Market, Money, Time and Faith Porn Fiction

I am in the process of writing a very fun sci-fi suspense trilogy. I call it Pogland. Fun and challenging and time-consuming (which is why I’ve been off of social media). 

If you know me, you know I have some strong views on the role theology needs to play in fiction. I came across a Christian sci-fi/fantasy: “How to write and be published” video this morning which at first I was thrilled about, but soon found to be very disturbing.

I was flabbergasted! What a role money plays in the Christian publishing industry!

Now I understand not everyone can write just to write, or write what needs to be available. Or publish just any book. Publishing comes down to the bottom line, profit.

On a secular forum board recently a writer posted that they were nervous about having to write a sex scene for the very first time. Instead of just saying nothing, I replied. I suggested that he didn’t actually need to bend to the bandwagon. If he’d never felt the need to write such a scene before, he could still write an excellent book without it. And even appeal to a larger audience because he didn’t.

As a Christian, by my comment I meant so much more. But secular fiction is moved by secular values. And he wants to write what sells.

It’s the same for “Christian” fiction. Christian fiction is moved by Christian dysfunctions.

Now it might be true that dysfunctional marriages lead Christian women to escape into “Christian” romantic fiction. But that’s not always the case. Strong Christians read and write Christian romance novels.

Francine Rivers and Redeeming Love is the epitome of Christian faith fiction. I am also especially appreciative of authors Elizabeth Maddrey and Chautona Havig‘s real-life Christianity in the context of their romance stories.

But theirs is not the common denominator in Christian fiction. The common denominator is a dummied-down nominal Christianity. That’s where the money is.

  • For people who don’t want to grow in their faith through their time in fiction.
  • For people who don’t want to be challenged in their free time.
  • For people who want only to be entertained.

 .

Dysfunctional faith leads people to escape into borderline fiction.

Dysfunctional faith will earn a writer money. Take Love Comes Softly as an example. It’s a great series, but it’s great in a “it’s not dirty” kind of way. It’s wholesome. But is that what we should be doing? Is that ALL we should be doing? 

Just writing Little House on the Prairie Christianity? Wholesome fiction, get-away, beach-reads? Escaping from this world and its duties fiction? 

Case in point, alcohol is a gift from God.

The book of Proverbs and the gospels show us that wine is a gift for man to enable them to get a buzz, a bit of euphoria. That buzz helps us get through the low times of life, through the busy, hectic times of life. I live in Europe where the view on alcohol is not burdened by the judgmentalism of the Prohibition movement.

But while alcohol is a gift from God, we see as early as Noah’s time, that getting drunk is shameful. Too much alcohol is a sin. Elders and deacons and their wives are measured by this. And their standards are our standards. Not just “if” you want to be in leadership, their standards are the bare-minimum for the mature faith.

So too much alcohol–too much of this world–is a sin. Just as too much reading or too much entertainment is a sin. If it produces nothing but entertainment, it’s overdosing on buzz.

Do I have a Bible verse to back up this rant?

Yes. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Sins of omission.

How is reading frivolous wholesome fiction a sin of omission?

Because you have not used those hours of your life for the betterment of your relationship with God, or the betterment of the world.

The two greatest commandments, upon which the Law and the Prophets rest

It’s like sleeping your life away, and while sleep is necessary, and we can even say rest is necessary, oversleeping is a waste of the most precious resource we have: Time.

On the interview I mentioned earlier, the publisher said they are not looking for books with overt Christian message, but only those with a hidden Christian message. They intend to be cross-over books. As an example, she says, read any of Christ’s parables.

We don’t want Christian words, she says, we don’t want Christian messages. No conversions. No preaching. We want…good wins over evil, and be kind to others. Oh, and werewolves and vampires are okay, as long as they are the bad guys.

I couldn’t watch the rest of the interview.

I asked my husband, why is it that they want books that do not grow the reader in their faith through fiction? Why do they want hidden faith, covert messages?

Money, he said. That’s where the money is. It’s how the market of Christian fiction has to function.

And so we come to the faith porn industry. To make money, Christians sell out message for money.

Well I suggest that when Christianity loses its message, it ceases to be Christianity. “Authors have to make a living,” they may say. So they prostitute the name of Christ, and promote a lie.

When the message is traded out for things that are universally acceptable, like “good wins over evil,” it takes the beautiful name of Christ and drags it into the dregs of common-ism. It makes light of the cross. It should cease to use the name of Christ in its label and should be honest and upfront. It is moralistic worldly wisdom. Humanism.

To use the parables of Christ as an example of how to hide the message forgets the very cut-throat effect of his parables.

  • I am the good shepherd, read the message: “I myself am Yahweh of Ezekiel 34!” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • A certain man built his house on sand, another on rock, read the message: “My words are equal to the entire Law and the Prophets, if you reject me you reject God himself.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.
  • The prodigal son looked at the pigs around him and fled home, read the message: “You religious leaders have no compassion for the lost.” This parable sorted people into two groups: lovers and haters.

.

The parables are not happy wholesome secret messages. They are cut-throat. They divide between self-righteous God-haters and trembling beggars kneeling before God. Separation filters, each of them. Sorting people. Left and right, like sheep and goats.

Yes, we need more Christian science fiction and fantasy. But not by circumcising the gospel out of it.

I’m not saying I’m the best author who knows how to do this perfectly. I am not. I tried with Trunk of Scrolls, and for what it is I think my story’s beautiful.

But I have a vision, “I have a dream,” you could say, that Christian fiction would be a way for Christians to use their down time to be entertained into new growth in their faith. New avenues they hadn’t considered. New insights into the beauty of Christ.

I know it’s not only me who talks with others about these things. Bringing Heaven’s eternal conversations into the here-and-now.

I know what it’s like to build faith in someone face to face. Can’t we make the Christian fiction industry into THAT kind of thing?

So I’m starting a list of writers whose works are not ashamed of the Christian message and promoting true Christ-loving life. Please post the names of this caliber of author below along with titles you recommend, and add a blurb about why you think this qualifies. 

Thanks! 

–Darlene


“I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” Jewel the Unicorn in C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

You Are What You Do

SEPARATING SHEEP FROM GOATS

Separation filters are things in this life that prove what you are. They are tests, opportunities, situations, scenarios that require you to take a step one way or another. The step you take shows what you are.

In Biblical Hebrew there is no distinction between the being and the doing. How we BE is WHAT we are. And we ARE what we DO. Food for thought.

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, his soul is puffed up;
it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The righteous shall live by his faith—each of these words work together to emphasize the deep point of this verse. It is so significant, it is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

1. THE

THE righteous (as opposed to those whose soul is puffed up) is the one who is humble, who trembles at His word. Not A righteous man–meaning anyone who does things that would be considered right. A pulls the point away from the covenant context.

Instead it says THE–as in the ones we have already spoken of, the ones the entire Bible is speaking of. God’s ones.

2. RIGHTEOUS

In this passage especially, the righteous refers to those who are NOT the cause of the punishment on Israel. The RIGHTEOUS is used as a noun and an adjective. The adjective represents the class of individuals. This class is known by their deeds. 

“In Western thought, we are taught to make a distinction between what a person does and who he is. However, in Hebrew, it is difficult to articulate that distinction.” (Rabbi Berger) You are what you do.

3. SHALL

This form is often used by Jesus when referring to things that will happen anyway. It is a statement, not a command. If you love me, you will keep my commands. You will certainly. See John 14:12, 23-24 compared with John 15:10–the keeping and the doing are connected with the essence of the person. As Jesus said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him [the Father].”

Shall-“used to say that something certainly will or must happen, or that you are determined that something will happen.” The separation filter pivots on this word. The righteous will be this way, sure as the sun will rise. (See above).

4. LIVE

How does one live? Shall-live is actually the Hebrew word. So what is meant by living? As seen above, living is the way we exist. What we do, in life, is what we are. How we BE is WHAT we are. Living is abiding, it is the use of our breath and heartbeat. A tree exists, and does what a tree does.

There are ultimately two kinds of people, God’s people and not-my-people. The righteous-being  and the unrighteous-being. So what of those who live righteously before men but not humbly before God? Are they righteous or unrighteous? This is where the next section comes in.

5. BY

There are many angles that can be represented with the word “by.” The agent, the method, the position, not-later-than, part of a measurement, during or within.

Agent: by VanGogh, by a thermostat

Method: by train, by herself

Position: by her side

Not later than: by five o’clock, by dinner

Measurement: ten by ten, by the hour, minute by minute

During, within, according to: by night, by nature, fine by me

So how does one live “by faith” Which kind of by?

Is faith the agent, the faith enables the living?

Is faith a method, the faith brings the person to living?

Is faith a position, the person lives next to the faith?

Is faith a goal, in that a person finishes living if he arrives at faith point?

Is faith a measurement, in that living happens from faith to faith?

Is faith a comparative measure, in that the action of living happens within the state of faith?

In Hebrew, the proposition is connected to the word faith. It is not a separate word as it is in English. So “by-his-faith” is one word.

6. BY-HIS-FAITH

Interestingly, the exact same phrase by his faith occurs only in one place in Scripture, and this is a very relevant place.

Ps 96:12-13: “let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness

Here, it’s a measure by which something is judged, and it is a state of being and a means. In Ps 96, the peoples will be judged by means of God’s faithfulness and because of God’s faithfulness.  Of Ps 96:13, Matthew Poole in his commentary writes, “With his truth; or, in his faithfulness, i.e. so as he hath promised to do. He will certainly and abundantly fulfil all God’s promises made to his people.”

Using the same implications, the righteous will live by means of their faithfulness. The righteous will live in the state of fulfilling their covenant-promises.

The righteous shall live-by-faith.

The righteous ones will most assuredly be characterized by a certain manner of faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding.

New Testament Ethics

Jesus Christ lived-the-faith God required, for me. He said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

And since he also died the death-I-deserved, for me, my faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ will count me as one of “the righteous.”

This is why Paul said that Abraham was justified by faith…

“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:3-8).

But James as well can say the seeming-opposite, that Abraham was justified by works…

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God (James 2:18-23).

The righteous are saved by their faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ.

Reformation 501: Breaking News

Reformation Day Fun

>> Both with White Horse Inn Easter Eggs <<


  1. Reformation News…Breaking

Some monk has been seen nailing a paper to a church door. Get the 411 LIve on Channel 7 News.


2. Luther, the Blue Portal, & the Pea-Green Coat Guy
by S. Nicole Bocek

Join the time travel adventure, in this serial novel:


 

 

All Hallow’s Eve

10 Free Twilight Zone Lessons on

Knowing Your Worldview

Truth basedClick Here

Halloween/Reformation Day is the perfect time to think deeply about WHAT IS TRUE, and how can we be sure about the foundations we rest our lives upon.

Students of all ages will benefit from this huge packet of worksheets based on the popular old black and white series, Twilight Zone. These lessons include episodes such as “It’s a Good Life” and “Eye of the Beholder.”

Take a look, click above to DOWNLOAD these for free. May it be a blessing, and may it draw you and your students closer to the Lord and deeper into Truth. Bible-based. This packet is being added to regularly.

A World Without Anthony

antony2We called him Anthony. People who knew him called him Tony or Antony. But for some reason our family called him Anthony. He was one of my husband’s best friends. Antony Simon was the pastor of our sister church in Jerusalem. He was always busy in evangelism and deeds of charity. Always moving. He died Monday night running across a street.

But Anthony’s death is proof that God doesn’t need us.

Everyone wants to feel needed. That they are indispensable to the world. Or that, somehow, it pleases God to need us. But that’s not true at all. He does not need a single person.

It’s a bit discouraging to realize this, but at the end of the day, it’s an essential of Christianity. God is all-sufficient. He did not create man because he needed something from them. He doesn’t need praise. He doesn’t need works. He doesn’t need our love. He doesn’t need to watch us enjoying his creation. He is perfectly satisfied without us.

In the eternal-time before time, God was perfectly content without us. And if he had never created the universe he would have continued perfectly content.

But as we always tell our kids, there’s a difference between need and want.

An artist doesn’t need to paint a single painting, and a potter does not need to spin a single pot out of clay. (Even if you think they need it for money, they don’t. They could instead plant some wheat or hunt for food and clothing.) Art is not a need, but a want. And artists want to create.

God wanted to create a universe, and to put mankind into this universe. And as the newly discovered Anthropic principle of science shows, the whole universe is set up for life to be on Earth.

The Why of him wanting MAN points to relationship.

The Almighty did not need to have a relationship with mankind. He chose to have it.

This dovetails into Anthony.

Anthony was a man who could not sit still. He was always busy about the work of the Lord. If it was in Jerusalem, he was on the streets telling nominal Christians about Christ, telling Jews about Christ, telling Muslims about Christ.

He had a method of evangelism he called “drive-by Bible distribution.” He would be driving, see someone on the side of the road, pull over, and grabbing a copy of the Bible in their language, would hand it to them and drive off before any argument. Not that he was afraid of confrontation, either. He could hold his own against all arguments. Facing off with anyone over the truths of Scripture. All for one purpose: that they would enter into a relationship with Christ.

antony3

His latest projects included regular trips to help the homeless war-stricken Syrian refugees in Iraq. He took blankets, food, supplies, Bibles and audioBibles to these people. It was on one of these trips, late Monday night 5/29/17, that he was taken home to be with the Lord. A car slapped the life out of him.

As anyone who knew him will tell you, Anthony always wanted to walk. No taxis for him. He said you meet more people when you walk, and the more people you see the more chance you have to share Christ with them. His fearless conversation starters intimidated me. Anthony’s concern for the eternal state of each individual made him disregard the walls of propriety and dive into conversation about Christ. Who knows how many people were shaken from complacency by hearing him speak of Christ’s work on the cross? It was just after refusing to take a taxi that he ran across the street and was hit by a car.

A recipient of Antony's gift
[A recipient of Antony’s gift]

I do not want to live in a world without Anthony. I hardly even knew him, but as his friend on Facebook I lived vicariously through his brave, single-minded devotion to obeying the Great Commission. I saw in Anthony the way we all should be, and used him as a personal model for what I wished I could be if I weren’t so timid.

In reading the responses of others likewise shocked by his death, I see I am not alone in feeling this way. He lived the way we all should live. What does it mean that God takes a man like Anthony?

And yet God took him, in the prime of his ministry. God took him. He didn’t need Anthony to keep doing that. Anthony was living how we all know we should be living, but God did not need that to keep going.

I find it hard to live in a world without Anthony because it means it’s not about me. God doesn’t need me to do anything. In God’s all-wise plan, good men die. 

And Anthony, though he certainly had sharp edges still, was doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with his God. No one is good but God alone, yet in Christ all our deeds are now good. But Anthony’s good works were no longer wanted by God.

So then what does this mean for me? The early death of obedient Christians teaches us one significant lesson. God doesn’t need me to be a mother. If I am not here, he will be my children’s mother. He doesn’t need me to be a wife. If I am not here, he will be the help and comfort to my husband. He doesn’t need me to be a teacher. If I am not here he will teach my children and those under my care at church. He doesn’t need me to DO anything because he is fully capable of doing it all himself.

Christ will build his Church, and neither the failures of the church nor the gates of hell can stand against that. So our failure to live with Anthony’s boldness does not hinder God.

But what of our good deeds? If they are not needed by God, why do we do them?

God does not need us, but the world needs us. As we bear others’ burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. As we go into the harvest field, his Word is scattered and the harvest is reaped. We are the Body of Christ acting on his Word to bring about what he wants. We are the means God uses to build his Church, but it is not us building that Church.

This idea could send us into a spiral of self-doubt and depression: God doesn’t need me? What am I, a pawn?

Or it can relieve us: He will build his Church, and I won’t be able to fail him. Nothing I can do can fail God!

What about you? Do you find your meaning in “helping” God? Or do you find your meaning in relationship? in being his child? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” As you BE his child, in your acts of justice, kindness and mercy, in your compassion and peace, in your praises, you are glorifying God. As you BE learning who he is, through reading it in Scripture and declaring it through prayer, you are enjoying him forever.

He doesn’t need your works. He doesn’t need you.

But you get to pour out his compassion upon a hurting world.

You get to be his tool.

You get to speak forth truth.

You get to teach and train and comfort and hold those struggling to survive this broken world.

You get to rest in knowing your God and Savior.

My husband laughed as he considered Anthony in heaven, not sitting still, probably wanting to take audio Bibles to those in hell. What is this world without Anthony?

It’s a world where the Church is still “about its Father’s business.” It’s a world that is not diminished, but brighter. His death flared up that steadfast courage into the hearts of those left behind. We are different having known Anthony. We needed Anthony.

>>  See Anthony’s Video Message here  <<

antony[Antony on his last day, waving from Erbil Iraq]

Yes, we are timid. Yes, we are not as bold as he was. But God is not disabled now. The same God will bring about his same purposes to its appointed end even through Anthony’s death. It should relieve us that God is all-sufficient to bring about his purpose.

It should enable us to open our eyes to our small corner of the world.

How can we bring honor to Christ’s name as we interact with those under our influence?

How can we make minor changes to our schedule to create more time to meet people?

How can we bravely disregard invisible walls that come between a person and their eternity?


We only have TODAY.

Remember this and stand firm,

recall it to mind, you transgressors,

remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is none like me,

declaring the end from the beginning

and from ancient times things not yet done,

saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,

and I will accomplish all my purpose….’

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have purposed, and I will do it.

Isaiah 46:8-11


Update 6/1/17 << Read Anthony’s Testimony Here >>

Update 6/2/17 (TO GIVE DONATIONS FOR HIS WIDOW & FAMILY–CLICK HERE)

Happy Thanksgiving: Are You Content?

thankfulness-creates-gratitude-which-generates-contentment-that-causes-peace-todd-stockerRemember the essence of Thankfulness:
WLC Question 146: Which is the tenth commandment?
Answer: The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

Question 147: What are the duties required in the tenth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a FULL CONTENTMENT WITH OUR OWN CONDITION, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.

from Westminster Larger Catechism

Gerstner and Trunk of Scrolls

Trunk of Scrolls is infused with John Gerstner. The questions he poses in his Handout Apologetics are the ones philosophers have been debating since the beginning. And yet, Gerstner and Trunk of Scrolls provide hope for those answers. As should be clear by the very focus of my website, “Promoting Intelligent Christianity,” it is by reasoning through things that Truth will be found.

Reason, or philosophy, was given by God as a means to find Truth, and reasoning done in the light will always find what is True. If the premises are true, and reasoning is solid, the conclusions will be correct.

This is why it is essential to teach logic and philosophy and to train children how to think through things. Trunk of Scrolls is the story of one family’s exploration of the questions that have always been here–about reality, about suffering, about God, about finding what is true. And hat-tip to Gerstner who so succinctly and amiably presented this at an accessible level. I hope that Trunk of Scrolls will likewise be for each reader an accessible, entertaining and challenging exploration of this historical pursuit.

Trunk of Scrolls available in Kindle and ePub & paperback

believebyzia2

The Persians at the GATE

The Name

Caesar Augustus, of Bethlehem Nativity fame, 15th_century_map_of_Turkey_regiondied in 14 AD, when Jesus was a teenager.

Archelaus, besides being the son in law of Herod the Great (of Nativity infamy) was also the Last King of Cappadocia. A Roman vassal, he was active in the political game, so when Caesar Augustus died, he renamed his city after the dearly departed. It thus became Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia played a great role in the growth of Christianity. During the half-century after Christ, the Apostles went to and fro on the earth, preaching and teaching and writing. The Scrolls they left behind became the Bible we have today.

The Persecutions

In the post-Apostolic times, that is, after John died in 90 AD, the next generation of church leaders went forward with the Scrolls left by the Apostles. They hid the scrolls, and they hid themselves, in caves as they faced the persecutions over the next 250 years.

64 AD

  • Nero
  • Domitian
  • Trajan
  • Hadrian
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Septimus Severus
  • Maximinus the Thracian
  • Decius
  • Valerian
  • Diocletian
  • Galerius

313 AD

With the signing of the Edict of Milan in 313 the widespread persecution of Christians ended. Then when the Arabs invaded in about 1080, it was renamed Kaisariyah, an Arabic form based on the Latin (Kaisar=Caesar, meaning emperor). And as you know, Kaiser is the German (Dutch-root) name for emperor.

Now the town is called Kayseri.

Enter the Persians

In Trunk of Scrolls, the characters have concern over the “Persians at the gate.” The Persians and Byzantines were always at odds with each other. In fact, a war broke out between the two soon after the events described in Trunk of Scrolls.

What is interesting is how the Persians won. Especially today.

A few days ago, I heard from an Iranian (Persian) believer about an Iranian Christian refugee church in Kayseri. One of several Iranian refugee churches in the town.

–>This ONE CHURCH has more Christians in it
than TOTAL Christians in many big Turkish cities.

Finding this out floored me. The Persians at the Gate.

The Byzantines slowly left the “fold.” The beginning of the end was the Schism of 1054, but even before this the Monophysite Controversy weakened them. They did not understand the significance of Church unity on the Identity of Christ, which set the stage for a weakening empire and a slipping faith.

RaviZachariasSome people say that theology is not important. They say that God doesn’t care what you believe as long as you love Jesus. Or they say that theology divides but the Spirit unifies.

In fact, the Spirit of God divides the church by his WORD. Truth and error are separated when compared with Scripture. And Scripture principles are what “theology” is in the first place.

Theology, or the “Study of God,” means knowing who God is, what He is, how He is, what He does, what He wants from us. These are all that theology is the study of.  There is a GREAT difference between the God of Persia (Zoroaster) and the God of the Bible.

The Persians got what the land of Anatolia lost.

ACTION POINT: What about YOU? Do you care to know God for Who He IS? Studying a comprehensive catechism, like the Westminster Shorter Catechism, can help you be grounded in Truth. The truth can set you free. Please share your experiences or thoughts about this in the comments below.

Review of Playing Saint, by Zachary Bartels

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Playing Saint by Zachary Bartels, which came out in 2014, gets top score in my book. As a pop Christian novel, it does an excellent job of intertwining history, intrigue, character development and theology.

The protagonist is an up-and-coming tele-evangelist called Parker Saint. In avoiding a scandal, he comes face to face with “a demanding detective, a trio of secretive Vatican operatives, and a centuries-old conspiracy to conceal a mysterious relic.” This premise is truly far-fetched. However, it is tempting enough of a premise that it pulls you in. You find out about his family background, his aspirations, his love-interest, and then comes the CSI connection and you’re hooked. It’s a fun ride. But what makes it excellent is that it is written by a pastor with a vision for the Great Commission.

Too many novels labelled as Christian fall short of true redemption. In a sense, they find resolution in a “job well done” or a “husband/wife gained.” This trend reminds me a lot of Matthew 24:27-29, where Jesus says

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Though nothing is wrong with marriage; the point of the passage is that life is more than just “doing your thing.” The main message of Christ’s ministry was “Judgment Day is coming, get right with God.” This is the very same wonderful message of Zachary Bartels’s book. The primary movement in the story centers around recognizing falsehood in your life and urgently finding Truth.

Playing Saint delves into topics that are currently leading the Church astray, particularly “Narcissistic Christianity” which is popular in tele-evangelism, and unbiblical demonology which is rampant worldwide.

I commend Zachary Bartels for using his writing platform to fulfill the universal Christian call to ministry. As it says in 1 Timothy 4:1-5:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

My teenage daughters laugh at some Christian novels that, to validate themselves, have subtitles to the effect of “an action-packed Christian thriller,” which is like telling the punchline before you get into a joke. In my opinion, the caliber of a novel will pull those phrases out of readers. There is a definite need for suspense novels for Christians. After a hard day’s work, we sometimes need to escape into fiction. But also there is a definite call for ratcheting-up the quality of those Christian novels to meet the spiritual hunger and confusion of modern-day Christians. Meat. Perspective. Instruction in righteousness. Exhortation and comfort.

Hollywood and the pulp-fiction market shovel out adventure and romance that spins Narcissistic Hedonism as the end-all to aspire for. When you read a novel or watch a movie, brain cells called “mirror neurons” physically cause you to have empathy, and enable you to live vicariously through the lives of the characters you are reading about or watching. This is a scary thing if a reader is not cautious about the “in-portal” to their mirror neurons.

Our moments on earth are limited. When we choose to be entertained for the hours it takes to read a book, we are submitting our minds to be shaped by some author or another. What will happen depends on that author’s values and worldview. But if we carefully choose our “teachers,” we can become better after our time in that book. Especially when the writer’s message is Christ’s message, Paul’s message, John’s message. This is what makes Playing Saint so refreshing.

Thank you, Zachary Bartels, for doing for Christian fiction what we hope more writers will do. I look forward to reading The Last Con, because I know I will be a better Christian after reading it. You recognize your responsibility to me.

update 2/2019 (See review of We Hope for Better Things, by Erin Bartels, the wife of Zachary Bartels)