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

Bible Quotes for Writers

Purpose for Writing: The Glory of God

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:1-4**

Gospels & Acts

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“’Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.'”  Luke 12:22-31

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

NT Epistles

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”  Ephesians 6:7

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12:12-13

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5**

OT Psalms & Proverbs

“I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”  Psalm 16:3

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

“The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all.”  Psalm 34:19

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”  Psalm 37:23-24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

The words of the mouth are deep waters,
but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”  Proverbs 18:4

OT, Pentateuch, Historical & Prophetical**

“The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”  Deuteronomy 28:12

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8**

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow ofmy hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16**

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.’” Jeremiah 30:2** 


What do the Scriptures principally teach? The Scriptures principally teach what Man is to believe regarding God and what duty God requires of Man.
Ultimately, the Word of God is the Bible alone. To be pleasing to God, any outflow of this (life, writing, or ministry) must conform strictly to the Biblical worldview and teachings.

**Exegetical note: BEWARE:

Spreading the gospel–which God has given–by means of our writing is a valid application of these verses. But…

Thinking that our writing in itself IS the “word of God” is a dangerous heresy. The only Word from God is the Truth of Scripture. Likewise, the truth of our words must match the integrity of our life, the gospel lived out of faithful living. As we teach, so must we live.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Ezekiel 33:31

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:21

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. Psalm 49:3 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Christian Dragons & Fairies & Droids, Oh My!

Magical Creativity in Christian Fiction

A Christian Approach to Alternate Reality Stories


Recently, I was asked on Quora about Christian use of magic and alternate reality in fiction. After thinking about it for a while, I wrote to a guru on the topic, Steve Laube.

Steve began Enclave Publishing to build credibility for a uniquely Christian spin to the popular but strikingly non-Christian realm of speculative fiction.

“Enclave is a place where authors and fans of Christian Fantasy and Christian Science Fiction can come together and then go out and make a difference through worlds of words. Our stories can seem strange but underneath they contain powerful expressions of Redemption, Truth, and Hope.” (Enclave’s vision)

In a series of emails this spring, I was able to glean from Steve an insightful perspective on using speculative worlds in Christian fiction.

With his permission, I have pulled together his answers here. I hope his words can encourage and inspire other Christian writers in their pursuit of promoting intelligent Christianity in the medium of fantasy, sci-fi and speculative fiction.


Steve, I would really appreciate hearing your perspective on Christianity and fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian fiction. I notice you are specific that the books you publish are “Christian.”

Do you have a list of guidelines you use or do you “wing it” and take each story in its own world? In other words, how do you make sure you are honoring God in what you are promoting/publishing when it comes to alternate realities, be it sci-fi or fantasy or dystopia?

  • What is the principle you use as you assess novels for legitimacy firstly as a representation of Christianity and secondly in the Christian fiction market?

You’ve asked a loaded question, to be sure. It is one we’ve worked through for a long time.

I’m often asked “What makes Enclave books Christian? After all you have a book (Knife) where the main character is a Fairy!”

My answer is “The author does.” Our authors write out of a deep Christian worldview.


I think most people would agree that “if there is a creator God” referred to in a story, it would be heretical to change him and his ways.

So Tolkien, for example, changed the laws of his universe so he had NO God referred to. It became generic good vs evil.

Lewis, on the other hand, had Aslan (and the Emperor over the Seas) whose character matched the biblical God though with different manifestation.

  • So how does Enclave approach the use of God in an alternate reality?

The challenge with science fiction and fantasy is that Jesus simply does not “show up” in natural conversations. However, the characters wrestle with faith (the Fairy worships “The Great Gardener” for example) in creative situations. It is how they redeem those situations that point to our Faith as real and life-changing.

Kathy Tyers’ FIREBIRD series, for example is set in a universe where Jesus has not yet come the first time, and yet humanity has spread through the stars. There is a planet where a people live who believe that a Messiah will come through the line and lineage of their king. So, how can that be a Christian novel when there hasn’t been a Jesus yet? The author does it though the power of her story telling and exploring how God reveals Himself. (Book five is the Messiah novel, in case you are interested.)

See our interview with R.J. Anderson, the author of Knife.


In your interview, RJ mentions that Christian publishers were initially reluctant to publish her Christian “fairy” story. Even your name Enclave hints to the friction from within and without.

It seems that up to this century Christians have been afraid to touch the fantastical genres. Yet you have taken this on as a personal project. I’m sure most believers are afraid of challenging the prohibition of magic in Scripture, so of course this is probably the most critical subject.

  • How do you weigh the use of magic in light of God’s absolute prohibition of this in Scripture?

I’ve been involved in this type of storytelling in some form or fashion for over 20 years. I’m quite comfortable with the conversation. In Fantasy there is the device of “magic” in many forms. In Sharon Hinck‘s Deliverer series it is found in Music. In Gillian Bronte Adams‘ series it is in the power of Song. In Lindsey Franklin‘s book, Story Peddler, it is in the power of story telling.

You mention that the Bible prohibits magic. That is a simple way to put it, but the context of each prohibition needs to be reviewed. Below is the text of an article from Marshall Shelley, a conservative leader/writer who has been a part of Christianity Today magazine for a long time. It may help clarify a balanced approach to the subject.

//Sorcery is condemned in the Bible (Leviticus 19:26), but I don’t believe God is against card tricks, illusions, special effects, or the other elements of a magician’s show. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading fictional fantasy stories about boys and girls with superpowers or magic wands (yeah, you know who I mean). After all, if you’re going to avoid all depictions of magic, you’ll have to avoid the Bible because it includes stories about people who practiced magic and sorcery. And in the Bible, not all magicians are viewed as evil.

Remember the three wise men of the Christmas story who brought gifts to baby Jesus? They were Magi. Historically, Magi weren’t known for pulling rabbits out of hats, but they were a part of a long line of consultants to kings who worshiped various gods, practiced the occult, studied the stars, foretold the future, interpreted dreams, and probably experimented with spells, potions and elixirs.

Then around 600 B.C., the Old Testament prophet Daniel was put in charge of the Magi of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). That’s when there was a noticeable shift in how the Magi of Babylon worked. They operated more like a priestly order, became monotheistic (worshiped one God), and even sacrificed animals for their sin. Daniel no doubt turned them to depend upon God for their powers.

So while sorcery is condemned by the Bible, not all the magicians in the Bible are “bad guys.” The difference? The three wise men bowed before Jesus, and Daniel was clear that he could interpret dreams by God’s power, not his.

What the Bible warns against is interacting with powers of the spirit world without God being a part of it.

God outright forbids worshiping other deities (goddess worship, animism), using divination (fortune-telling, psychics, tarot cards, numerology), interpreting omens (astrology, horoscopes), consulting mediums (channeling spirits, contacting the dead), and practicing witchcraft (spell-casting, shamanism).

The Bible wouldn’t warn against these things (Deuteronomy 18:10) if their dangers weren’t real. So what’s wrong with them? Two things.

First, contacting evil spirits places us under the influence of the Evil One. Remember, Lucifer is known as “the father of lies.” This means he usually makes things look harmless or fun—for a while. And fortune-telling, curses and horoscopes can seem harmless at first. But the longer we dabble in Lucifer’s laboratory, the more likely it will affect our faith and thinking.

Second, a deeper danger is your motivation for dabbling in such things. Doing magic tricks like “the disappearing coin” may be just a fun way to entertain your friends, but people who get into real sorcery do it to exercise power over other people, to influence them to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise, or to get knowledge that isn’t humanly available.

This is what God forbids. In fact, the Bible tells about one sorcerer named Simon, who was willing to pay cash to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24). But the apostle Peter saw through to his motivation, and harshly condemned him for trying to use the good side of the spirit world to gain control over others.

Only God has the right to enter another person’s heart and mind and soul. When a person tries to do that, it’s another way of trying to become like God, which is the sin that got Lucifer kicked out of heaven in the first place.// Marshall Shelley

His best quote is this “What the Bible warns against is interacting with powers of the spirit world without God being a part of it.Therefore I have no problem depicting magic in our novels. If it is used for evil we make that crystal clear (like the white witch in Narnia). If it is for good (like Aslan in Narnia) that is crystal clear.

I did a youtube video which explains it in a different way: 



Two of my favorite quotes from your Youtube video say:

“I happen to believe that science fiction and fantasy is the one genre of all genres in fiction that reflect the creativity of God.”

and

Fairies, animals that talk, time travel, using “things of that nature is one of the most incredible opportunities for those who write science fiction and fantasy to express the creativity of God.”

  • Which writers do you think express this creativity especially well?

As a literary agent I have the privilege of representing some of the finest authors in the Christian market who write this type of book, some of whom also now write for Enclave. Check out Lisa Bergren, Chuck Black, Patrick Carr, Ronie Kendig, Kathy Tyers, Sharon Hinck, Gillian Bronte Adams, Morgan Busse, Nadine Brandes,Karen Hancock, etc.

Thank you to Steve Laube for his very helpful and inspirational answers. We would love to hear your comments below.

To Please the People

retro-1480621_1280At what point should a writer write to please the people,
and at what point should a writer write what should be said?

A lively discussion on this topic was recently on Steve Laube agency’s “What’s Wrong with my Book” blog post by Tamela Hancock Murray. The wise recommendation was made to not defy the market’s unwritten codes.

“…write by the most conservative standards. No smoking, drinking, cursing, sexy double meanings, overemphasis on physical features and pleasures, and so forth. If it helps, imagine writing for your very strict grandmother or an aunt who’s easily shocked. Then you won’t knock yourself out of the market – at least not for that reason.”

We were told, “Don’t DEFY THE MARKET.” And yet what did I do but open my mouth and…defy the market. But I’m not the only one who’s bucking the system, or challenging the status quo. Many other Christian writers are wondering how to get Truth into a marketplace that only wants junk. My kids would live on junk food if I let them. I am in a position to influence them in their eating choices, so I give them excellent AND healthy food.

Let’s face it. When we come home from a long hard day at work–let’s say we teach three-year-olds ALL DAY LONG–we don’t want to think anymore. We want to chill out, to turn off the brain, to check-out mentally and escape to another time and another place.

Vicarious Living

Mirror neurons in our brain enable us to do exactly that. Reading books and watching movies (and, yes, playing video games), physically enable us to empathize and live vicariously through the main characters whose point of view (POV) we are reading/watching/playing.  Because of this, we can “escape” into another world. Our brains literally morph into that time and place.

Readers want to be engaged. But this does not mean the brain actually goes into neutral. The brain is actually vicariously thinking it is DOING what the main character is doing. So this is a great opportunity for writers to make an impact on the world.

Ernest Hemingway succinctly expressed this ability of writers when he said:

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”

I love in particular one part of Tracy Groot’s Madman, a Christy Award winner. After being wrapped up in the madmanproblem of the Demoniac of the Gadarenes you hear that Jesus is coming. Actually what reminds you is that you know the Bible. You know that Jesus is coming. The way Tracy sets it up, you know that across the sea something is happening. As one who has read the Bible, you know that “something” is Christ coming. I can’t recommend this book enough. I felt the freedom of the Madman’s salvation and it built up my love of Jesus because Tracy knows her responsibility to her readers and she wrote it that way.

We will be judged on the Day of the Lord for our actions. While salvation is only by faith in Christ, those who are called by His Name will be assessed. Our eternal rewards will be according to our deeds. The fruit of our life.

Teachers will be judged more harshly. And writers by definition put themselves in a position of teaching and influence. So do not fail to live up to Christ’s call. Anyone who reads a book ends up changed, in some way, for better or for worse. If readers need an escape from this crazy world, enable them to grow in faith as they escape.  Your deeds as a writer will follow you into eternity, you can be sure. If the parable of the talents tells us anything, it is that we are expected to DO RIGHT by the gifts we have been given. In fact, the word “talent” came into English from this very parable.

So as Christian writers what is our responsibility before God?

If we are writing a book that will be read, we need to use that talent in a way that brings results to the king.

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. 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Writing to please the “MARKET”? If you write just what will sell you are short-changing your talent. That’s giving them sugar and high carbs. What do you need to say? What do you want to call out from the housetops? Say it!

Writing to please the KING who gave you the talent in the first place? Kudos. If you do an excellent job, you will change lives one by one. That is all we can do. Whole grain delicious goodness.

No one is called to do anything less than live and work in a way that MOST honors God.

No one can be called to NOT do that. You can’t say, “I’m not called to write about the glory of God.” You cannot. If you are a Christian. Remember, the Book of Esther does not mention God once, and yet the whole book is about the glory of God and how He keeps His promises.

We maybe have great plans for our lives. But our deeds won’t be judged by Amazon reviews. Our deeds will be judged by those books that are being written in heaven. We will not get off with no reference to those books. The Lamb’s Book of Life erases the sins, but our good deeds follow us into the eternal kingdom.

level

 “If Calvin and Luther had written to the level of the people there would have been no Reformation.”
(Fikret Bocek)

Do you want to write books that are light reading, that merely entertain? Or do you want to entertain AND build up believers to glorify God? I challenge Christian industry to up-the-ante. Time is short.

ACTION POINT FOR READERS: Don’t let yourself be entertained by anything less than that which brings pleasure to God as well.
ACTION POINT FOR WRITERS: Don’t let the industry dictate you away from your primary call. All Christians must use their talents for the active honor of God. Your gifts and offerings need to be those that God requires.

Do you agree? Disagree? What publishers are upping-the-ante? Which other books have bucked the status quo?
Comment below.



See also how these writers contribute to the discussion:

Joel Miller: What is Christian Literature?

Got Questions: Can Christians Read Fiction?

Simon Mordon: Sex, Death & Christian Fiction lecture

BEST OF THE BEST Sites for Writers

Best of the BestWebsites (1)
All Christians are in a state of flux…
ALREADY/NOT YET:

We are righteous already, but not yet. We are seated in the heavenlies already, but not yet. We are experiencing eternal life already, but not yet. We are sinless in God’s eyes, but not yet in the world’s eyes.

As writers, we also know we have never arrived, but are on a journey to continually improve our craft.

There is always more we can know and learn to improve our craft.

Below you will find the BEST OF THE BEST resources for “scribblers” out there. These are sites I have found particularly helpful. (But the web is vast and I certainly have not seen everything out there. Please send me more to add to the list.)

The FIRST set includes writing, editing, and submissions. The SECOND set is promotion and website related. The THIRD is writing-related e-books that are practical and useful.

Writing Top 20
  1. NONPARIELShe’s Novel is an excellent guide for all stages of writing. Absolutely my favorite, winner of the Scribbler Site Nonpariel award. Practical and hands-on steps to create and fix your writing. –WINNER NONPARIEL–

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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)

Review of Mr Nary by Roo Carmichael

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I made the mistake of starting to read Mr. Nary in the hospital waiting room. Not a place to be guffawing every ten seconds or so.

The wry sense of humor, the unexpected turns of phrases, the laughable story and story-within story and novel within that story with a romance on the side, the ability to surprise the reader with hilarious word choices and random thinkings of an exceptionally ADHD want-to-be-author, announce the brilliance of Roo Carmichael as a skilled craftsman of delightful reading pleasure.

Hemingway said, “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”

Grady’s distractedness and discouragement and loss of control of the characters and his unending procrastination…his innocent egotism and belief in fan clubs and best seller lists in his honor…so real it hurt.

Thank you, Roo, for this nonpariel adventure into the realm of the absurd but strangely realistic life of a first-draft writing author.

UPDATE:
My family and I were lucky enough to be able to meet the author. What a blast! We were super-surprised to find that the first few letters in this book were the ACTUAL PRANK on his father Bill Carmichael, author of The Missionary. Can’t wait for the sequel. What novel plans has Grady got up his sleeves? Anxiously waiting for the next installation, Mr. Carmichael!

Tips for Teaching Kids to Write Their Own Stories

stories
As an author myself, I find the task of planning, writing, and editing a story challenging. How much more so for kids when they are told to write a story.

“What am I supposed to do, Teacher?” they ask.

Then they give you what they wrote. Sometimes the stories work, sometimes they don’t.

Teaching kids to write excellent stories is actually not difficult. All they need is a handle on the structure of story.

How can you teach your students to write a good story?

First, students need to know what makes up a story. Secondly, they need to put their story idea into that kind of structure. Thirdly, they need to write the story. And fourthly they need to edit their story.

The basics of a story are:

Character
Setting
Three Point Plot development:
  • Set-up
  • Climax
  • End

1. Start your lesson by making a chart like this on the board.

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