacon of Truth to a world steeped in darkness and evil. If we don’t speak up; if we don’t put into words our outrage over such changes in society, then God will hold us accountable for every letter, every word, every paragraph that was put forth for the world to see that failed to raise the light of Jesus Christ.