Last night I willingly joined into a discussion on a book that I have little respect for. People wonder why, and there are multiple reasons behind my disdain, but one is especially important.
What many people fail to realize is that writers are (at times unwittingly) teaching their readers. Whether it be theology, politics, human nature, or anything else, we learn from those we read. Thus, authors have a responsibility to their readers: they must convey truth or be absolutely clear in their writing and life that what they have written is meant to be fiction and not actually portray what they believe.
On that note, James 1 says that teachers will be held to a higher standard for what they say. So what does this mean about the content of the book, blog or article? It means that the words used are gravely important to what is being written. Authors (even those of us writing blogs) will have to defend our words on numerous occasions, and if they are to be defended, wouldn’t it be best that they are actually worth defending?
Back to that book
In defense of my argument last night, I searched for interviews hoping to find that the author meant for everything in his book to be fiction. My search (which didn’t take long) yielded a radio interview where the author was firmly arguing for the same (false) teaching that is presented in the (fictional) story he wrote.
Here’s the deal: the book claimed a false (dare I say heretical) view of God. The author was questioned about his theology. The author upheld his false view. Do you see the problem?
At least he’s consistent.
But isn’t it just fiction?
Such is the question that has been presented over and over again by people in defense of this book (and many other novels). It is true that it is fiction, but consider this: if a book is written against the backdrop of the Civil War or 18th Century England, you would call that book Historical Fiction. Likewise, if a true event were to be documented with a different setting and cast (where none of the actual names or places are used) we would call that an Allegory (such as Pilgrim’s Progress). So what if a book is written about a relationship with God which takes place against the backdrop of Christian Theology?
In the case of Historical Fiction, the historical portion is true (for instance, the Civil War actually happened). However, the actual story line has been made up (consider the book No Man’s Land). Such is the case with Christian Fiction. If we are writing Christian Fiction we at least have to get God’s character correct.
As for the words…
This post began as a post about the need for being careful with words, I’ll address that tomorrow. But for now, Trevin Wax has a great review of the importance of truth in fiction writing.