Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tithing in the temple

The Preacher at Mecca - M.F. Husain

Many Christians warn writers against being 'preachy'. But even though many of us have a vague idea of what it means to be preachy, few have any clear idea of what on earth the term means. We've all read writing that jarred us with its bombastic, thinly veiled message that we have to accept Jesus, but we have very little idea where that feeling comes from or what it is doing. But most of us want to know what it is, so we can avoid it.

In one sense, this is due to a lack of the author's skill. A lot of preachy writing finds its roots in the fact that that the author simply doesn't know how to communicate the gospel any better than they can communicate scenery or character. And though this certainly is an element, skill as a writer is still not a guaranteed cure for preachiness. There are writers who have serviceable technical skills, and still

The problem is, that Christians treat writing like tithing. They give certain portions of their work 'to the Lord' as it were, sometimes they write their whole book 'to the Lord' (and heaven help us if they do), and what comes out is something as dry and inedible as asbestos. The work ends up as either pure entertainment with some bible verses thrown in to appeal to Christians, or the sort of work that parents read to their children as a punishment.

We can't simply 'give our work to the Lord'. The result is moralism. We think that if we somehow throw in Bible verses or put in 'good lessons' that God will somehow be pleased with us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our greatest righteousness is as filthy rags before the Living God. Do you think God is impressed because you shoved a Bible verse into your novel? Yea, even the devils throw Bible verses into their novels and tremble (i.e Twilight).

We should give glory to our Lord and Savior, and we do that by worshiping Him. All our work should be done to worship him, from our dialogue, to our conversations, to our characters--not just the 'God' portions of our novel. It should be an act of worship, not of forced tithe. J.R.R Tolkien and Jonathan Swift crafted Christ-honoring masterpieces, and they barely mentioned God at all. They wrote, like we should write, as an act of worship to the greatest Storyteller of them all.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sacramental Writing.

Christ gave us the sacraments to establish His relationship with us two thousand years ago. So we, as pious saints, have been fighting about their nature ever since. The important thing, for now, is that the differing views of the sacraments has affected Christian writing. Since I don't have time to explore all the sacraments (or their number), I will focus on communion. There are four different views; each of with many caveats and intricacies. I am going to simplify, so feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong.

The first is the Catholic/Orthodox view of transubstantiation: the belief that the essence of the elements (the bread and the wine) literally becomes that of the body and the blood of Christ. So the Catholic writer also sees his writing, in a way, as something which is ordinary, but also something which can become utterly holy. You can see this in the works of Dante, Tolkien or Chesterton. They pay far more attention to intricate beauty than to announcing that they are Christian. Since the ordinary and mundane elements are transformed into the holy, there is no need for the Catholic author to put the holiness directly in writing. 

The second view is Sacramental Union (or consubstantiation), the view held by Lutherans and some Anglicans. The doctrine of Sacramental Union is profoundly relational, it centers around the presence of Christ near to the sacraments. It's not that the bread and wine are physically changed. They gain a new essence--that of Jesus Christ's. Writers from this group center around Christ's relationship with his people. C.S Lewis' sacramental theology was probably closest to that of Union, and so The Chronicles of Narnia center around Aslan's relationship with the children of Adam and Eve.

Next comes the Reformed view of the pneumatic presence, held by some Anglicans, Presbyterians who have read their confessions and a few Baptists. The Reformed Christian believes that the Sacrament actually affects the heart of the believer, and that he is renewed by the Holy Spirit. Writers who held to this view of the sacraments, such as John Bunyan and Jonathan Swift,  tend to write in allegory. Just as the sacraments are seen as an spiritual allegory (note: not just a symbol, but a real spiritual representative ), the Reformed often see their writing as an allegory.

And finally, we come to the doctrine of memorialism, the doctrine held by most of evangelical Christians today. Communion is merely a symbol to remind us of Christ's sacrifice until he comes, they say. It will be fine, they say. Most Christians who hold to this view crave to bring their Christian views into their writing, however, since they don't believe in a real presence, the only way to bring Christ into their work is to make it explicitly Christian. Thus was the genre of Christian Fiction born. Usually these books contain either a miracle or a conversion experience--at least. This is the doctrine of communion that brings us Frank Perreti, who is decent, and the Left Behind series, which is not. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Back to the grind.

Returning to Town - Homer Watson

It's odd... this blog was beginning to get an abandoned  feel. It almost lost its few readers. Between finals, health problems it sort of sunk to the back. I also started writing papers.. and more importantly... getting my papers graded... which caused me to despair at ever writing nonfiction. Anyhow, those are my excuses. Now back to the blog.

There's one major change I've been pondering. Previously the blog has been mostly venting unquestioned opinions... as most blogs are wont to do. The problem here is, though I am a highly opinionated person, I'm not necessarily the most educated or knowledgeable. I have a lot to learn, the more I learn, the more I have come to the conclusion that I'm an uneducated moron (or perhaps an educated moron... hard to tell the difference sometimes). Acting as if I know everything doesn't really help me to educate myself.

Of course the whole reason I'm writing this blog is the fact that I hope to educate people. There has to be a balance between stating ones own opinions and learning new ones right?  I don't know if I'm going to find it... but I'm going to try. Hope you all will stick around and join me. Have fun!