What Does it Mean to Write for Christ?

Write For Christ PostWe talk about this idea a lot around here at Kingdom Pen, but what does it really mean to write for Christ? How exactly do you write for Christ? Does your story have to be out-right religious or blatantly about God in order to write for Christ?

I think the mistake we as Christians so often make when creating “Christian” stories or art in general, is we feel the need to proclaim that our work is Christian. We put God in a nice churchy box called “Christian” and make sure to parade this box around throughout our stories. As a result, quality is usually sacrificed on the altar of “a good Christian message.”

The reality is that God is so much bigger than we often make Him out to be in Christian fiction. Your story doesn’t need to be openly “religious” or even mention the name of God in order to write for Christ, and bring Him glory. Additionally, if you are writing for a non-Christian audience, sometimes it might be best to leave the name of God out of your story, as it could potentially alienate the ones you are writing for.

What? I’m confused. How can you write for Christ without talking about God? 

I am definitely not saying you should leave God out of your story. In fact, doing so would make your story unrealistic. However, God is so big, He’s everywhere and anywhere at any given time. We can write for Christ without blatantly coming out and talking about God or using His name in our writing. To write for God, we merely need to do one thing: Glorify Him. To glorify God, we need to reflect His character.

We reflect God’s character in two ways: quality and truth.

Quality

Our writing needs to be of the best possible quality. We need to write well, and do our best. God is perfect, so to reflect God, we need to get our writing as close to perfect as we can. A great message does not trump story, nor does a great story redeem a horrible message. Both are vital.

As a quote attributed to Martin Luther goes,

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

Of course, we will never be able to attain perfection, and getting frustrated with our work will not help things. Sometimes, the only way we can get better, is to let ourselves write poorly. Practice is the only way we can get better. So we don’t have to be perfect to reflect God. We just have to do our best, and always strive to get better, never resting on our laurels. That honors God.

Truth

We also reflect God in our writing by demonstrating His truth.

What is God’s truth, and how do we demonstrate it?

God’s truth is truth. Anything that is true is of God. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). God is described as “the Spirit of Truth,” (John 16:3). God is truth; therefore, by writing about and displaying truth, we are writing for Christ. So many dark and disturbing stories today claim to be about truth, even ones written by Christians, but they are not displaying the real and ultimate truth, but a temporary distortion of the truth which Satan has wrought on the world through our sin. These dark stories which claim to be about “real life” are really just depicting a temporal illusion.

As C.S. Lewis’ Aslan points out in “The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe”, yes, there is a deep “magic” which decrees that the White Witch has ownership over Edmond for his treachery, but what the witch did not know was the deeper “magic” which proclaimed that if someone willing and blameless took his place, the death would be reversed. In other words, God’s truth is the “deeper magic” which cancels out and surpasses the false reality sin has created in our world.  

Displaying truth can take many forms, but ultimately, our stories should advance a theme which corresponds with God’s truth. In other words, yes, our stories should have a positive and moral message, but this should arise from the plot and characters, and not sacrifice quality by being tacked on unrealistically.

One example of displaying God’s truth is how we portray love. Love is often displayed in novels, and in our culture, as a feeling. I feel this, and I feel that. And the other person feels this about me. Love has come to reflect a very selfish idea, and it is true that there are different forms of love. However, the idea that true Love is about, “how much pleasure can I get out of this relationship or the other person?” is completely false. The world says love is about consuming. Writing for Christ could mean showing that true love is about sacrificing, which is what God proved love to be on the cross. John 3:16 describes it very well. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Another example of displaying the truth of Christ is advocating truth itself. In our Postmodern world, many people are denying that objective truth even exists. People like to say, “well that’s true for you, but that’s not true for me.” Objective truth exists, it’s God’s truth. So by writing a story with a moral showing that truth is truth, regardless of what people believe, you are writing for Christ.

By writing stories displaying and promoting Hope, Joy, Courage, Perseverance, Humility, Faith, Altruism, Peace, Mercy, Grace, etc. we are writing for Christ because we are reflecting the character of God. We may or may not include God in our writing, by name, but by displaying His truths and saying, “this is true,” we are putting God in our writing, and we are writing for Christ.

Also, if we strive to write for Christ, we will not be writing alone. If we abandon ourselves to God, then He can use us for His glory. He will guide us as we craft and develop our stories.

If you think about it, there are infinite ways to write for Christ and to glorify God. By writing for God, glory will not only be brought to Him, but we will be taking part in the spreading of God’s kingdom on earth. We can spread truth, and free the culture from its pervasive lies.

The beautiful reality is people are starving for these kinds of stories, and not just Christians. Truth and reality are far more wonderful than the fake. By combining God’s truth with a high quality story, we can write novels which deeply impact Christians and non-Christians alike. The Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia are two great examples of this playing out. Writing for Christ is truly a noble pursuit.

Writing for Christ = Glorifying Him = Reflecting His character = Doing our best to demonstrate His truth and wonderful mastery.

Viewing Your Story as a Form of Art

The-Art-of-WritingAs Christians, all of us likely have some message we are trying to actively communicate in our writing. And those of us who are not actively trying to communicate a message still can’t keep their worldview from slipping into their work. As Douglas Wilson writes in Wordsmithy, “The independence of art from worldview and worldview concerns is a myth. Every work of art is produced within a framework of worldview assumptions. […] It is not whether certain values will be propagated by art, but rather which values will be propagated.”

As Christian writers, hopefully our central concern is less on what values we should propagate, but more on how we should propagate them in our novels. We have all likely read that book where the author just preaches the morals through the characters rather than showing us them through their actions. We have all likely seen that story where the values are poorly presented in the book. We have all likely seen such examples of unsuccessful ways to communicate messages in a story. Most readers not already in agreement with the author will tend to reject such messages that are so blatantly preached through such works and will be turned off by it. They reject it because the art was sacrificed for the message.

Stories, therefore, will most effectively communicate their message when they are first a beautiful form of art. By pursuing aesthetic perfection in our stories, we will be taking important steps toward more effectively communicating our message. “Art forms add strength to the worldview which shows through, no matter what the worldview is or whether the worldview is true or false.” Francis Schaeffer, in his work, Art and the Bible correctly points out the power that forms of art hold in their ability to persuade. Like the old adage goes, “Give me control of the nation’s songs, and I care not who makes the laws.” Even as songs, poems, and paintings are works of art, even so are stories likewise a form of art. As Annie Dillard wrote in Living by Fiction, “Aesthetic perfection in a work of fiction carries with it a certain felt tension of tone which not only awes the reader, so that he judges the work to be absolutely excellent, but also inspires him to consider it more deeply.” As a form of art, although the message of the novel remains important, a story is first and foremost a work of art. In other words—it’s supposed to be a good story. And simply being a good story can be enough.

In an answer to the question of how a person can read literature to the glory of God, Leland Ryken in The Christian Imagination replies that it is, “By enjoying the beauty that human creativity has produced and recognizing God as the ultimate source of this beauty and creativity.” As a form of art then, stories must pursue a type of perfection in the grammar of the writing itself, in the depth of the characters, and in the intricacy of the plot. When this has been done, a well-crafted story will more powerfully bring out the message contained in the story. The better the art, the more powerful the message becomes. As Schaeffer writes, “The effect of any proposition, whether true or false, can be heightened if it is expressed in poetry or in artistic prose rather than in bald, formulaic statement.”

How does this art communicate the message? In his blog post “How Stories do their Work on Us,” Jonathan Rogers writes, “Being mere mortals, we can’t really understand any of those things if they aren’t grounded in what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. You can talk about grace until you’re blue in the face, but you aren’t going to come up with a definition that improves on the parable of the Prodigal Son: a father, arms outstretched, welcoming a rebellious and wicked son back into his home.” In order to communicate their message, stories do not need to be explicitly Christian. Although Christ’s parables bore powerful Christian messages in them, many did not have explicitly Christian characters in them. In Esther, we even see an entire book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God. And although Esther details real events which actually happened, it also forms an excellent story, told by the greatest story-teller of all: God Himself. And so, although Esther is not explicitly Christian, it remains still a very Christian book and still presents many truths for us to grasp. Art in stories therefore communicates the message by giving us examples of people  who either hold to or reject the truth, and then goes on to show us the end of such course of action. We learn by example.

So what does it mean then, to refine the perfection of the form of art which is your story? What makes a good story? There is no easy answer because there is no single right answer. Like the multiplicity of well-done paintings and the different forms they can take, stories can go many different, yet legitimate, ways. As Christian writers, we ought to be assured that, to some extent, the message of our story will take care of itself, since we cannot keep our worldview from infiltrating our story. But although no easy answers can be given for what makes a good story, advice can still be given and received, like it is in any other form of art.  Read recent articles by Kingdom Pen about how to make your character their own person or how to learn from your poor writing in order to get some of this advice. Through these articles, when we first understand that stories are another form of art, we can work to refine our understanding of and our skill in the craft of story-telling. And through that, we can pursue greater aesthetic perfection in our stories.

So where does the rubber meet the road and the theoretical meet the practical in this article? Compare The Lord of the Rings to your average modern Christian fantasy work today and you may be able to see the difference. Although modern Christian writers mean well, many focus more on the message of their novels than on the art form of it, and thus sacrifice the beauty of their story to the message being told. And while the message of our story is important, it is most effective when the story is first pursued as an art form. Don’t sacrifice the quality of your story for preaching your message. Relax, and let the message slip into your story. While there is nothing wrong with explicitly Christian stories, don’t be afraid to write an implicitly Christian novel. We can rest assured that we can still communicate specifically-Christian morals while writing in a less-explicit framework. When we pursue our stories as a form of art, we will more effectively communicate our message. And as the beauty of the trees, waves, mountains, and stars all proclaim the glory of God, so our stories will express the truths and beauty that ultimately find themselves in the glory of the risen Messiah.

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.

Meaning And Balloons

Does your novel have a point? We live in a world starving for meaning and purpose. People look for it in all the wrong places, but God is the only purpose, and the only One who can bring meaning. Does your novel point back to God? Does your novel have meaning?

 

 By Kathryn Comstock

It is happening in everything: school work, literature and even writing. Meaning is being systematically removed and instead, we’re told that “it’s all relative”. There’s no real meaning in anything. This is called deconstructionism.

I heard an analogy that meaning—what deconstructionism does to meaning—is like a red balloon. One person can come up and say it’s a blue balloon. Another can say it’s a green and pink balloon. Yet another person could say that it isn’t a balloon at all; in reality, it’s a pen. I could go on with examples forever, but you get the picture

Now, according to what the American education system teaches, (because it’s really they who are furthering this kind of thinking), everyone would be right. Meaning is considered to be relative. Because of this, the balloon can be anything or any color people want it to be, based on their thoughts and their desires. This probably sounds crazy, but it is what many people say they believe these days.

So, how does this apply to writing? I’m glad you asked.

As any writer knows, there’s something specific you’re trying to get across when telling a story. If you’re like me, the character may actually be an exaggerated reflection of one aspect of yourself, a person you admire or someone you’re close to. The scenes and situations you put in mean something, and it’s something very specific.

I’ll use an example from my own writing. Currently, I’m working on a story about a girl who escapes from a Nazi death camp like situation. She runs away and ends up, unknowingly, in the governor’s house. The butler agrees to let her spend the night (he isn’t aware she’s a prisoner) in exchange for her working an international dinner that his boss is putting on. Now, because of the fact that the governor has kept Kiah (my main character) and her family imprisoned for so many years, she has developed a deep and intense hatred for the man.

Her first errand at the party is to serve drinks, and she meets the governor. At first, she doesn’t know it’s him. He strikes up a conversation with her and, having no preconceived notions herself, starts to think that he’s a nice guy and all that. This is when it’s discovered he’s the governor. She gets super embarrassed and ends up dropping her tray, shattering and spilling everything she was carrying.

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