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An argument — Christian stories don't just happen

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  • #72030
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Hey guys,

    There’s a common piece of advice for Christian writers I hear thrown around now and again. It basically states that you shouldn’t worry too much about how to write a story that glorifies God because if you’re a Christian you can’t help but express your love for the God you know.

    Recently, this advice hasn’t settled with me so well. Today, I finally figured out why it feels wrong to me. I’d like to present an argument for why I think this advice is misleading and if there are any gaps in my logic, I’d appreciate you pointing them out!

    Point #1: Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

    Specifically, focus on that last line. Jesus, of course, is speaking here to his disciples. He is not speaking to those who do not know him, but to those who do. Even saved people may be, in a sense, “without Jesus”. This is why we are instructed not to walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit. If we do walk according to the flesh, what benefit can we have for the Kingdom? Jesus says none.

    Point #2: Christians are too self-assured in their walk with God. It is easy for us, for instance, to think that because we read our Bible every day we must be abiding in Christ. This, however, is not the imagery of the vine. A branch that spends 1hr a day in the vine is pretty much dead. The sap of a branch is like our oxygen. We should be breathing in the breath (Spirit) of God every moment of our lives. To abide completely, we must be unceasingly conscious of God and our relationship with him.

    The Bible gives us some tests to see if we are perfectly abiding.

    John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

    Unfortunately, most Christians do not really expect God to answer their prayers, and this is a sign they do not abide in him and his word very much.

    1 John 3:6 “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”

    Of course, in the context of the whole book, John is not arguing that Christians never sin, but it is true that whoever abides in the perfect vine perfectly will be perfect on the merits of the vine that gives him life. Our constant sins should be a reminder to us that we do not abide in Christ as we ought.

    Point #3: This does not mean however that you have to be perfect to do anything for the Kingdom of God. It is simply a call to throw off complacency. There is a warning to those who are complacent.

    Revelation 3:15-18 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—”

    Point #4: I believe most Christians will understand knowing that God wants them to share some hard truth with someone, and then wimping out. I have done this several times and if I can do it in real life, can I not also quench the Spirit in my fiction?

    Point #5: Christian works of fiction should generally be recognizable from secular works of fiction (even clean secular fiction, I think), even if it is not explicitly Christian fiction.

    Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

    Point #6: If Christian works of fiction should generally be recognizable from secular works of fiction, then the distinctions being apparent, we should be able to state these distinctions in categorical terms, meaning we do not need to rely solely on the promptings of our heart for what we should write, but can analyze these promptings objectively to see if they are good and true.

    Point #7: While I feel fairly confident that most every story I have written has been God-glorifying and worth reading, I can think of one novel I wrote I am glad I did not publish. While I would not call it morally relativistic, it did touch on some of the great existential questions of life without, I think, providing solid enough answers. The worldview was perhaps too open to interpretation. Also, it was slightly cliche and I feel if I ask a reader for hours of their time I should give them something more worthwhile.

    Point #8: I have read works of allegedly Christian fiction I found to have little or no substance and I would probably serve myself better by reading Whinee the Pooh. These works shall remain unnamed.

    Thoughts?

    @taylor-clogston @josiah @r-m-archer @hope-ann @mlbolangerauthor @brandon-miller @rolena-hatfield @wordsmith

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    #72033
    Ariel Ashira
    @ashira

    @daeus-lamb Wow, Daeus, that really hit home!  “A branch that spends 1hr a day in the vine is pretty much dead.” I really like that line!  It is very easy for me to try to glorify God with my stories, while I kinda forget about Him in every other area of life.

    "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

    #72040
    The Fledgling Artist
    @the-fledgling-artist

    I’ve come to a similar conclusion myself. Though even so, hearing your thoughts is still a challenge and a reminder that all I do should be fully and completely for God’s glory.

    Something I hear a lot is that people write fiction that isn’t overtly christian in order to reach a non-christian audience. And for a while that made sense to me. But maybe the reason the non-christian crowd isn’t reading christian fiction, is because there isn’t anything worth the read for them.

    "Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."

    #72041
    Alabama Rose
    @bama-rose

    @daeus-lamb

    So true. I need to remind myself that I can’t just have a little time with God and then go the rest of my day forgetting about Him. He needs to be on our minds with everything we do. That’s so hard!!

    Courage, dear heart ~ Aslan

    #72053
    PursueWisdom
    @pursuewisdom

    @daeus-lamb

    Love this! Thank you very much!!

    "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." ~Th.Jefferson

    #72110
    Hedges
    @h-jones

    I actually really enjoyed reading this and it has given me a lot to think about in regards to the work of fiction I’m currently writing. That’s pretty dang awesome. 😀 I’d like to think a little more on everything you wrote, but yeah the logic seems sound to me. Which should be a great person, because we all know I am the most logical of persons, am I right???? #sarcasm

    The only thing I’d say is, this does raise an issue of how exactly to keep God centered in everything you write, for those of us who would like for God to be present in our works but aren’t exactly sure how to go about it (*coughmeeeecough*).

    As for the piece of advice you’re rebutting itself, I always took it as “Christian” meaning “one who wants to live for Christ.” If you really want to live for Christ, then I feel like you’d study and love God and really want your work to reflect who He is. But then again, I want God in my works, and I still have a hard time accurately portraying Him a lot of times because I actually followed this piece of advice you’re talking about for a long time. xD So now I’m rethinking my whole theology.

    So those are my tidbits lol 8D k thx bye

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Hedges.

    Married a blacksmith, and now frequently uses his knowledge for writing fantasy.

    #72130
    EricaWordsmith
    @ericawordsmith

    @daeus-lamb

    I haven’t heard that argument before (that we shouldn’t worry too much about glorifying God through writing, it just flows), and unless you are a Corrie Ten Boom or someone else who has suffered greatly for Christ, I think that is a really dumb thing to say.

    I was actually ranting about some of this yesterday (to the confusion and befuddling of my siblings who had no earthly idea what I was jabbering about and wanted me to be quiet [the kitchen sink has become on occasion a podium from which I throw all sorts of ideas from]).

    O.K. so my thoughts on that… One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is which Christian books have been most impacting to me and what was it that made them so impacting and distinguished from clean secular and other “Christian” fiction (I’m thinking of fantasy especially). The biggest things that stood out to me were these two:

    1. The book made me think about God in a new light, helping me to see him a little better for who he is.

    2. Hope.

    I don’t think either of these things are natural to my writing, or me as a person. I think like you said (and one of my favorite points on the Manifesto) is that I need to be abiding in Christ and spending time in his word, that’s when real power comes out of my writing. Yet even so, I’ve grown up in a Christian family, I know what to say, I know exactly what “a good little Christian girl” ought to look like around my circles. Yet if my heart is not right with God, what does it matter? There is no real power in me, only hypocrisy.

    I was thinking about this in regards to music, as I am a very musical person and especially since I started cello this week. I’ve been praying that I would glorify God as I learn to play cello, but as I thought about it, what does that mean? Does that mean that only hymns and other music that talks about God is glorifying to him, should I even play classical music if that is the case? I decided it comes down to the heart. My heart needs to be turned towards God, and as I play, I thank him for the ability to play, for the cello I’m playing, for the calluses growing on my fingertips. My heart should be one of gratefulness and praise to God no matter what I’m playing, then there is power in my music. Yes, I should play music that others will hear and know that it speaks of God, and yes, I should use much discretion in the music that I play, music is powerful. Yet if I were to play Amazing Grace with a heart that only seeks to wow my audience and bring glory to myself, I am not doing what I was made to do. This mindset doesn’t come naturally, I think that glorifying God in music is much harder than just opening up a hymnal and playing away, I have to spend time with God, and all throughout the day I need to remember that this is how I should view my entire life.

    I believe this is the same concept goes with writing. If I’m writing something to impress the Christian crowd and bring glory to myself as a writer, then I’m not writing anything but vain words. I think I used to do this a lot with characters who were perfect little Christians and always had an answer for everything. They almost didn’t need God. I think recognizing that I need God desperately and every other person on this planet needs him helps me to realize that it’s not me as an author or my characters who have answers, God is the answer, and my writing should be aimed first to glorify God, but also to start a thirst in my readers for him, which is number two: hope.

    I think recognizing that my heart is born turned against God helps me to understand that even as I’m learning more about him, my writing will not automatically come out to glorify him, it will come out wanting to glorify myself. Just as learning to glorify him in every area of my life not just by deed but by heart, I think writing is no different.

    I think like anything, growing as an author who writes God-glorifying words, I think that I can know how to make it sounds good, but to know how to make it powerful, that takes much more work. It’s slow work to first get my heart in the right place and ask God to help me know what to write, your point one, I wholeheartedly agree with that. I can do nothing to glorify him that matters for eternity without him. I have to switch my entire mindset to be able to do this, and that just takes time.

    Lastly, I also agree with point #3. Lukewarm… utter hatred. Give me hot or cold, but not the middle, it’s disgusting. I hate lukewarm “Christian” fiction. I won’t touch most of the fiction section in the Christian bookstore with a stick (especially the fiction fare for gals, it is disgusting… at least to me it is). Nothing glorifying to God except for a little inspirational quote here and there, maybe a Bible verse, maybe a sweet little prayer when things are at the climax. Whatever. I am more impacted by characters the fall, are broken, mess up, then are redeemed. When God (or whatever symbolizes God in the story) is the underlying current and the solution, not just the P.S. he was helpful in this story, that is when there is power. I think specifically of the Wingfeather Saga  right now, partially because I think it’s a great example and partly because I just finished it this morning and am still in pieces.

    Loved the last point!! XD Amen, hallelujah, let him be heard, this is true. I need to make a quote out of that… This is why I hate the vast majority Christian romance novels and would rather sit on a fencepost in the middle of nowhere than read one of those stupid things.

    Anyway, there goes my rant. I’ve been thinking about some of this lately… Thanks for putting up your thoughts on this topic, I think that they were well thought out and very important. 🙂

    Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!

    #72150
    Violet
    @pookiemonster

    @daeus-lamb   I’ve actually never heard of that piece of advice before (you shouldn’t worry too much about how to write a story that glorifies God because if you’re a Christian you can’t help but express your love for the God you know.)

    It doesn’t sound like advise a christian would give? Basically write without thinking of how (or if) it will affect the heart of man, because God will make your writing…Perfect?? That doesn’t make much sense.

    I really liked that one line, “A branch that spends 1hr a day in the vine is pretty much dead.” That was wonderfully illustrated . I know I, like many others, need to remember to integrate Christ in every aspect of our day, not just when it’s convenient.

    Just remember to... Trust in God, Stay Safe, and Eat Doughnuts 🍩🍩

    #72156
    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)
    @thewirelessblade

    Honestly, I feel like I still have a LOT to learn about being a Christian. I’ll need plenty of help as well.

    Point #4: I believe most Christians will understand knowing that God wants them to share some hard truth with someone, and then wimping out. I have done this several times and if I can do it in real life, can I not also quench the Spirit in my fiction?

    Answer: In all seriousness, you really shouldn’t. It’s hard, I very much agree. But I think that it’d probably be easier to share in writing then in actual contact. At least, it SHOULD be. (emphasis aimed at self)

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    #72172
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @h-jones Ah, we should definitely talk about how to glorify God in our writing! (@ericawordsmith already made some great points.) I’ll be back. 😉


    @ericawordsmith
    Ouch, yeah, that’s a good point. Along with struggling to focus on glorying God, I can say I’ve been focused on glorifying myself before.

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    #72173
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @thewirelessblade Oh, I get the sense you might have interpreted that differently than I intended. I was trying to say that it would be my natural inclination to leave God-glorifying material out of my writing, not that I should actually do so.

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    #72175
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    I disagree with your conclusion, but I promise I’m doing so in good faith =P

    Most of our discussion hinges on what makes storytelling different to other, ordinary actions. I believe-and I think most of you do, too–that art drives culture. What we write is meaningful. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to pay more attention to the work we do as writing than to the work we do in more mundane areas.

    And I agree that complacency is dangerous, and that we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to just write meaningless or harmful things. I know very well I could make a lot of money writing in a few genres that are either artistically devoid or are immoral. Purely for the sake of the promise I make to the Lord to live for Him (regardless of how well I actually do in that, ever) I don’t write in those genres, and strive to make great things, because sub-creation is an aspect of being made in God’s image.

    I’m with you through point four, but I don’t know how much I agree on point five. Maybe. I dunno. I don’t think Christians should revel in vulgar things, for certain. We might just have personal disagreements on how “clean” we believe to be appropriate =P I’m gonna kind of lump point six into this also.

    I disagree with your reasoning for point seven. I think catharsis relies almost purely on the knowledge that we are not alone and that other people feel the same way that we do. I believe open-ended questions are far more powerful than closed answers for this. If a person is speaking from the heart, that is meaningful and powerful and worth reading in and of itself, regardless if they have a proper worldview or whether I agree with them. If they are a Christian sharing their very human struggles, then ten and a hundred thousand times better!

    We all know the Bible’s simple answers to every one of life’s problems. That just tells us how to live, not why to live. Knowing that we’re not alone in this wretched little twist of time and space existing for no other reason than to spawn more of our ideology and then go to our eternal reward is far more powerful than an open and shut morality story could ever hope to be.

    *cough* In my humble opinion =P

    As for point eight, it’s sad because it’s true.

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #72224
    theinconceivable1
    @theinconceivable1

    @daeus-lamb: Hey-o, comming in a little late here but I thought it was pretty good but I would like to challenge this sentence proposed in point 2 “To abide completely, we must be unceasingly conscious of God and our relationship with him.” To be ‘unceasingly conscious’ means ‘to be thinking about God constantly’ does it not? Yet, even as you read this sentence, you are not cousciously thinking about God. What you propose is, at least in my view, impossible. If you could explain this to me that would be great : D

    INTJ- trying to grow into real wisdom; James 3:17

    #72244
    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)
    @thewirelessblade

    @daeus-lamb

    Okay, I get it now. Thank you. (Suddenly gets super clue on hands)

    NONONONONONO! (Tries rubbing it off. Fails.) Now I have super clue on my hands. (That happened while I was typing. I’m not joking.)

    *Forum Signature here*

    #72245
    Hope Ann
    @hope-ann

    @daeus-lamb *pops in real quick* It seems like a very sound argument. Now, writing consciously doesn’t mean we’re writing overtly Christian stories. The themes might still be subtle and background. But I think any story will be stronger for a conscious thought process and point.

    The main thing about your ‘argument’ that struck me is that I’ve heard it in regards to how a Christian should live. ‘If you’re a Christian, light will shine through you. No need to go out of your way to talk about it all the time’. I don’t have any complete thoughts on how your argument couples with this idea as well, but it’s something I’ll be mulling over. Because just like a person should be conscious of their faith as they write, so they should be conscious of it as they live, even if every action isn’t an ‘overt, shove a track in your face’ type of thing.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

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