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?