The Promise of Jesse Woods Week #5

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions The Promise of Jesse Woods Week #5

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    Daeus Lamb

    Hey Guys!

    The Promise of Jesse Woods is Christian fiction. Matt is a Christian, his Dad is a pastor, theology is discussed on rare occasions. There are even snippets of sermons!

    How do you feel about the explicitly Christian elements of this story? If you think Chris Fabry pulled this off well, what made it engaging to you? Have you ever used explicitly Christian elements in your own stories and what did you learn from that experiment?

    Josiah DeGraaf

    One of the things that I really appreciate about the way that The Promise of Jesse Woods handles theological agreements is the way they feel directed at the characters as opposed to the reader. The arguments the characters used aren’t always the most theological arguments or the most powerful arguments out there. But they’re the type of arguments the characters would make–often drawn from their personal experience, expressed in their own style, and relevant to the situation at hand. The discussion between 1970s Matt & Jesse on the hill following the campfire springs to my mind as one good case study of this. The fact that the theology is directly related to the major themes of the story helps as well!

    Taylor Clogston

    This was by far the strongest part of the book for me. As Josiah said, it feels like characters are working through things pertinent to them, the plot, and the theme. Matt’s dad was at his least worst when he was legitimately trying to do good as a pastor, and even Matt was really doing his best to act righteously in accordance with (far more so as a kid) his theology.

    This is a thousand times more tolerable to me than when theology is put into a book aimed at non-Christians. I mentioned before that I wrote a short story with some fairly similar elements to this book, and in it I also have characters fairly well versed in Evangelical theology and vocabulary having discussions dealing directly with their personal theological struggles. I can’t say whether it was well-executed, but it felt real to me when I implemented it. It’s not something I would do again outside of a story for a Christian audience.

    Daeus Lamb

    I’ll add that Dickie helped a lot. Without any theological pretensions, he’d shoot down Jesse when she was in skeptic mode, but helped restrain Matt from turning into a sermonizer or debater. I think his lack of any real aggression toward either side kept the situation laid-back.


    I agree with you guys. The only thing I’d add is that I really appreciated the pacing of the characters’ spiritual growth. St. Paul kind of conversions happen of course, but the everyday way that Matt, his dad, Jesse, and even Earl, are slowly drawn closer to God and begin to see His plans is a lot closer to my friends’ and my experiences.

    Authors can try to take on too much, and I think Fabry did a great job of making this believable.

    I'm nobody, Who are you? -Emily Dickinson 뜻이 있는 곳에 길이 있다.

    Elena May

    I also appreciated how spiritual growth was incorporated as a main development in the story. At first when Mr. Lambert brought up the idea that maybe Matt’s trip was more about what’s going on with him “at the soul level”  in chapter 20 I was preparing for something cringey. But Fabry played it out really well I think. I liked the complexity we get to see in Matt’s character, and his moral and spiritual struggles felt like a realistic struggle for a pastor’s kid to go through.

    I would like to discuss his dad’s spiritual and moral struggles because some of those didn’t feel as natural to me, but I’m not sure how far we are supposed to be in the book.


    Well, I’m really late again. XD

    I agree with you guys that this book did a good job of wrestling with theological questions that felt important to the characters and story. It also didn’t shy away from asking hard questions, and didn’t force an easy, immediate answer. I also appreciated that the “bad guys” weren’t unbelievers–or wouldn’t claim to be, anyway. They’re not the stereotypical atheists of Christian movies–they’re the pastor, and elder, and an elder’s son! The fact that the book didn’t group people into simple, easily distinguished groups helped me see its arguments as honest and real. I agree with @taylor-clogston that this was the strongest part of the book. Taylor alluded to the fact that Fabry didn’t pretend he was writing this book to non-Christians. I loved all the biblical references, especially the obscure ones, that made Matt feel like a real pastor’s kid.

    Are you still up for discussing Matt’s dad some more? I think that sounds cool, and we can do it guiltlessly now that we’re on the last week.

    "...by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

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