Some time back I was asked to read a new Christian fantasy novel for the purpose of possibly endorsing it.
I have a general policy of not doing this, because it always ends up taking a lot of time away from my WIP, mostly because of the angst and mental distraction these efforts stir up in me. I’m very picky about my reading, especially when it comes to Christian works, and unfortunately I often find myself at odds with the doctrines presented.
I tell myself that many people would just set that aside and if they liked the story in general would go ahead and endorse it. I tell myself I should do that as well. It’s not my job to run around setting people straight in regards to their supposed doctrinal deficiencies. And many times there are things in the story that I like. Can’t I just overlook the parts I don’t?
Yes, if I were simply reading the piece for pleasure. But to put my name on it in an endorsement? Therein lies the rub.
My own purpose in writing in the fantasy genre is to illuminate spiritual truth, particularly as regards the Angelic Conflict, one of the least studied, least understood, and, I think, least believed of Christian doctrines. Of course, the conflict itself and the way it’s carried out – primarily by deception – guarantees its true nature will not be well-known, or even believed. Of all doctrines it has been most distorted and/or buried. And that comes as no surprise since the kingdom of darkness works hard to do just that.
One might argue that in a fantasy novel, where good and evil are often set against one another in a rough parallel to the angelic conflict, what matters most is the characters and their actions, the plot and the world, not the specifics of explanation for the battle or the parameters for the set-up of the fantasy novel’s world…
Except… that’s kind of the whole point of writing a fantasy, in my view.
The world we live in and its parameters are based upon the angelic conflict. Understanding this conflict changes one’s perception of God, of man, of the work of Christ on the Cross, who He is, what His purpose is, who we are as part of His Church, and what is going on around us every day.
We are constantly bombarded with the lies of the kingdom of darkness, because as even human advertisers and propagandizers will tell you, that is the way to change people’s thinking; or to keep their thinking from changing, depending on your objective.
Worse, even as believers in Christ each of us still has a sin nature, that part of us that is drawn to those lies, always ready to latch onto them. Indeed, for most of us, God is hard at work stripping away the lies so He can replace them with truth.
The lies have power and I believe we who have learned to see them, are not to simply ignore them, skipping over them as if they don’t matter… I believe God holds us accountable for our actions in regards to them.
So, in regards to the novel in question, I hit a spot that was, in my understanding, completely wrong. I reacted. I wrote at length in the notebook I keep when reading books. I paced about the house, asking God what I was to do.
Was I being arrogant? Making a big deal out of nothing? Should I just set this aside and move on? I’d like to help the author and the publisher and the field of Christian fantasy in general. Maybe the parts I read didn’t mean what I thought they meant. Maybe the author didn’t mean any more by them than just to provide an explanation for the storyline. Most people aren’t even going to think twice about it or even take note I’m sure. Surely I was just being too rigid and inflexible.
But this is an outright insult to my Lord and Savior! Even if it was done unknowingly. How can I put my name on it as recommending it, when it does that? How can I put my name on it before the angels who are watching?
Well, that was Saturday.
Sunday morning I awoke double-minded as ever. Surely it was enough to have seen the false concepts, but I needn’t be militant about it, right?
As I drove to church I asked the Lord for answers. What was I to do about endorsing this novel? “You know how weak and easily confused I get,” I told Him. “I don’t want to make a stand when no stand is required. Please make it clear to me.”
So then maybe an hour or so later, about halfway through the message, which was on discernment – how God goes about developing in us the ability to see with spiritual eyes instead of natural eyes – Pastor John said, “So I’m faced with a novel situation. Will I trust this (new) person’s standards or my own?”
A novel situation? Pastor John rarely uses this word, and Sunday it leapt out at me. Yes I knew he meant “new” situation, but the personal double entendre was clearly from the Holy Spirit.
Not long after that, Pastor said, “There’s more going on here than meets the eye. Angels are checking out how you treat the Word.” He’d not mentioned angels in some time. Yet I’d thought of them the night before. “They’re with you here, in class,” he said, “and outside of class, rubbernecking to see how (what you learn here) is working in your life…”
Then he quoted I Th 5:20, (Wuest translation): “Stop counting as nothing the divine revelations from the pulpit.”
And elaborated: “This is talking about when you know the Holy Spirit is pointing out truth from the Word, but you ignore it. With discernment it’s great to see the truth in a situation, but then it calls upon us to make decision about how to apply it.”
Could the message have been any more pointed to my situation? Yes. It could:
“We are to cultivate the ability and practice of examining everything carefully…to determine what’s true and false.” Examing everything. Carefully.”
Then he had us go to 2 John, pointing out as we turned there, that the various letters of the New Testament are addressed differently, some to the church in general, some to specific congregations, some to individuals like Titus and Timothy.
This one was addressed to “the chosen lady.” The chosen lady???
And in it, the Apostle tells her, “Don’t let false teachers into your house.” (vs 10)
“These are people,” said Pastor John, “who go out and try to teach what they think is right but don’t check with the Word. ‘Do not receive him into your house and do not give him a joyful welcome. For the one who welcomes him, participates in his evil deeds.’”
“When you’ve discerned something to be bad in your life,” said Pastor, “you’re to actively hold back from it.”
So. I had my answer. Not the one I wanted, but clearly my answer, nonetheless.
He could have talked about loving the brethren, putting the needs of others before your own, treating everyone in grace, not being legalistic and self-righteous… But he did not. And I do not believe that was “coincidence.”