Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merlin's Shadow, December 2013 CSFF Blog Tour

Merlin’s Shadow, Book II in the Merlin’s Spiral Series
Blink, 2013
by Robert Treskillard

[December 2013, Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour]

Merlin’s Shadow continues the tale that began in Merlin’s Blade. It recounts the flight of Merlin and a small band pledged to the safety of young Arthur, the rightful heir to the throne of the high king of Briton. Vortigern, a battle chief and grandson of the former high king Vitalinus Gloui, kills Uther, the father of Arthur and high king of Briton. Vortigern, coveting the throne, seeks to destroy all who might challenge his claim. His chief concern is to destroy the child Arthur and those who would protect him. Hence, devoted to Arthur’s protection, Merlin, Natalenya, Colvarth, and Garth steal him away from Vortigern’s evil plans.

Colvarth is a former druid converted to Christianity and once bard of King Uther. Garth is a mischievous orphan who also has some seafaring experience. Natalenya has agreed to marry Merlin, her love. Merlin, horribly scarred in countenance and recently healed from blindness has become aware of his hideous appearance and shrinks back from Natalenya to spare her from his repulsive looks. Natalenya does not care about the scars and is confused and hurt by Merlin’s apparent change of heart. To make matters worse, she has become ill. Her condition worsens as boils gradually cover her body.

Caygek joins the party early on to flee Vortigern, though his loyalties are to himself alone. He is a fili druid, which is a sect of druids who do not offer human sacrifices. As the journey unfolds, the band encounters dangers left and right. There are internal struggles as well as Caygek, suspicious of Christians, is not overly concerned for the safety of Author.

Concurrently, there is the plotting of Morganthu to destroy Merlin and Arthur. Morganthu is an arch Druid, a magician and practitioner of human sacrifice. He uses the magic of an orb to bring about dangerous conditions that threaten to destroy Merlin’s party. Ganieda, the half-sister of Merlin and granddaughter of Morganthu also possesses latent magical abilities and likewise seeks the death of the fleeing band. She is enticed by the Voice which promises her riches and the restoration of her mother who died of an infection caused, in Ganieda’s mind, by Merlin.

The greatest appeal of Merlin’s Shadow is the continual movement between hope and despair in which there are moments so dark one wonders how it could get worse. The story dwells at length on their capture by Picts and the ensuing horrendous treatment at their hand. At one point, they escape and it looks like they will make it free, but they fail and their lot becomes ever grimmer. After a long period of abject drudgery, their condition improves in an unexpected twist which resolves into a sense of well-being for both captor and captive. But this breaks down and and the enduring band is carried forward through yet another unexpected but credible turn.

The tale is precisely the kind one would expect for a saga of this type. It leaves no mistake about who the true God is and the significance of the blood of Christ.  The writing is suitable for a young readership who should enjoy it, especially if the Arthurian genre is what they are looking for. 

Other reviews of Merlin's Shadow for the December 2013 CSFF Blog Tour are here.

Robert Treskillard's Blog

Thanks to Blink for kindly providing a copy of Merlin’s Shadow for review on the December, 2013 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Question of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Within a Biblical World-View

The SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence; SETI rhymes with Betty) is an intriguing idea. It is based on the notion that the mathematical probability of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe is high enough that such a search is justified. The question of whether we have the technology to discover such life is another matter. As it stands now, our technology allows us only to detect that life (if it exists) through the reception of radio waves:

Within the limits of our existing technology, any practical search for distant intelligent life must necessarily be a search for some manifestation of a distant technology. In each of its last four decadal reviews, the National Research Council has emphasized the relevance and importance of searching for evidence of the electromagnetic signature of distant civilizations. -- SETI Institute

The Drake Equation, developed by Frank Drake, which he presented in 1961, serves as a benchmark formula to estimate the number of likely intelligent civilizations that might be out there. For those who are mathematically inclined the equation is in this footnote.[1]

File:Frank Drake - edit.jpg

Having written Broca’s Brain in 1974, Carl Sagan would have been aware of the equation, and I assume his remarks in that book about the calculated figure are based on it:

File:Carl Sagan Planetary Society.JPG
When we do the arithmetic, the sorts of numbers we come up with are, characteristically, around a million technical civilizations [in our galaxy]. A million civilizations is a breathtakingly large number, and it is exhilarating to imagine the diversity, lifestyles, and commerce of those million worlds. But the Milky Way Galaxy contains some 250 billion stars, and even with a million civilizations, less than one star in 200,000 would have a planet inhabited by an advanced civilization. -- Broca’s Brain, p 315.

As a Christian, I am intrigued by the notion of extra-terrestrial intelligence. Not dog-like or chimpanzee-like intelligence, but the kind that one would find in a civilization that has language and technology. Sagan and SETI contemplate the existence of such civilizations based on an evolutionary world-view:

How many planets exists that might support life? Indeed, what is required for life to exist? How does life start? How does it evolve, and what fabulous creatures can evolution produce? How often do intelligent creatures appear in the giant tapestry of life? It is exactly these questions that are being addressed by the scientists of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.

The estimated appearance of such life is grounded in an evolutionary colored formula of probability that by necessity must ignore the real Origin of Life, i.e., the very first moment that anything existed in which life could supposedly evolve. The probability is exactly zero seeing that the Origin we are talking about here is the coming into existence of something out of nothing, which, logically and naturally speaking, is impossible. So the Drake Equation and Sagan’s estimates assume the existence of something already there. They also assume that life arises, evolves, and reaches a point in which it becomes self-aware, intelligent, and technologically savvy.

Setting aside the question of whether it is legitimate to ignore such a profound and basic matter as the Origin of Life, and whether the evolutionary qualifications of the formula are sound, the idea of probability is striking. From a Christian world-view, probability is something that is built into the nature of things. The probability of flipping a coin with the predicted result of tails coming up one hundred times in a row is the same as any other pattern for a hundred flips. It is a mathematical phenomenon and mathematics are as much the creation of God as anything else. I suspect that the probability of tails showing up a hundred times in a row just one time over a million tries could be determined. Likewise, over ten million, or a hundred million, or two-hundred million. In each case, the probability would be higher than before. If we consider these probabilities Biblically, they are there because God built them into the creation. To refine the point, they are there for a purpose, for God does not do anything that does not have a purpose to accomplish all his holy will (Eph 1:11) and to bring glory to him in the end (John 11:4; 1 Cor 10:31; 2 Cor 1:20).

There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that speaks of or even hints that there are extra-terrestrials out there. One far-fetched interpretation, which I heard once, involved the parable of the lost sheep. It took the ninety-nine sheep to represent this world and the one sheep that was lost to represent another world. It is loaded with problems of internal consistency not to mention complete ignorance of the textual and theological context of the parable.

If I were to look for a hint that God might have extra-terrestrials in mind, I would look to what the Scriptures say about the eschatological future, which is little in comparison to what it says of the pre-eschatological present. The fact that saints shall reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 22:5) might imply a cosmic reign that will take place in galaxies throughout the universe. Imagine having a whole galaxy to rule! For arguments sake, let’s assume that our reign will involve galactic oversight. Would the intelligent beings in our galaxy be new with the new creation (2 Peter 3:10-13)? That is, does their existence depend on the renewal of the creation? If so, they do not exist now. We know that they would be righteous and holy servants of God since no sin will exist then. However, looking to the future does not help us with the present except to say that if they might exist then (because God deems it to be good), they might exist now (for the same reason).

If we just look at the way God does things in terms of probability, it is a legitimate question to ask how probable it is that God has created other intelligent civilizations out there. I think the answer would have to be that it is probable. Perhaps, highly probable. If the Drake Equation with all of its added evolutionary baggage finds it probable for one star in two-hundred thousand in our galaxy alone to be suitable for life (meaning life as we know it on our planet), what are the odds if we take that baggage away?

Assuming an unencumbered Drake’s Equation has merit and validity, we are faced with an even bigger question. The creation in its present state is groaning under the curse of Adam’s sin and is awaiting the day of redemption – the revelation of the saints in glory (Rom 8:18-22). Assuming there are intelligent civilizations out there, they are civilizations that exist in a cursed universe. The bigger question is this, Are they God-lovers or God-haters? If they have been made in God’s image as we are, they would be under a divinely stipulated set of commandments as the human race is. Presumably those commandments are similar to our ten commandments. Idolatry, murder, lying, cheating, coveting and such would definitely be off the table because they are inherently contrary to the nature of God. The Sabbath? Perhaps not a requirement but something like it. Have the extra-terrestrials kept those commandments or broken them? If they have kept them, what is it like for unfallen image-bearers to live in a cursed creation? If they have broken them, what hope do they have for redemption?

All of this is speculative. These are not the kinds of questions that theologians are occupied with (thankfully). But they are the kind that Christian writers of speculative fiction are. They open up a wealth of fiction opportunities, because they are questions that reside within a legitimate Biblical world-view. And because of that, such speculative fiction can bring out profound truths about God and his redemptive purposes in Christ.

[1] N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L
N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dialogue Attributions: Stephen King, J K Rowling, and My Two Cents

"I'm convinced fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one's own pleasure, that fear may be mild--timidity is the word I've used here. If, however, one is working under deadline--a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample--that fear may be intense. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn't need the feather; the magic was in him."
-- Stephen King, On Writing, p 127.

Interestingly, J. K. Rowling is well known for adverbial dialogue attributions and has been criticized for it. But that didn't keep King from including the first three Harry Potter novels on his list of 'best books I've read over the last three or four years" [1996-2000].

I don't think dialogue attribution is always the nasty varmint it's made out to be. The only ones that really care about them, because they have to, are editors, contest judges, and teachers.

To be clear, however, I've never seen anything like these in Rowling's writing:

"Give it up, Boswell," he spat menacingly.
"Don't leave me," she begged grovelingly.
"I see the light!" he erupted joyously.
Makes you cringe doesn't it. By God's grace, they will never appear in my writing. Nor anything close to them. Yet, I think one might get away with them. It depends on the readership. Juvenile readers may think they're cool. Pulp fiction readers wouldn't flinch at all, I don't think. But we Christian writers are writing elegantly, aren't we, and this falls a mile below elegance. These are worse case examples, yet they make a vivid point about how low one could go to add that extra little touch that Stephen King warns against.
Here is how I think these might be acceptable:
(1) "Give it up, Boswell," he said darkly.
(2) "Don't leave me," she pleaded, tears emerging.
(3) "I see the light!" he bellowed.
The purist would say for (1) that if the context sets the mood well enough, the adverb 'darkly' is unnecessary. That has never been true for me. As dark and somber and tense the setting might be I don't get the same feel without the adverb as with it.
Admittedly, for (2), an adverb is not used; rather an adverbial phrase which assumes that tears have not started to flow but are anticipated. Caution though; if there is no anticipation of tears, the tag would feel out of place.
For (3), the purist would have to relent that something stronger than the word 'said' is necessary; but he would certainly be right in insisting that adding an adverb would be just plain wrong. This attribution is forceful enough on its own; an adverb would be redundant and cumbersome.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Shadow Lamp - Day Three of the November 2013 CSFF Blog Tour

All good writing requires craftsmanship. Excellent writing approaches a work-of-art status. Without a doubt, Mr. Lawhead’s writing falls in this latter category. The Shadow Lamp is exemplary of that. For some on the blog tour, The Shadow Lamp was somewhat difficult to get into, it seemed to drag a little, or it had too many different points of view and contained narrative or scenes that were not pertinent to the story. I disagree with them all! How Burleigh got his men was pertinent because it added more depth to the villainy and genius of the character. Overlooking the theology, I reveled in the delivery of the didactic discourse of Gianni; it had me on the seat of my chair, figuratively speaking. I could see and hear him; I liked the scene and the discourse.
The only thing that I did not like, at first, was the two page moment by moment description of the contents of Mrs. Peelstick’s tray crashing to the floor. It was a slow-motion scene, and I’m not sure how else it could be delivered except in the manner of Mr. Lawhead’s. But it fit perfectly with the moment. The End of Everything was microcosmically represented, and I suspect that if EoE were witnessed from the outer edges of the cosmos, it might actually take on the qualities of a slow-motion scene in a movie.

Notwithstanding the superb quality of Mr. Lawhead's writing, I must ask, Should a Christian write what he intends to be ‘Christian’ fiction but also portray an unbiblical world-view? If you have read my Day 2 post, you would understand the rationale behind the question. When I say an unbiblical world-view, I do not mean a fantasy world or a science fiction world. There are those who would regard fantasy of any kind to be unbiblical, but they overlook that the Apocalypse itself makes use of fantastical (make-believe) creatures to convey the revelation of Jesus Christ to the seven churches of Asia Minor.

I should also define what I mean by a writer who is a Christian. Such a writer is one who has had a work of grace within such that he has repented of his sin and turned to Christ alone for salvation from that sin—its penalty, power, and someday its presence. Such a Christian holds to the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the authoritative Word of God, which means they are the final authority in all matters of faith and life, what he believes and how he lives. It means that though the story he writes is imaginary, it has its roots in a biblical cosmology over which there is a God who is truly sovereign and is glorified not only through his attributes of grace, mercy, and love, but also holiness, justice, and wrath.

If that definition of Christian is accepted, then it is difficult to see how a Christian can write a saga that does not reflect a biblical view of God, and still call it Christian. Perhaps Mr. Lawhead does not intend to proffer the Bright Empires series as Christian fiction, though I think he does. But I would not classify it as such. I would be able to read the series without angst, or at least a different kind of angst, if the author were a Dan Brown, Stephen King, or Stephenie Meyer—I would expect such an abiblical cosmology.

There is a metaphysical aspect to all fiction, and verily by definition, Christian fiction, to be truly Christian, should have a Biblical one.



Stephen R. Lawhead's Web Page
List of CSFF Blog Tour Participants
The Spirit Well on Amazon - Hardcover   Kindle

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Shadow Lamp for review on the November, 2013 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

The Shadow Lamp - Day Two of the October 2012 CSFF Blog Tour

Those who were troubled by the hazy theology of The Spirit Well (Book 3 of the Bright Empires saga), are undoubtedly seriously  alarmed by The Shadow Lamp. My own concerns were expressed in Day 3 of the October 2012 tour. They were tentative giving the author and the series the benefit of the doubt. I was holding out for the hope that the questionable theological trail the book was heading down might make a turn and settle on something that we can truly call Christian.

The problem centers on the philosophy/theology that underlies the thinkers of the Zetetic society, and especially one of its newest members, Giambattista Becarria, or Gianni. Gianni is a close confidant of Cassandra Clark, a paleontologist whose father Tony Clark has newly arrived in 1930’s Damascus where the headquarters of the society resides. Gianni is also a priest and a scientist. That combination wrapped up in one character represents a solution to a perceived incompatibility between science and theology. That solution for Lawhead, I think, is the quintessential motif that lies at the bottom of the story. The essay at the end of the novel gives weight to that idea, for there he draws on the example of Galileo who infuriated both the scientific and religious elite of his day by the heliocentric cosmos theory he was proffering. An appeal to the Galileo issue undergirds, perhaps covertly, the idea that entrenched old and ultimately false tenets tend to inhibit clear rational thinking – which for the most part is probably true. As we all know, Galileo was right, the church was wrong (on the geocentric/heliocentric controversy only). Today, the continuing effect of that episode marks one who holds to a creationist or intelligent design position as obscurantist, anti-intellectual, and utterly unscientific. Gianni represents what is supposedly a reasonable resolution of the tension. The problem is that the theology of Gianni is outright horrible. It is theology ex nihilo.

The Alpha Point
Gianni’s address to the Zetetic members includes this explanation: “We are the beneficiaries of complex processes that began before the Big Bang—the Alpha Point, yes?—processes that were put in place to produce active and independent conscious agents able to respond to their Creator in love. Thus, it follows that we are the reason for the Creation’s very existence. Consequently, the destiny of the cosmos and human destiny are bound closely together from before the beginning—the Alpha Point.” (p 324)

I personally do not have a problem with a Big Bang beginning so long as the Big Bang came out of (or perhaps into) nothing and was the result of God speaking it into being. By nothing, I mean truly nothing, a nothing that is inconceivable. The moment we conceive nothing we have conceived something, which attains physical attributes, even if such attributes include zero dimensions. The Alpha Point is before the Big Bang and therefore in terms of an ex nihilo Big Bang, the processes of the Alpha Point were concurrent with nothing – and that makes it a logical contradiction.

Logic aside, it is bad theology. It is deistic at its best. We get the feel that the processes are put in motion and allowed to run their own course with the full hope that they produce ‘active and independent conscious agents.’

The Omega Point
Gianni continues, “As there was a beginning, so there will be an end. In this, we believe that the Creator desires for time to run its course and not merely end at some arbitrary point short of the final completion He desires—a  destination known as the Omega Point—which is the perfected, harmonious, and joyful unity of all Creation in Him for the purpose of engaging in the ongoing creative activity of a redeemed and transformed universe—forever.”  (p 324-5)

I like this, but I suspect that my picture of this Omega Point (which I think is an accurately Biblical picture) may not be the same as Gianni’s. I’m very suspect of Gianni to be a universalist. Now, it is true, the final end of the universe is a recreation in which there will be perfect harmony and joy. The problem is that the Alpha and Omega Points are not rightly identified as the Son of God who is ‘the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last’ (Rev 22:13). The implication of that appellation is that the cosmos exists for Him and not for us, and that is precisely what the Scriptures tell us (Col 1:16).

But this is not what Gianni holds to; rather, we are the reason for the Creation’s existence. Granted, this is true in a formal way. The creation must exist so that we, the conscious, independent agents have a venue in which to respond to the Creator in love. But its ultimate purpose is not that there be a harmonious, joyful unity of a redeemed creation for its own sake. That unity is likewise secondary. The ultimate purpose of everything is to glorify Christ and to make him the focal point of praise and honor of every sentient and insentient thing (Ps 98:4-9; Is 55:12-13; Rom 14:11; Phil 2:9-11).

A more blatant flaw in the physicist priest’s theology regards the question as to whether or not the Creator controls the “illimitable interactions of conscious human beings with their individual environments, circumstances, and conditions, and in concert with their fellow humans.” (p 326) His answer is, “No....It is my belief that the future is not controlled in any way. To control the future would impose a deterministic outcome on the created order, thereby destroying both the freedom and independence of the freely interacting creatures it is meant to produce and, likewise, negating the very purpose for which the future and even time itself was created!” (p 327)

In Gianni’s eyes, creation is absolutely free from any control whatsoever by God. God made the creation, but has no say in its future. Imagine if that were true. It would mean the moment God brought the world into being, he had no clue what was going to happen from that very moment on. The best that he could do, he had already done, and that was to build into the creation potential for moving in the direction he would like it to go. At that point he could only sit back and hope that all would turn out well.

But it went south from the beginning. First Lucifer, then man. And it happened as a surprise to God, because he had no clue that it was coming. After all, having created a world so complex even at the quantum level and working so beautifully, how could all those ‘complex processes’ that were to enable the conscious agents to respond in love to their Creator fail? It was unthinkable! And yet, it was not good enough. Man could not keep one teeny requirement, and failed. God had failed. The world became a real mess, and mankind, all of it, was on its way to hell. What a pickle. God must have spent most of his time since the beginning of creation wringing his hands hoping things would get better.

But we see that God has intervened from the beginning at the point of man’s failure to live up to that potential. And the first action was not grace, but justice. God cursed man and the whole creation, which is still groaning under that curse. But no sooner had he pronounced the curse, he pronounced hope, the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15. And God could not make such a pronouncement in faith unless he were going to do something that meddled in the affairs of men.

Gianni’s God is not truly sovereign. He is befuddled by the work of his own hands. One might object and say that God voluntarily took his hands off the wheel, and he did so because he was sovereign. Such a suggestion ignores the overwhelming evidence of Scripture, and a true Christian whose faith is based solely on the Scriptures must reject it. So should have Gianni. Sovereignty is not true sovereignty unless it controls in every detail from the smallest subatomic particle to the remotest galaxy. As such, it would be impossible for God to relinquish any control, it would be counter to who and what he is. To do so, would cease to be God.

But then one would say, If God controls absolutely everything then it was his purpose that Lucifer and man would fall;  if God does everything that is good, how can he be responsible for evil? Evil in itself, by definition, is not good. But the existence of it is good, because through it God brings the most glory to himself. His holiness, justice, and wrath are revealed as well as his grace, mercy, and love in a way that could not otherwise be known, and the expression of all of these attributes redounds to his glory.

Gianni may be an intelligent priest, but he is a theological fool.

Stephen R. Lawhead's Web Page
List of CSFF Blog Tour Participants
The Spirit Well on Amazon - Hardcover   Kindle

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Shadow Lamp for review on the November, 2013 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Shadow Lamp - Day One of the November 2013 CSFF Blog Tour

The Shadow Lamp, book four of the Bright Empires saga, continues the tortuous ventures of Kit Livingston and Wilhelmina Klug who ley jumped into an alternate universe in the inaugural book, The Skin Map. With the introduction of so many characters along the way, and the many plunges into an alternate world, the story becomes nearly as difficult to follow as the plot of The Maltese Falcon, unless one has a photographic memory or keeps a meticulous log.

Having said that, I found The Shadow Lamp a relative breeze compared to the previous three installments. Even so, I won’t attempt to summarize the story and provide a track of its individual characters. Jeff Chapman, who I hope is participating in this tour, typically outshines us all in that effort and I will defer to him.

Lawhead’s development of his characters is without question superb. To give two or three characters a personality that is noticeably distinct from one another, and to keep them consistent throughout the tale, is challenging. But to have so many as this saga has, each one recognizably unique and coherent, are marks of a very talented writer. It is true that there is a large amount of narrative in the story, which to a large part tells rather than shows. But the narrative provides an indispensable framework that enhances the interaction of the characters and the attendant dialogue. The interweaving of the two is smooth and a loss of one or the other would degrade the story.

Mr. Lawhead has conveniently provided a list of characters at the beginning of the book, which provides a reminder of who is who and a sense of what they are like. That list with a synopsis of what has taken place in the first three volumes is invaluable, even for those who have read the entire saga from the start.

One character on the Who’s who? list refers to Mina’s associate venturer in the Grand Imperial Kaffeehaus in Prague.

Engelbert Stiffelbeam – a baker from Rosenheim in Germany, affectionately known as Etzel.

Happy day (and alternate reality) it was for Mina, who very shortly after she screamed herself silent when she landed in fifteenth century Prague (unbeknownst to her at that moment), gathered her wits, and as Providence smiled, encountered Engelbert handling the reins of a mule drawn wagon slowly making his way into the city. Engelbert gave her a lift, and as she sat beside him, she took to assessing her newfound friend, and though she did not know it yet, her future business partner. But that first meeting – how quaint it was, and so full of promise that things might turn out well for Mina after all.

As the vehicle drew nearer, she realized that it was not, as she had first imagined, a simple field conveyance, but a much more substantial vehicle: a large, high-sided affair with a cloth top drawn over curved hoops to form a round tentlike covering. The wagon was pulled by not one but two rangy, long-eared mules, and sitting on the driver’s bench was a very plump man in a baggy cloth hat. She stopped and allowed the vehicle to meet her, whereupon it slowed and rolled to a halt.
“Hiya!” she called, putting on a chirpy voice in the fledgling hope that her damp and bedraggled appearance might be overlooked.
Guten Tag,” came the reply, which sent Wilhelmina instantly back to her childhood and her German Grandmother’s kitchen.
The unexpected oddity of encountering a Deutschsprachigen on the road only served to deepen her already fathomless confusion. Bereft of speech, she could only stare at the man.
....the traveller put down the reins and stood, leaned over, and indicated the iron step ring projecting from the base of the wagon bed behind the front wheel, then reached down his hand. She placed a muddy boot on the step and accepted the offered hand, and was pulled effortlessly up and onto the wooden seat....
They proceeded in silence, rocking over the uneven road. Now and then, she stole a glance at the driver of the wagon.... The plump fellow presented an altogether unremarkable appearance—save for his face: smooth, pink as a baby’s, round, even-featured, with pale blue eyes beneath pale eyebrows, and ample cheeks that glowed in the brisk autumn breeze beneath the fine haze of a thin, stubbly blond beard.
It was the sweet-natured face that made him, she decided, for the countenance with which he faced the world wore an expression of benign cheerfulness—as if all that met his gaze amused and delighted, as if the world and everything in it existed only for his pleasure. He seemed to exude goodwill. (The Skin Map, pp 80-82)

Mina and Etzel became business partners of a thriving Kaffeehaus of the late middle ages. They become close friends as Mina’s first instincts about the man proved true – so true that Etzel remained ever faithful to her in the most trying circumstances that unfold in our present novel:

... He [Burleigh] moved into the room and lowered his voice. “Your associate has involved herself in my business and I want to know why. I want to know everything.”
Concern wrinkled the baker’s placid brow. “I do not understand.”
“My German is not so good.” Burleigh stepped closer. “I will try to explain. The Fraulein is interfering in my affairs. I want to know why. In fact, I want to know everything.”
“I think you should go now,” replied Engelbert, crossing his arms across his massive chest....
“We are not finished,” said Burleigh. He called to Tav.... “He refuses to talk. See if you can loosen his tongue.”
“Right, Boss.” Tav quickly took up a position in front of Etzel....With catlike quickness, his hand flashed out, seizing his victim by the throat. “Listen, you ignorant oaf,” he said, his voice a grating whisper in the startled baker’s ear. “My boss here asked you a question. I suggest you tell him what he wants to know. Or this could get messy....”
Engelbert fell back rubbing his neck. “I will tell you nothing, he said. “You must leave now.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when Tav’s fist smashed into his jaw, snapping his head to the side.
“As I have explained,” said Burleigh, “you will tell me what I want to know.”
The baker, glaring at his attackers from below lowered brows, rubbed his jaw and shook his head. “I will tell you nothing.”
“We shall see.” Burleigh nodded at Tav, who reached into a coat pocket and produced a set of  brass knuckles, making a show of fitting them to his hand and making a first.
“You think to hurt me?” said Engelbert. “You think maybe that if you hurt me this will make me tell you something? Is that what you are thinking?”
“I give you one last chance....”
Tav slammed his fist down on the wooden tabletop....
“Shame on you,” said Engelbert, with a defiant thrust of his chin. “I will tell you nothing.”
Tav lunged forward plunging his fist in the big man’s stomach. Engelbert staggered back, hit the oven, and fell onto his hands and knees. The Burley Man lashed out with his boot, striking again at the baker’s round stomach.
Etzel loosed a gasp of pain. He gulped air and held his side. “Yes, you can hurt me,” he said, his voice tight and strained. “Still, I say nothing.”
....His next blow caught the baker on the side of the head, opening a gash  above his eye. Blood spurted from the cut and splashed down the baker’s round, cherubic face....
“You can knock me down until I get up no more,” Etzel said, dragging himself upright. “But still I tell you nothing....”
“As Wilhelmina has placed her trust in me, I place my trust in God.” He cupped his broken chin. “God is my refuge and strength.” (The Shadow Lamp, pp 288-290)

And on it went. What a faithful friend. What an inspiring character.

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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Shadow Lamp for review on the November, 2013 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Utility and Creativity in a Theology of Christian Writing

Our development of a theology of Christian writing so far favors a theological basis for non-fiction as we have emphasized writing to be the communication of something that is meaningful (that is, in line with that meaning God designed) so that the significance, value, and purpose of what we are writing about is accurate and understandable. These traits are absolutely essential when we write, as we do in non-fiction, to inform, instruct, correct, or rebuke, which aligns with the four-fold profitability of scripture Paul identifies in 2 Tim 3:16. This implies that the Bible was not written for entertainment but for serious perusal (cf Psalm 1:1, 2); as such, it serves as an exemplary, holy precedent that the Christian writer of non-fiction may follow.

When we ponder the writing that goes into fiction, we find it differs in that we look for creativity, story, and artistic craftsmanship. But when it comes to non-fiction, these features are in the background. Instead, we look for profundity, clarity, and cogency (as Westminster Theological Seminary professor John Frame did in his students’ papers). Craftsmanship is not absent by any means, but it is not as aesthetically marked as it is in fiction. It is comparable to the difference between the artisanry of a mason and a sculptor. One emphasizes functionality, the other style, beauty, and taste.

There are, however, commonalities between fiction and non-fiction. Regardless of which is penned, by virtue of the nature of writing, it reflects in some way or another a style, vocabulary, and linguistic craftsmanship that is peculiar to the author’s writing and thereby places his ‘stamp’ on it. As with all writing, the weaving of words into a meaningful and accurate non-fictional discourse does not have to be stilted but can be colorful and artful. Paul’s zeal in defending his character and qualifications to underscore his apostleship in Second Corinthians comes through with passionate, even poetic, language: 

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed --- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. 2 Cor 4:7-12 

When non-fiction is uppermost in the development of a theology of Christian writing, we tend to restrict our idea of writing to a utilitarian function – that is, unless the writing can exposit the meaning of something which in some way is useful for the reader, then we have not written as we ought. Consequently, if our theology restricts the significance, purpose, and value of writing itself to say something that must benefit the reader in some fashion or other (as in line with the four-fold profitability of scripture), we have not merely placed a premium on non-fiction, we have placed any other type of writing outside the bounds of our theology and therefore outside of any legitimate, God glorifying use of it.

To do so would be bad news for Christian writers who write fiction. But the divinely created and, therefore, inherent trait of writing to convey meaning does not by definition restrict its own meaning to serviceable uses alone. It is very questionable if one should assume that fiction does not possess the potential for such a use. Consider John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or even the Bible’s own Apocalypse. In both examples, the use of fictional (even fantastical) imagery and the narrative woven around that imagery serves to teach eternal truths about God, the human condition, and its redemptive resolution. That resolution is utilitarian in the sense that it benefits the reader who has eyes to see and ears to hear.

Assuming, for argument’s sake, that fiction has no utilitarian value, our theological framework would have to expand to include it if we, as Christians, are to pursue fiction as a legitimate, even divinely approved, work. It should be noted that work as a description of what one is doing when writing fiction places fiction in a category that is shared by other legitimate labors such as agriculture, medicine, astronomy, aquaculture, engineering sciences, et. al.; that is, it is a vehicle to execute the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28. This point will be inspected and added to our theology in a forthcoming article. It will stress what made such labor possible, which is the creative purpose of God (a) to bring into existence the cosmos, (b) to place within that creation one made in his own image, (c) that the image-bearer reflect the creativity of God, (d) that the image-bearer pursue a cultural purpose – he is to be an artisan that develops the potential of the creation God placed him in. Thus it will also explore the implications of writing (fiction in particular) as a cultural endeavor.

But to shift our thinking somewhat, we should note that there are remarkable parallels between God and his creative activity and the divine image-bearer who, as a writer of fiction, analogously creates a story-world. This parallel is possible because of the nature of speech, which provides another tenet for a theology of Christian writing: Because human speech is patterned after and analogous to divine speech, and because there is an intrinsic power in divine speech that brings into being that which does not exist (Genesis 1), so there is an intrinsic power in human speech that is capable of imaginatively bringing into being a story-world. 

Human speech does not create ex nihilo for the same reason the inventor does not invent something from nothing. Just as the artisan builds something from what already is, the fiction writer builds an imaginative cosmos (story-world) that is rooted in the actual cosmos. As such, he becomes the sovereign behind the story-world and oversees the events that take place within it. Hence, we may include in our theology that the Christian fiction writer expresses his image-bearing by imitating the role of the Creator in his sovereignty and providence over the story he creates.

The following is from an article (Reflecting God’s Creation-Work in Our Writing), which explores the parallelism between God’s creativity and ours as an image-bearer who writes fiction. 

'The writer conceives of many possibilities as he contemplates the makings of his story - the world, the characters, the events and the interaction of all three with each other. He chooses some among the multitude of possibilities and abandons others. Our creating is merely analogical to God’s and as such, there is an incomparable difference between God’s creating and ours. God did not have to think about the possibilities in the sense of discovering them – they were always present in his mind. But we have to think of them, conjure them, so to speak, based on what we know and experience. These possible ideas are borrowed and temporal; God’s ideas are original and eternal. But regardless of the difference between our creating and God’s, there are still similarities, and the ideas behind the stories are just a part of it.

'The writer, in a manner, brings into existence a world wherein his story unfolds. Obviously, by existence I do not mean in actuality. But we do bring about a world with which the reader of the story resonates. One might say that, in a certain way, the writer brings into actual existence an imaginary world. That sounds contradictory, but it really is not. I, along with millions of other readers, have found myself in the midst of such an imaginary world because the story itself has drawn me into it; through my imagination, I enter that world, and the events and characters take on a sense of reality. I can see it in my minds eye so vividly, that it feels real, it feels like I’m right there, observing and sensing what the imaginary characters themselves see and feel.

'In God’s creation-work, the world was brought into existence by his powerful word. In our story-creation, the same thing happens, analogically. Our words create a fantasy existence which the reader experiences through his imagination.

'God’s word is powerful, bringing about a handiwork that declares his glory. It is breathtaking. It is profound. God’s creative word places us physically within that handiwork, making us an integral part of it. We interact with it. Our story telling should mimic the divine word; it should produce a tale of fine artisanship, so powerful in the telling (and reading) of it, that the reader is drawn into it and experiences it.

'As Christians, the world we create through our words should glorify God. This is done not only by transmitting unveiled biblical truth (there is no other kind of truth), but doing such in an imaginary world whose intricate parts are woven together through superb literary craftsmanship.

'God created all-powerfully producing a magnificent creation marked by precision, order, and design. For God, this was effortless, the mere speaking of it into existence. We want to create an imaginary world that similarly exhibits precision, order, and design, but unlike God’s effortless speech, the creation of such a world takes exacting labor on our part. The writer must throw every ounce of care he has into constructing phrases, sentences, paragraphs that knit seamlessly a believable world. This does not mean flowery or witty. It means realism. The world must be imaginatively real, as vivid as the one the reader walks into when he opens the front door and steps out. It takes careful development of character and voice, of events and their interrelation to other events and characters. It cannot be shoddy, superficial, wooden, hackneyed, or stereotypical.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Word and Language: The Heart of a Theology of Christian Writing - Part 3

In the last article we identified a few more elements to include in a theology of Christian writing: 

A theology of Christian writing must recognize (a) that God speaks meaningfully, (b) that human speech and writing (recorded speech) is patterned after God’s own speech and therefore is capable of communicating something meaningful, (c) this inherent quality of writing is intended to communicate not only to those living in the present but to those who come later (as God providentially did in the holy scriptures), and (d) what it communicates ought to be in line with the way things really are, that is, say something in keeping with the divine design and purpose of things. 

Our theology of Christian writing must consider the spiritual context in which the writing is done. If there had been no entrance of sin into the world, and man had not become sinful by nature, man would have always spoken and written in accordance to truth, to the way things really are, as far as his finite grasp of the truth could take it.

Therefore, our theology must consider this, that sinfulness and finitude may result in a less than accurate communication – the significance, value, and purpose of what we are writing about may be distorted.

The distortion may not always be the fault of the writer. The reader may not comprehend the meaning of the written word as fully as is possible. Assuming a normal mental aptitude and no attention disorder on the side of the reader, this failure to comprehend may be due to a poor vocabulary, a defective interpretive method, or a lack of discipline. Perhaps a lack of clear communication is a combination of deficiencies in both the author and the reader.

Given that we want to write meaningfully and clearly in line with the way God intended writing to be, and that finitude as well as the debilitating effects of sin oppose this effort, a theology of Christian writing should take care that the Christian writer consider his target readership and accommodate his writing to meet them where they are. As a corollary to this, the Christian writer should be aware of his own capabilities in terms of his literary craftsmanship and ask the question, To whom am I able to communicate most effectively given my gifts as a writer and the manner in which I write best? Having assessed this, the Christian writer should choose carefully a target audience to whom he can appeal within the constraints of his literary aptitude and skill. 

We may look to two New Testament writers as an example of accommodating their writing to a particular target audience. The New Testament was written largely in what is now called Koine Greek, that is, the common Greek as opposed to the literary Greek of the classic writers (e.g., Aesop, 620-560 BC and Thales, c. 600 BC). It was the kind of Greek found in the letters and business documents of everyday life. It was the Greek that the common man spoke and wrote in.[1] That does not mean that it was unsophisticated and uneducated Greek. It was well written Greek. Paul was well educated and wrote well; he reached the common man in familiar language using a vocabulary, syntax, and style that was familiar and amenable. On the other hand, Luke’s writing (the gospel and Acts) reflects his intended readership to be those acquainted with a Hellenistic literary style and a degree of sophistication in terms of scholarship. His opening statement in the gospel has been described as “the most finely composed sentence in the whole of post-Classical Greek literature,” (Graham Stanton). Paul and Luke apparently had different audiences in mind and thus wrote differently, not reflecting merely the differences that ordinarily surface between two authors, but reflecting a purposeful literary appeal that accommodates a particular readership. Their approaches were not counter-productive or in some way at odds with each other. Paul and Luke were the closest of friends and ministered the same gospel (Acts 16, 21; Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11; Phil 1:24). Their target audience was different and so they wrote differently.

[1] Adolf Deismann (New Testament in Light of Modern Research, 1929, p 37, 38) writes:

The result of these investigations, in which, of course, numbers of scholars from other countries have taken part, is chiefly this: that in the New Testament we have to deal, not with “tired” Greek, nor “Jewish” Greek, but rather with the wild-growing speech of the people at the different stages of its development. It has been shown that it was a great mistake to take for granted that the Greek language reached its highest point in the classical Attic, and that afterward there was only deterioration. The case is really this: that when Greek came to be used in literature there were two chief forms of it, one which always existed among the masses of the people, the living speech of the people which always spread further, and above it, the literary language modeled according to artificial rules.

We have no documents, or at least only very few, in the people’s language of the old period, because it never found expression in literature. But it is obvious that the sailors of Athens, or the merchants of the Ionian colonies, or the peasants of the Peloponnesus never spoke the language as it was written by Demosthenes or Thucydides. In the papyri and the ostraca on the one hand, and in the New Testament on the other, the underground stream of the people’s language springs up powerfully into the daylight. And this colloquial Greek of the early days of Christianity cannot, with truth, be labeled as a “tired” language. Atticism makes a much more tired and senile impression. We can say that it has been a dispensation of Providence that the Apostles have not been Atticists in their sermons, in their letters, and later in their literary productions. For had that been so, Christianity would have been a privileged esoteric affair of a small and exclusive upperclass. Because the Apostles spoke the people’s language, the Gospel could go among the masses, could start a mission, and could wander from coast to coast. (italics mine)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Word and Language: The Heart of a Theology of Christian Writing - Part 2

In the last article, we drew this point for our theology of Christian writing:Words, in accordance with the syntax and grammar of the language that we write in, give us the capacity to glorify God by expositing truth and reality accurately – as it really is.

This capacity to glorify God will be addressed in a subsequent article. For now, I want to consider the functionality of writing as an exposition of truth and reality. A few years back, I ran across the teachings of Jan (Justice) Boshoff who through a multitude of you-tube videos and facebook notes disparaged the Bible calling it a danger to the Christian who should not be fooled into thinking that the Bible is the word of God. He was not saying that there was absolutely no value in the Bible, but it should not be taken as the word of God to us today, here and now. He advocated a continuing revelation from God and that through the Holy Spirit we receive his word now. The Bible is not for our time, written by men who were fallible and were addressing issues of a day gone by. This brought into question of not only the veracity, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible, but also of the reliability of human language to communicate faithfully God’s divine word.

In a series of eleven articles, I challenged Mr. Boshoff’s claims, and in the sixth article (The Adequacy of Human Speech as a Medium for Divine Speech) I discussed how human speech is patterned after God’s speech:God’s speech is the pattern on which all human speech is designed. The first recorded words of God are “Let there be light,” or simply, “Light be!” Genesis 1:3. It is divine speech, translated into human language, having a meaning that we humans can understand. God’s speech is translatable into and understandable in terms of human language.   Since it was God who spoke first and human language came afterwards, we may understand that human language is analogous of divine language. Human speech is patterned after God’s speech. God’s speech is the paradigm that human language follows. Grammatical rules, syntactical relationships, and meaningful vocabulary are intrinsic to human language because they are intrinsic to God’s language. That is why human language is suited as a medium for expressing God’s speech. When human language is enlisted to express God thoughts as they are in the words, “Let there be light,” those human words are God’s words using the grammar, syntax, and verbal meanings of a human language that is analogous to God’s speech.

The implications are that just as God speaks, so the human may speak and say something meaningful – it speaks truly and accurately having significance, value, and purpose. That meaning is conveyed through language that can be spoken or recorded for posterity. For the Christian writer, that posterity includes his peers as well as those who follow in subsequent generations. Speech communicates, and written speech communicates through time. That is a property of writing that we infer to be by design as God has used it to communicate his will, purposes, plans and even his character over time and for Adam’s posterity through the holy scriptures and through theological works that faithfully exposit the scriptures.

I propose, therefore, that a theology of Christian writing must recognize (a) that God speaks meaningfully, (b) that human speech and writing (recorded speech) is patterned after God’s own speech and therefore is capable of communicating something meaningful, (c) this inherent quality of writing is intended to communicate not only to those living in the present but to those who come later (as God providentially did in the holy scriptures), and (d) what it communicates ought to be in line with the way things really are, that is, say something in keeping with the divine design and purpose of things.

Therefore, Christian writing should not be frivolous and cryptic but a clear and accurate exposition of whatever the writing is about. This requires a mastery of the language in which we write and a craftsmanship that enhances written structure. Just as a plain box can hold many useful tools or toys, depending on its purpose, the box is not appropriate for other more sophisticated uses – the ultimate example being the cubicle Holy of Holies of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. The Christian writer, particularly when his work is intended as high Christian writing, should not be looking at the toolbox, but the Holy of Holies.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Word and Language: The Heart of a Theology of Christian Writing - Part 1

Word and language are at the heart of a theology of Christian writing for the obvious reason it is the heart of writing itself. In my first article, I stressed that our theology of writing must be biblically based, and it may seem to make such a proposition like this misses that point. But we will see that word and language are divine traits serving as the paradigm for human language and as such have a very profound impact on a theology of Christian writing.

But first, in this article, I want to consider what word and language are. I have consulted dictionaries on my shelf as well as some online ones, and the best definition of what I mean by ‘word’ is “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.”

Word as a principal carrier of meaning is the significant idea. A survey of the word meaning in online dictionaries and discussions (see, for example, Exploration Into the Meaning of the Word ‘Meaning’) explain meaning in terms of significance, value, and purpose, which are themselves interrelated. For something to have meaning, it must have significance, that is, it must point to something recognizable and discernable to our understanding. The value we discern of that which is pointed to is directly related to its significance; if it has a special or high value in our estimation, we may say it is very significant. Part of the value of anything is its purpose, especially as that purpose relates to me. Discovering the purpose of something is to discover something of its significance and value, and therefore of its meaning.

For the Christian, whose understanding of the nature of things is informed by the scriptures, these three - the significance, value, and purpose of something - do not come as an accident. As Cornelius Van Til proposed, there are no such things as brute facts, that is, there is no fact that comes of its own accord and exists in a vacuum. A fact is not simply just there without relation to other facts. If that were possible, it would not be a fact – it would have no meaning and incapable of interpretation. Every fact has a context in which it contributes to the meaning of everything it is related to in that context.

Now, here is the import of this: a theistic understanding of fact and its meaning is that God created both. Nothing has a meaning except that which God built into it according to his own good pleasure (cf Eph 1:5,9,11). Hence, the meaning of anything in terms of its significance, value, and purpose are by the design of the Creator.

This encourages the Christian writer because he knows that words and their interrelation to each other according to the rules of syntax and grammar have the capacity to say something meaningful. They can say something that has a significance, value, and purpose that has been built into it by a holy, sovereign, wise, and prudent God who has set his love on him or her.

We may draw from this a point for our theology of Christian writing: Words, in accordance with the syntax and grammar of the language that we write in, give us the capacity to glorify God by expositing truth and reality accurately – as it really is. Through words, the meaning of this world which points back to the Author of that meaning, may be unearthed.

What bearing this principle has for fiction and non-fiction requires separate treatment, but it implies that truth and meaning, or saying something about the ways things really are, or how things ought to be, can be mediated through both since the medium of both is human language.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Pertinence of a Theology of Christian Writing

When as Christians we attempt to lay out the rules and guidelines that ought to be followed regarding any aspect of our faith and conduct, we often ascribe to it a theology of such and such. To put this in terms of ‘ought’ immediately places this under the rubric of ethics. If we ought to do something, it is because God has prescribed it and we ascertain the prescription of that either by overt biblical statement, or, as the Westminster divines phrased it, “by good and necessary consequence” (Westminster Confession of Faith 1, VI) drawn from a biblical study of the matter.

For example, we have a theology of salvation (soteriology), sin (hamartiology), Christ (Christology), last things (eschatology), and so on. These doctrines are fundamentally about faith, or what we ought to believe. Interestingly, there never has been a solid consensus on the doctrine of last things throughout church history as evidenced by the three familiar views of the millennium (amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism). The oughtness of a theology of last things breaks down, and we believe that is acceptable because what we really mean by ‘ought’ when it comes to our faith is that it applies only to matters that are essential to Christianity. For example, there is no Christianity if there is no Christ or resurrection. Hence, to have a theology of salvation without a resurrected Christ is not a matter in which there is wiggle room. Either you hold to Christ’s resurrection or you are a heretic. Not so with one’s millennial view because whatever one holds to, he has not strayed from what is essential to Christianity.

A theology of a certain practice, that is, a biblical view of how we should behave as Christians likewise has areas which are quite clear and others which are not so obvious. I recall in the sixties how Beatlemania introduced the fad of long hair for men and changed the course of male hairstyle ever since. It was debated hotly at times as to whether or not it was a sin for a man to have long hair. Citing such verses as 1 Cor 11:14, Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?, at first seemed to settle the matter until the question was posed, how long is long? And whether the length of man’s hair was relative to the male hairstyles of the culture. Charges of relativism and situational ethics were made. Similar questions rose over the drinking of alcoholic beverages, smoking, dancing, going to the movies, and playing cards. In the church at Corinth, it was eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor 8; 10:25; cf Rom 14:21). How one behaves in such matters has to do with an opinion that is made in good conscience, and because they are not essential to Christianity itself (for example, whether one smoked or not had nothing to do with his authenticity as a Christian), there was room for difference and toleration.

As Christian writers, in some fashion or other, we have a theology of Christian writing. Some of us may have spent considerable time over that, others may have given it little thought; regardless, if the writer is truly Christian, his Christianity affects his writing, not only in the content, but also in the practice. The theology of Christian writing that I hold to is very likely different from yours, and may very well be at odds with it. I have expressed my views in several posts, and it has elicited responses both pro and con.

Whatever our theology of Christian writing is, it ought to be biblically based. We should give serious thought to what writing is in general, and what Christian writing is in particular. When we have done that, we can measure our obedience to the one who has called us to be writers. It really is a matter of obedience in the sense that God calls us to devote ourselves seriously to whatever he has called us to do. Part of that devotion is to be sure that we are doing it to the best of our ability, in a manner that reflects the nobility of our work, and as consciously as possible to the glory of God. How we do that goes into our theology, and if we are not faithful to it, we are failing in our calling – we are disobedient servants.