Can a Christian Novelist Go Too Far?
And so we come to the pivotal point in this series on Christ followers who are novelists that want to share their stories with the world. It’s time to dive into the main question we’ve been driving toward by way of the first and second posts: Can Christian novelists go too far with their content in trying to reach the world with life-changing stories that can touch hearts and point readers toward God?
At the end of the second post, I took us into an imaginary writing group of Christians who were sharing their story ideas in the initial meeting. Each novelist who presented a story idea was kind enough to also associate the content of the novel with a typical US movie rating: G, PG, PG-13 … and R?
Huh? A Christian novelist thinking that God might be calling him or her to write an R-rated story—and one that doesn’t even have any in-your-face stuff about God, Jesus, the Bible, etc.?
And so I ask again: Can Christian novelists can go too far?
Jumping back to the first post and the idea that fiction readers make up a wide spectrum in regard to their level of faith and exposure to God, it only makes sense that Jenn, a committed Christian, may not be reading the same kind of novel as Gar, a story-loving guy who claims to have no faith and no interest in God or religion, etc.
But according to the Bible, both of these readers still need God in their lives at every given point, and a novel could be the avenue God uses to provide what they need, just in different ways perhaps: with Jenn maybe needing some encouragement, exhortation, and, sure, even entertainment in wanting to more fully experience, embrace, and live out the gospel—and with Gar in a place where the God he doesn’t believe in can plant some tiny seeds in Gar’s heart that lead him to think that, Hm, okay, %$!* it. Maybe there’s more to this life than I’ve been living … and maybe I’m not the derpy jag-off I think I am.
I’d like to say I have a clear-cut answer for the question of whether or not a Christian novelist can go too far. But I’m still wrestling through it myself, and I have more questions than answers right now: Would God call a Christian to do something like that? Is it just the enemy pulling a fast one? Would it even be a good idea? Would it damage a Christian’s witness if folks knew he or she was writing that kind of stuff? Does it mean that such a Christian would be in the world AND of it?
At this point, you may already have a definitive answer, and if so, that’s fine. All I’m asking is that we really wrestle through the main question rather than just toss it aside and then march to our weekly Sunday spoon-feeding of God’s Word without any actual stretching of our minds—or faith.
Some of the thoughts I have on the subject right now:
“… the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow,” said the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6. That makes me at least wonder if God could use an R-rated novel to plant a seed in the heart of someone who has no interest in so-called religion and who would never go to church, but who devours novels. And that person will more than likely not be picking up the latest G- or PG-rated Amish Christian novel. Maybe, but it would probably be something more along the lines of what you’d find on the mainstream bestsellers shelf at the local library.
And so, if Christians write a wide variety of stories that end up fitting novel readers across the spectrum, then who knows what could happen with all that planting, watering, tending, weeding, etc., as the Spirit does his work?
Just because a novel doesn’t mention Jesus or contain a reproducible salvation experience, does that mean it can’t plant some “gospel seeds” by the time someone is done reading it—little Spirit whispers of God’s love, power, grace, holiness, judgment, etc.—in someone’s heart, ever so gently nudging a non-Christian reader toward God, rather than leave them where they are? God’s truth is still his truth whether it’s in a steamy bodice-ripper or an Amish novel, isn’t it? Hmm …
And I think that’s enough pondering for now, so be sure to check back in soon for the last installment in this series. Thanks for exploring with me!
And if you’re in the Philadelphia region, please check out the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, taking place July 26-29. Hope to see you there!
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™