Beliefs in Writing

I have no stomach for debate. I don’t have the energy or type of personality to get into an escalated ‘conversation’ that inevitablity devolves into at least one party trying to trick the other party into looking dumb. Or just raising their voice and sometimes to add flavor, swearing, because obviously whoever talks the loudest or uses the lowest kind of language must be right.

Ahem, I realize not all debates end up like that, but generally, that is not the kind of potential stress I want to add to my day.

There is one lady though, who I genuinely enjoy and appreciate debating with. She challenges me to explain what I mean, and listens to what I have to say and makes it very clear she isn’t just waiting for her turn to shoot me down. She firmly defends her stance from a point of *why* she believes what she believes, not a ‘you are stupid because…’ Whenever I leave after having a conversation with her I feel like I’ve learned something, grown in my understanding of an issue, and generally just have my day made.

A few months ago she challenged me with this question: “All that we do should be to bring glory to God and advance His kingdom. How do you justify writing secular fiction?”

I had an answer, as it was a question (in a different form) I had struggled through and came to a conclusion when it was clear I would finish writing Worlds Collide. I was knee deep in Bible College and deeply convicted that I was not qualified to write a faith system that involved another world and our own. Christ came to save sinners in *our* world, how would you take a fictional setting that takes place in both our world and another planet and place the gospel in it without being disrespectful? I chose for that storyline that I would not address the issue at all.

This topic of being a believer and an artist who is not creating traditional Christian art is one I’ve been thinking over alot. Some have convictions that if you are a believer, your work of fiction should have a clear gospel presentation. And if that is your conviction- write your story that way and make it the best story you can. Unfortunately, so often those stories have the gospel jammed in to make it appear as an after thought and the entire structure and quality of the overall story shatters around it. Who are you going to reach with a shattered story? The only people who will read those stories and take it serious are other believers. AKA- ‘preaching to the choir.’

I came across this quote that stunned me in it’s simplicity and I believe really gets this point across:

“God didn’t print Bible verses on flower petals. The beauty of those petals points to God without an explicit declaration of the plan of salvation. So it is with the art that Christians make. The beauty their art embodies points to God, even if John 3:16 isn’t written on the canvas.” Source

What makes One Realm Beyond exceptional is Donita K Paul’s use of bringing her faith and belief and the church into her writing, without spelling it out for the reader. I am almost finished reading Charity Bishop’s Thornwicke and she also does an amazing job of showing faith without a step by step gospel presentation.

To finish up, I think the Christian artist/writer should have their faith and belief shine through their work. Write the best story you can write, paint the best picture you can. Give God glory by being the best artist you can be.

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8 comments

  1. Ironically, I was JUST thinking about this yesterday, because an old Christian author I used to read growing up turned up in a favorite romances list for her new book. I read a bunch of reviews about it just for fun and the common theme was “she’s too preachy” and “there’s too many Bible verses in this novel!” I thought, “What a shame!”

    My books, as you’re finding out, don’t go with that approach. The faith is in the threads of the story, not a hammer that pounds the audience. I like subtlety — and if I do attack a difficult topic, it’s not to teach others, it’s to learn myself. I learn best when writing, when learning hard lessons with the characters. I don’t quite fit in anywhere because the religious undercurrent doesn’t make my books flat out secular, but the lack of direct religion doesn’t make them Christian fiction, either.

    I think Christians should be the best they can be, at whatever art they choose; that they should strive not to preach, but to let their faith shine out through their writing. That they shouldn’t force a message, but let God spill it out through their fingertips. And as you said, even if it isn’t overt, it’s still there, painted into every brushstroke.

    On a minor note, I think it is okay and not disrespectful to put God in anything and anywhere. I’d tell you where he turns up in Thornewicke but… that might spoil the surprise. It’s not all that glamorous, but it makes my point! 🙂

    1. More books set in that world — yes, many more. More books with those specific characters? Only as secondary characters in other books. Lena turns up in “The Secret in Belfast” (along with Father Byron…); characters from that are in the book I’m working on now. 🙂

      1. Mostly the same as you. 🙂 I do believe that Christians should reflect their beliefs in their writing. I don’t think, however, that it must entail preaching, characters that are just about perfect, or having no problems or sin in the plot lines. Biblical truth can be conveyed in other ways…oftentimes much more effectively. I like how you mentioned having it thread throughout the story. And, as you said, I believe that there is a great need for skilled Christian authors. Just about anyone can put words on a page….but there are few truly skilled authors, in my opinion. I think that Christians should seek to do their best and excel in this field.

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