Saturday, April 24, 2010

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Theology Matters?!?

Yes, I know I'm a week late in participating. But this topic took some consideration. And I'm still not sure I can express myself clearly. Amy is still having doubts about Christian fiction and her post is inviting others to share what bothers them about Christian fiction. Specifically,
today's question is really about what your theological deal breakers are. What ideas about God do you see presented in Christian fiction bother you?
Does theology matter to me even in fiction? It depends. On how you define theology. And on how seriously you take fiction. First, I want to say that theology matters to me. I think theology isn't stuffy or boring. I don't think it's irrelevant or impractical. I think theology matters in how you and I live our lives. Our beliefs shape our experiences. Or they can. I guess that you could argue that it's more our experiences that shape our beliefs. But that's a whole chicken-versus-egg thing that I'm not going to explore. At least not today. So theology does matter to me.

But. Theology does not equal denomination. Not even close. Does it matter to me what denomination gets featured in Christian Fiction? Not really.

Second, I don't read Christian fiction for theological purposes. I don't read fiction books to define, shape, reinforce, or challenge my theology, my beliefs. When I want to learn about God, when I am seeking to know God, to have a relationship with God, I don't turn to fiction novels for inspiration or advice. I don't necessarily turn to Christian non-fiction either. Because while there are nonfiction books out there that I find to be biblically sound and edifying, there are just as many (if not more) that aren't. There are nonfiction books I wouldn't recommend to anyone. No, when I want to learn about God, when I want to know God, when I want to seek a closer walk, I turn to the Bible. There is no other book out there for me that can do what it can. It is the Word of God. It is God-breathed. It is powerful. It can convict me. It can shape me. It can comfort. It can heal too.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
I'd also recommend reading Psalm 119.

The Bible is the one book by which I judge every other book. Fiction included. Not that I always take my fiction that seriously. Most of the time, I don't really apply (m)any (biblical) judgments to the fiction that I read.

Third, it all comes down to the basics. For me. What does a book say about God? What does a book say about Jesus? About the Holy Spirit? Does the book say anything contradictory to the Bible? Does a book say that Jesus is not the Son of God? Does a book deny Jesus' miracles? His resurrection? His virgin birth? What does a book say about humanity? about sin? about our separation from God? Our need for a Savior? What does a book say about the church? Does it present the church as a community of imperfect people who love God but are still struggling in their personal lives? Does it present the church as shallow and one-dimensionally perfect? Does it present the church as a hateful pack of hypocrites? What does a book say about the Bible? Does it take the Bible too lightly? Does it see as an invention of man? Does it see it as mythology, as fiction? Does a book speak reverently of Christianity? Or is the tone of the book mocking? Is Christianity presented as one big joke?

I hate to see Christianity misrepresented.

I hate to see Christians painted as mean, hateful, finger-pointing, slogan-chanting, oh-so-spiteful, not-a-kind-bone-in-their-body group of individuals.

Then again, I hate to see Christians portrayed in the other extreme as well. The anything-goes, nothing-really-matters, love-is-the-answer-for-everything, everyone-is-heaven-bound, what-works-for-you-is-good-for-me, God-is-who-you-want-him-to-be, there-are-no-absolutes, pick-and-choose variety.

The truth is what we believe does matter. Love is real. Very real. And it can be powerful. It can be life-changing. It can be wonderful. It can change lives. And compassion and grace are wonderful, wonderful qualities. I am all about grace. We are saved by grace. And grace isn't to be taken lightly. It isn't to be taken for granted. Grace matters. Love matters. Kindness matters. I believe in treating others with respect and dignity. But that doesn't mean that all discernment goes out the window. Not every representation of God--of Christianity--is going to be good, to be right, to be true. Some books may get it wrong just a little bit, others may get it wrong completely. Some books may be marginally questionable. And a few might actually be dangerous. At least to those who take their fiction too seriously and the bible not seriously enough.

To clarify, I'm talking basics here. I'm not talking about denominational stuff. Or the little stuff. Like how often to take communion. Or if tattoos are wrong. Or if motorcycles are only for heathens. Or if it's okay to drink beer and smoke. Or if it's okay to dance or play cards. Or if it's okay to listen to rock music. Or whatever. I'm talking essentials. Like Apostles' Creed essentials.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Annette said...

Your statement "what we believe does matter" that is the most important statement you made in your post. What we believe about Jesus is the most important question we will ever answer in our short lives. When Jesus said "He is the way and the truth and the life." He is life--eternal life and life for a believer! As believer's we do not detach away from Him whenever we want to read something or watch something or talk about something that we know is "convicting" to our spirit.
Becky--I'm 46 years old I don't live for an audience of other people--I live for an audience of Jesus Christ!

Annette said...

Good Sunday morning to you!

Nicole said...

You expressed yourself very well here, Becky. The Bible is THE source for knowing God the way He wants to be known.

As an author, I write for Him so somehow, some way, the gospel must appear in my work. It can be a struggle to make it work organically rather than to come off preachy, but I maintain authors tend to preach something whether it be secular humanism as is seen in the film Avatar or the love of God as seen in multiple well-written Christian novels (i.e. Redeeming Love, The Passion of Mary-Margaret, Demon . . . a memoir).