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What does it look like for God to be alive in your story?

Forums Fiction Themes What does it look like for God to be alive in your story?

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  • #31047
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Hi friends,

    With the forum launch and all, I thought it would be fun to kick this thing off with a big, giant, serious topic that weighs like 2,000 lb.

    Seriously, you’ll love it.

    So what does it look like for God to be alive in your story?

    I hope you know what I mean like this. When God is alive in a story, you feel a powerful sense of purpose to the story. When he is not alive in a story, no matter how awesome the character arcs and how solid the morals, this subtle sense of purposelessness lurks around the corner.

    For reference, if any of you have read this, Cry The Beloved Country is probably the #1 novel I’ve read where God felt alive in it.

    So, being the perfect gentleman that I am, I wanted to shove this overwhelmingly massive question down your throat and see what you come up with.

    What does it look like for God to be alive in a story? How can we make sure that God is alive in our stories?

    😀
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    👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢

    #31048
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @elizabeth @ethryndal @emma-starr @HappyHolly_C @josiah @kate-flournoy @toklaham-veruzia

    Hey, please tag anyone I missed. I hardly know anyone’s tags yet!

    😀
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    #31051
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Ha. Ha. Thanks, Daeus, for once again reminding me of how little I know about my novel.

    *cries*

    *goes off to cry and outline*

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #31080
    Holly Clarise
    @happyholly_c

    Wow… you weren’t kidding about the weight of this! I have to admit that I’m not sure how I could even come close to answering that. You have given me something to think about for sure.

    I will say though, that I see God come alive in a story when there are truths, conversations, etc. that are in line with what the Bible says about Who God is and what He does. Sometimes I think what the story is specifically about can have an effect on how real God seems to be in the book. As I think about it, for me, reading stories where there is more violence, but a good moral at the end throws me off on how alive God is. I don’t know if that makes sense or not.

    Looking forward to hearing what the rest have to say!

    I am an ENFP writer 🥳 "Adventure is out there!"

    #31103

    @daeus-lamb Whenever I see God alive in a book, usually I feel a strong sense of hope in the storyline. That being said, when I read a book by an atheist author I’m often overwhelmed with the lack of purpose and hope represented.  There seems to be no overarching aim–no higher purpose. God does work through unbelievers at times though, so I will not say that God will never be “alive” in an unbeliever’s book. J.R.R. Tolkien is a great example to me God living in a story in my opinion. His books don’t mention God, but they carry a strong ambiance of it to where you know that God is alive in the story.  A well-written book should leave you inspired to live your life in a more worshipful and God-glorifying manner. It should cause you to ponder your understanding of the world and challenge you with new ways of seeing the truth. It should have an overarching sense of hope. A story with these qualities almost always gives me a strong sense of God.

    Spreading God's love until I can see seven billion smiles. 🙂 https://sevenbillionsmiles.home.blog

    #31154

    I do want to say that I haven’t researched the subject, and what I said is just my current view. This subject is very interesting to me, so I’ll have to investigate my theological sources. *wiggles eyebrows*

    Do any of you all know of any theologians speaking about this off the top of your heads? (Rushdoony?)

    Spreading God's love until I can see seven billion smiles. 🙂 https://sevenbillionsmiles.home.blog

    #31238

    @Daeus-Lamb *cracks knuckles*

    Three things.

    The existence of God is a given. There is assumed, consciously or not, by all characters good or bad in the story, to be an all knowing and all powerful being who directs destiny, rewards right, and punishes wrong. This relieves both the writer and the reader of the burden of ‘proving’ God’s existence, and leaves them free to immerse themselves in the conflicts and questions of the story.

    The world is not black and white. This may seem contradictory, since the idea is to make God shine out clear and strong, but this is actually a very good thing. By reflecting life as complicated, confusing, and morally challenging as it is, we give our characters (and through them, our readers) a struggle. But a struggle for what? To thrive. To emerge. To become. Readers admire and relate to a character the most for trying. Watching them struggle and learn makes the reader hope that there is something worth struggling for; something higher to hope for and to try to attain. @Emma-starr, I think this is what you were talking about with your strong sense of hope. 😉

    The existence of God as director of destiny is reinforced. For you students of theme, this is poetic justice. Characters are punished and rewarded according to their actions. God is shown in both mercy and justice— as both a comforter and a judge. Too many Christians try to fit Him into a pretty box tied up with white crepe paper and ribbon. Yes, absolutely God is love— but He is also vengeance. Seeing the characters they love suffer and thrive as a direct result of their different actions will make the reader care a great deal about who it is that determines destiny, and why right is right and wrong is wrong.

    There. My three cents. XD *sips elvish tea*

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #31286
    K.M. Small
    @morreafirebird

    @daeus-lamb I guess it would be cheating if I just say that @kate answered this question so well that I can’t come up with anything new to say 😛

    So…

    I think God is alive in a story when there is an acknowledgment of good and evil and the true consequences of them. Even if He isn’t explicitly mentioned, like in LotR, there’s a clear sense of good and evil. However, that doesn’t mean that everything has an easy answer and an easy solution; there are gray areas as well. There are times when the characters are suffering and questioning God’s goodness and why they are suffering, despite how they believe they are “good people.” As Kate mentioned, poetic justice plays a huge part in this and leaves the reader with a feeling that everyone got exactly what they needed in the end, which instills a sense of hope and awe. I think the most powerful Christian stories are the ones where God isn’t dumbed down to what we want to believe He is, but instead portrayed exactly as He is, which can be difficult to accomplish.

     

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    #31360
    Olivia Giordano
    @livgiordano

    @daeus-lamb Thanks for throwing this onto to us. XD. But it’s seriously a really good thing to think through.

    Like @emma-starr said, in those books or movies, where God is not in it at all, even if the story is really well done, it’s so empty. Everyone is just living for themselves, and there’s no higher aim in life. It’s so worthless to live if God is not a part of it. For  that reason, I can’t really enjoy well-done movies, like Captain America or the Greatest Showman (please don’t freak out guys!) because there’s really no point to them except putting man on display. Yes, they might have some good morals, but without God, what’s the point, really?

    I think @kate described it so well, but here’s my two cents:

    1. The purpose of the story is to put God’s glory on display. It’s not man centered. If everything is about yourself, there’s really no purpose. But when the characters (or at least some of them) have a higher aim, to bring glory to their King, it brings so much more depth to it all.

    2. The characters turn to God in their brokenness instead of themselves. There’s hope, as believers! In ourselves, we’re never going to be able to fix our problems. People who are not Christians have zero hope. Who can they turn to but themselves?

    3. They are flawed and broken, but yet, know that’s okay. In secular stories, I think the people try to say that they’re “good enough” in themselves, but no one is “good enough”. That’s the difference. Christians don’t have to be ashamed of not having it all together, because of the One they serve. He took their place. Their worth comes from Christ alone, not themselves.

    ISFJ / Poet / Realistic Fiction / TCK
    https://livforhim.wordpress.com/

    #31361

    @morreafirebird @livgiordano great thoughts girls.

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #31410

    @kate Yes, that was exactly what I was trying to get out. I totally agree with you in all that you said–couldn’t be put better. 🙂

    Spreading God's love until I can see seven billion smiles. 🙂 https://sevenbillionsmiles.home.blog

    #31446
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @happyholly_c @emma-starr @morreafirebird @livgiordano @kate

    I love these thoughts!!!

    Now you’re really turning the heat up on me because it’s going to be hard to come up with more things you haven’t already come up with, but here are some thoughts.

    I think, even with a Christian author, the aliveness of God is largely dependent on the disposition of the author. As Christians, we should always have our eyes fixed on God. This is our highest aim–seeking His face. When we seek to know God, it becomes a spiritual craving and we are propelled forward by questions we cannot answer. I think that when we are sprinting down this journey, God becomes very alive in our writing because of the patterns in which our brains are operating, but if we are contentedly mozying around, I think that makes God seem stagnant. This probably relates to what you were saying about the world not being all black and white, Kate.

    I’m also very interested in what you said, @happyholly_c, about violence turning you off because I know exactly what you mean. Now, for me at least, I love action and adventure and don’t think action is necessarily bad in a story. So what is it that sometimes makes violence depressing? Perhaps it is presented in a morally relativist light?

    Oh, here’s another one — God feels alive when there is an understanding (implicit or explicit) that Humans possess eternal souls.

    Okay, here’s another question for you all: how much do you think the percentage of the cast which is Christian affects the aliveness of God? Can you think of stories with large Christian casts where God wasn’t very alive or stories with no Christians or only a scene or two with a Christian where God felt alive throughout the novel? Regardless, do you think having at least some Christians in your cast is important, and if so why?

    😀
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    #31452
    K.M. Small
    @morreafirebird

    @daeus-lamb my brain is hurting like I’m doing Algebra, but I like this, so I’ll try to answer these questions XD

    I think God can be alive in a novel even if only one character is Christian–it’s going to have to be a character with amazingly authentic and strong faith, but they would be able to carry the entire Christian side of the story. I can think of novels that were largely “Christian” but where God felt like a plot device or merely a Name, not an actual Person. I’ve yet to encounter a story where Christians are only present in a scene or two yet God is alive, other than Narnia and LotR. I’m not sure stories like that can even exist, as for God to be alive in a story there must be an acknowledgment of eternity and good and evil. Therefore, I do think it’s important to have Christian characters in the cast, or at least characters who properly view God.

    But, like you mentioned, it doesn’t matter how many “good Christians” you put in a novel, or how much you display right and wrong and the consequences–if the writer is not in love with God and striving to deepen his or her faith, God will not come alive in a story. As one of my favorite authors said, a story isn’t written by talent, but by Grace. So no matter how well we end up writing, if we are not seeking to glorify God and point others to Him in our work, there is no way that He is going to come alive in our stories.

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    #31454
    Lady Iliara
    @lady-iliara

    @daeus This is a tricky question to answer because, for me, as a writer, I’ve just come up with cool story ideas and I’m not writing for a specific purpose or to a certain set of readers, only for myself. But I want to begin to consider such things as I get better at writing and such. So here’s my thoughts.

    I feel like the power of a story lies in its ability to inspire and to draw people’s gaze above the everyday for a short time. I feel like it’s in that moment when people think, “Wow, yes, that’s so true” or “I want to be like that” that they are more open to God’s influence on their lives.

    So to me, God is alive in a story when the story points people beyond the surface and leaves them thoughtful and wondering. Even if God is not specifically mentioned—or the characters aren’t “Christian,” per se, but just characters in a world of my own making—I think our stories can have a godly influence and open the door to further understanding of God.

    In fact, I feel like doors are a really good metaphor here. The process of people coming to God is a series of doors opening, and each time they learn a little more and wonder a little more and begin to see Him clearer. For most people, you can’t just say “You should become a Christian.” They won’t listen. You have to guide them, gently, slowly, listening to them and understanding their mindset and working with that. And eventually they’ll come to the Door that leads to salvation. 🙂

    I guess in summary, I feel like stories are a way to witness to the world. (It’s one of the reasons I want to become an actor as well as a writer.)

    ENFJ, Aethasian, and chocolate-Pringle-nerd-blob of epic. Greet at your own risk. *trips on a rock*

    #31503
    Sarah Baran
    @ethryndal

    Shamefully, I don’t think I’ve ever pondered this until now. Glad you decided to start off this forum with a bang, @Daeus, because this is interesting stuff.

    Something I think is a very important factor here is that we can’t make God come alive in our writing unless He has come alive to us as well. It’s one thing to know the formula and check things off the list while trying to write compelling Christianity, but if our personal foundation isn’t strong, it’s not going to be strong in our story either. God will be forced into the vapid stereotype of “God is love, God is peace” with nothing terribly earth-shattering or thought-provoking to challenge the reader, because we as the writer don’t know ourselves.

    INTJ ➸ https://thesarcasticelf.wordpress.com/

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