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An argument — Christian stories don't just happen

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  • #72280
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @taylorclogston Well, I do think the Bible tells us why to live in addition to how to live, but I am fine with open-ended questions. For instance, I’m considering someday writing a Christ-era biblical novel or maybe a musical which asks the question “who is Jesus?” without answering it. Of course, I think the events of the gospels naturally support the truth, but I won’t be explicit about it. My goal would be simply to help people realize that deciding who Jesus was is the most important question they could ever ask. I think if I can get people to study this question for themselves, I’ve done a lot.

    However, I’m sure you know that sometimes no answer is an answer. I think I personally made this mistake. At least, I think it could have been taken that way. I feel like, unless reader understood a somewhat mysterious and poetic paragraph I wrote, they could have come away with the idea that I was saying the meaning of life is a mystery but just keep trying anyway because that’s just what heroes do. Now, that wasn’t what I was trying to say, but through ignorance and some degree of spiritual apathy, I believe that particular story turned out thematically weak.

    As for Christian stories being set apart, I’ve always thought that what sets them apart is the worldview that leaks through. Cleanliness and respect can be part of that, imo, but I don’t think every Christian story needs to be “clean”. The Christian novels that don’t appeal to me are the ones that could have easily been written by a moral atheist. If a story could have easily been written by a moral atheist, does it really glorify God? Maybe a little just because nature itself points to God, but I don’t see how it could glorify Him very much.


    @theinconceivable1
    Sure. This may be helpful. Also, (and this is once again stealing an Andrew Murray quote I can’t find) I doubt it would surprise you to find in a love letter the words: “I think of you always”. The words do not mean the writer only thinks of their fiancé and nothing else, but that they cannot get their fiancé out of their mind. They are always consciously aware of the one they love, bring other thoughts into the captivity of that thought, and of course consciously thinking about their lover too. I think this is a good analogy of abiding.


    @hope-ann
    Yes, I’d have to agree.

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    #72310
    theinconceivable1
    @theinconceivable1

    @daeus-lamb: um, well I would disagree. You see I would argue “I think of you always” is a figure of speech when, in reality, what the mean is “I think of you often” You can only have one consous train of thought in your mind at one time (eg, you can’t do math and write simaltaionsly… well, unless your writing math but that’s beside the point XD) I would agrue you can be  “always subconsciously aware of the one they love, bring other thoughts into the captivity of that thought, and of course subconsciously thinking about their lover too.” but not consciously thinking of eachother all the time.

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

    #72450
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @theinconceivable1 I just happened to look at your tag and saw you were an INTJ and grinned.

    I guess you’re right. I was trying to aim for a balance when I said ‘consciously aware’ because I think some people have the idea that the subconscious is this thing you’re not aware of, but then (in my mind) being aware of something isn’t the same as having propositional thoughts about it.

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    #72463
    theinconceivable1
    @theinconceivable1

    @daeus-lamb: “I just happened to look at your tag and saw you were an INTJ and grinned.” I’m going to take that as a compliment XD (what type are you BTW?)

    “I was trying to aim for a balance when I said ‘consciously aware’ because I think some people have the idea that the subconscious is this thing you’re not aware of, but then (in my mind) being aware of something isn’t the same as having propositional thoughts about it.”

    Ok cool! so, would you say that ‘conscious awareness’ your talking about actually acts, in reality, like, I dont know, a mission statement? For instance, when your writing, you may not be ‘consciously aware’ of your relationship with the Father in the act of writing but as soon as you run across an issue or whatever and stop to think, your conscious thoughts imidatly go to your relationship and that acts as a standard or blueprint upon which you base your writing. I think that seems like a good analogy. So your conscious thoughts may be devoted to the task at hand (so, say were building a house and, IDK, your pounding in a nail) but you are alwase mindful of the blueprint, of the purpose of your action, and the reason behind your actions. Thats what I think you mean so correct me if I’m wrong : D

     

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

    #72473
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @h-jones Okay, there’s probably more I could say on this, but I’m going to put a stake in the ground and describe several ways I try to glorify God through my writing. I’m looking forward to hearing what others have to say!

    1. As I mentioned above, I believe the Christian worldview should bleed through in Christian stories. I wrote about this some a while ago in this article: https://kingdompen.org/the-sheer-awfulness-of-christianity/ In addition, I think some ways Christian stories should stand out include: respect for the dignity of human life and the weakness and helplessness of man (i.e. man is not good enough to save himself or his society)
    2. I firmly believe that the stories that ring true and cut deep are the stories that reflect reality the most accurately. What do I mean by that? I mean reality as a whole, yeah I’m talking about worldview here. And I firmly believe that reality is theocentric. If a story does not point to God, I think that story is either a simple story or a lie. Now, I do believe it is perfectly fine if a story does not mention God, but that is not the same thing. The book of Esther never mentions God but it definitely points to him. I will not say I have a perfect formula for how to write books that don’t mention God but do point to him, but I will say that I think a story that does not point to God inevitably points to man. If you ever think you may be promoting humanism through your stories, that’s when you need to seriously evaluate you and your story.
    3. Personally, I tend to have a gospel focus to my stories. I do not think it’s wrong if you don’t, but it’s so important, so why not? One way to do this is through allegory or symbolism (we could talk for a long time about that, lol). Another way is to have a Christian character who understands and believes the gospel, but struggles with how the gospel impacts his life. This could easily get cliché, but it can also be done brilliantly. Finally, you can have the gospel presented in your novel. This is the easiest to screw up. A while ago, I wrote down the one and only way I know of it can be done well. I’ll copy and paste that below.
    4. I LOVE WRITING DESCRIPTIONS. Metaphors are my daily snacks. One of my personal goals is to surprise readers with the ordinary. By taking a regular item or situation and making it magical, I think I’m just reflecting reality and pointing to the design and glory of God’s creation.
    5. I also believe understanding how theme works helps me glorify God through my stories better. The Theme Mastery course is really worth it, y’all.
    6. Last but not least, you gotta have the right attitude. If you craft your themes with a superior attitude, it’s gonna show and nobody’s gonna care what you have to say. I like to write about things I struggle with. I think it helps.

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    #72474
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    I just copied this directly from my script. This is a small excerpt of a mini-course I made.

    “This talk about how to make moral points is great and all, but what if I want to write explicitly Christian stories? How can I share the Gospel in fiction?”? If you asked this question, I want you to know that it shows that you are a seriously bright student. It show’s you understand the limits of poetic justice. (SLIDE) You see, the gospel’s not an issue of morality, it’s an issue of truth. In other words, it’s not an issue of how a person acts, but of what they believe. Think about it this way. It would be hard to use poetic justice to show that people should believe in the existence of pluto, right? In order to convince people that pluto exists, you have to use arguments and logic. Similarly, we can’t just use poetic justice to show that people should believe in the gospel, there has to be some sort of argument. This poses a dilemma. Like I’ve said, readers don’t care what we think, so how do we convey an argument in a way that seems entirely natural, almost as if we weren’t even trying to make the point? Does that sound hard or does that sound hard? It sounds impossible at first, but thankfully, it isn’t. (SLIDE) The answer is actually pretty simple. We use argument, but we only use it to pose a question. We don’t actually answer that question through argument. Instead, we answer it through an example. If you’re head’s spinning right now wondering what. In. the. World. I mean by that, let me provide an example. Let’s say we have this unbeliever who won’t accept the gospel because he can’t understand how God would send anyone to hell and he thinks his sin will be ignored when he dies. What we’ll do is start with some sort of argument for the gospel. This isn’t us as the author making an argument, it is an argument by one or more of our characters. There are two ways this could work: 1 The unbeliever himself could admit that he’s drawn to portions of the gospel, but won’t accept it because of his belief that God won’t punish sin. 2 Someone else could try to convince our unbeliever to believe the gospel, but the unbeliever rejects it because of his belief that his sin will be ignored. Now, our urge as truth enthusiastic Christians is going to be to weight the argument on truth’s side — to try to convince our reader through logic — but we must. Not. do. That. Remember, we need to show which side is true through example, otherwise we’ll come across preachy and nobody likes that. What we actually want to do is show both sides as equally persuasive. So, how do we make our point? Well, first, let’s do a quick recap. Our unbeliever’s only reason for denying the gospel is because he doesn’t believe God will send him to hell. If we could change that one belief, then his whole worldview would change. Thus, if we can just attack this one belief through example, then our argument for the gospel is the only thing left standing. (SLIDE) What real life encounter might change the unbeliever’s position? Well, I suppose there might be multiple answers, but let’s just say he encountered a case of human depravity and in the midst of his emotions concludes that if he were God he would damn the offenders. Personally, I think that’s too blunt though, so we should be more subtle. I might have him think that no punishment would be too bad for such people and leave the obvious conclusion to itself, but that’s not the main point. The point is that we have used a real life encounter to show that the character’s lie was wrong, leaving nothing remaining but the truth. Isn’t that cool? We set up two equally persuasive sides to an argument and then used real life to show which one was right. There’s nothing preachy or pushy about real life. You can expand this principle to show other truths as well such as the existence of God, the certainty of mortality, or the fallenness of man. Also, keep in mind that it’s okay for your character to have more than one reason for why he doesn’t believe a certain truth, but you’ll just need to use more examples to show why all his objections are faulty.

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    #72895
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @theinconceivable1 That’s probably a pretty good summary. For clarity, I might add that abiding means more than having good reasons for everything you do, but surrendering the emotions so that we desire to do nothing but to let God’s life flow through us every moment.

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    #72897
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    @daeus-lamb

    I am WAAAY late to this conversation, and I both agree and disagree with the statement “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.”

    Here’s why:

    I DISAGREE because you can’t ‘drift’  or ‘coast’ into a God glorifying anything. If you are drifting or coasting as a Christian, your life as well as your writing will contain sketchy or incorrect theology at best, and at worst will be directly opposed to the Gospel.

    However, I also AGREE because a Christian author who is already living an intentionally God-glorifying life in every other area will find that their faith and beliefs filter into everything they do, including what they write.

    I am probably splitting hairs and fussing with semantics, but my main disagreement here, I think, is with the implication that only truly committed Christians can write God honoring stories. There are musicians, artists, preachers, and teachers who write, sing, and teach things that are theologically and Biblically correct, but their lives are far from connected to Christ. People are drawn into true worship, learn Biblical truths, and genuinely commit their lives to Christ through the voice or pen of a person who is completely lost.

    And – conversely – there are committed Christians who do and write things that are far from God honoring things. They turn people away from Christ with words and or actions that might or might not be intentional.

    My point is – If you judge the work or the person simply based on whether or not the work is Biblically sound or clearly presents the gospel, you could come to the wrong conclusion.

    In my humble opinion, God is much less concerned (but not at all unconcerned!) with the work being created than He is with the heart and motive of the one creating it. Now – Before you label me a complete heretic, let me remind you of what I said when I disagreed with the original post.

    “I DISAGREE because you can’t ‘drift’  or ‘coast’ into a God glorifying anything.”

    If you are already living a life that is intentional about glorifying God in not just your writing, but also in every other area of your life – your motive will be to bring glory to God in everything you do, which means your worldview, your beliefs, and Biblical truths will bleed into your writing, because that is the theme of your life – not just your writing. Making sure those truths are solid and accurate may take a bit more intentionality and research, but in general the premise and content will be in line with a life lived for Christ. The rewards for such motives are eternal!

    Those who are not living a God fearing, God honoring life can still produce God honoring things, but they will receive no eternal reward for them. Their reward will be the money, fame, and applause they gain here, though in the end, they will be the ones to whom Jesus says, “I never knew you.”

    I tried to read through most of the thread, and may have missed the entire point of the discussion…it does happen often enough. If so, please disregard my wandering off topic.

     

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #72902
    theinconceivable1
    @theinconceivable1

    @daeus-lamb: “For clarity, I might add that abiding means more than having good reasons for everything you do, but surrendering the emotions so that we desire to do nothing but to let God’s life flow through us every moment.” depending what exactly you mean by ‘surrendering emotions’ then I think we agree! I think were pretty much on the same page then and thats good for me!

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

    #72927
    Jane Maree
    @jane-maree

    I didn’t have time to read over everything already said, so I’m sorry if I’m rehashing anything. I just had this niggling thought here that I wanted to add to the conversation.

     

    If your heart truly is the Lord’s. If your desire is to know him more every hour of every day. If you know how deep you are in sin, but know that your Saviour is sanctifying you little by little. If you know that it’s by his grace that you have every breath and every moment. If your gaze is fixed on the founder and perfecter of our faith…

    I think it’s impossible for this sort of Christian to not write something that glorifies God, whether or not they consciously sat down and thought “I have to make sure this glorifies God”, because literally every breath is to glorify God.

    So maybe you’re right in that you should worry about how to write a story that glorifies God. But I think the second half of the advice still rings true. For a true Christian. “[…]if you’re a Christian, you can’t help but express your love for the God you know.”

    That’s what it should be as a Christian. You should be so in love with Jesus that you want to tell everyone, no matter how far out of your comfort zone that takes you. You should have a yearning for the lost, a fire to share God’s love.

     

    Maybe what I’m trying to say (note that this isn’t directed at anyone in particular, it’s just my thoughts) is that…if your writing isn’t glorifying God, maybe there’s a bigger issue that you need to be worried about. Forget writing — is your daily life glorifying God? Are you worshiping him daily in your speech and actions?

     

    That’s just my slightly rambly thoughts on the topic. Jane out. 😉

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au

    #73874
    Northerner
    @northerner

    @daeus-lamb, “sometimes no answer is an answer”. Yes! Otherwise known as Till We Have Faces and A Grief Observed. Often this is life — often we don’t get the answers until near the end, if then — and it’s so, so important to acknowledge that and not brush it off as flippancy. Often no answer *is* the answer. At least if you want to have a book of a manageable size. I’ve found it encouraging at times where I’m afraid I’ve lost the answer: it’s okay, you can hold on even without the answer — look, C. S. Lewis did it, for one. And then eventually the answer will come.

    By the way, I saw your question about the INTP’s song and I wondered are you still looking for thoughts? Because I have quite a few on what it means to be an INTP but I don’t want to dump them on you if the song’s past the feedback point.

     


    @jane-maree
    , a lot of “Christian Fiction” of the preachy insipid kind is written by people who are “committed Christians” and who desire nothing more than to glorify God. . . that doesn’t mean they have any kind of skill in writing. They mean well, they have the right “heart”, you could say, but the techne is lacking to bring the reality of their book up to the ideal (no doubt good) they had for it. Or their education in the art of writing has been so limited or warped that the best they can do is a sugar-sweet romance with an allegory tacked on and a sermon thrown in for good measure. These books do not move or challenge or enlighten in any deep way — do they glorify God? I very much doubt it.

    #73889
    Jane Maree
    @jane-maree

    @northerner Ah, yep, I agree with that take on it. My thoughts were based around a Christian writer who has been gifted with a skill for words and a passion for stories as well as their King. 😉

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au

    #73892
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @mlbolangerauthor @jane-maree Yes, those are good nuances you’re taking. I guess it’s a good rule, just applied the wrong way. Like, you don’t say, I’m a Christian so my work is obviously going to be God-glorifying, but you look at your writing and ask, “What does this show me about my Christian walk?”

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    #73893
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @northerner Yeah, I was thinking about reorganizing it some anyway, so send me any thoughts you have!

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    #73894
    Northerner
    @northerner

    @Daeus-lamb Right-o! Where would be the best place?

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