Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reflecting God’s Creation-Work in Our Writing

Man was created in God’s image and as such it is a certainty that writers, members of the race of men, are also created in his image. There are many things that go into the meaning of ‘God’s image’ but I want to dwell a little on that aspect in which the role of man as creator is akin to God who is The Creator.

Whatever one’s profession or craft may be, there is always some creativity that goes into it. Whether it be slinging garbage into a garbage truck, preparation of a dinner for a family of five, or the swinging of a bat to hit a ninety mile-an-hour fastball, there is creativity. Certainly, there are common rules one must abide by - put the garbage in the back of the truck, not the front; bring the water to a boil to cook the potatoes; keep your head down and eyes on the ball. But within the framework of those rules, there is also room to put your own stamp on it. I would surmise that slinging garbage could take on a variety of styles, but it is likely that room for creativity in that area is limited. But still there is room.

When it comes to writing, there is a vast panorama of possibilities. I think the fundamental reason is this: a story, from conception to completed work, has intrinsic parallels to the creation-work of God. God conceives of all creative possibilities at once and has done so eternally. At the time of creation (that is, that time when there was absolutely nothing but the Triune God himself, and then by divine fiat, there was something) God sovereignly chose to bring into being only some of those ideas. There was choice on his part; not an arbitrary choice, but a choice based on wisdom and knowledge so deep and mysterious, we cannot understand it except in a very small way. The actual bringing into existence was by speech – God spoke and it was. God’s word is a creating word, that is, it cannot help but bring into existence what is spoken.

The writer, the image-bearer of God, analogically creates; his creation-work parallels God’s. All writers analogically create. Whether Christian or pagan, they cannot help but do this because they cannot help but reflect God’s image.

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.

Perhaps, Christian fantasy by its nature has the most fertile possibilities available. It possesses great opportunities, and as image-bearers of God and saints by his grace, we must produce the very best, excelling beyond our secular peers. In my estimation, an undesirable portion of current-day Christian fantasy for the young falls far short of such a standard. The Christian fantasy writer for the young must create an imaginary world in which the reader cannot help but slip into, where the biblical truth is unequivocal and without fuzziness, exhibiting intelligence, skill, and craft. It should be timeless and enduring, fascinating the youthful reader on into adulthood. As a corollary of this, it should appeal and charm the reader of any age. But most of all, as the material universe itself exclaims God’s glory, our fictional world should likewise point back to the Ultimate Creator and exalt him:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4 (ESV)


  1. This is wonderful! I love these parallels you've drawn between writing and creation. Kudos to you!

    I've been looking into Christian fiction more lately, especially Christian fantasy, after being introduced to the book The Testings of Devotion by Cheryl Dellasega. It's the first book in a series entitled the Heavenly Host, and I think it's a perfect expression of biblically-based offerings about the lives of angels and the struggle of good vs. evil while still maintaining a beautifully descriptive element of fantasy, such as when heaven and hell are being presented in exquisite, fine detail. I keep raving about this book because it's got the balance that I think many, if not all, Christian writers strive for, and because of this it is universally appealing. I hope you might get a chance to check it out as I think you would appreciate it.

    Hey, thanks again for this post. It is beautiful. Many blessings to you!

  2. Molly, thank you for taking the time to read the post. If you have opportunity, pass it on to others, if you think it appropriate.

    I'll look into The Testings of Devotion. Are there other works by this author that you think would be useful for a study on the craftsmanship of Christian fantasy?

    I've written a fantasy for young teens and adults entitled, The Oerken Leaves. Follow the link above to The Oerken Leaves Website ( where you can download the prologue and first three chapters. If you get a chance to look at them, let me know and tell me what you think. You can leave a comment here, or send me a message via Facebook. The website also lets you send me an email.

    Thanks again

  3. Hello Thomas! Here us more about Cheryl Dellasega, the author of the book I mentioned. She's written a lot of YA fiction and some wonderful books on for women. There will also be more books in the Heavenly Host series.

    I will definitely check out your work and pass the info along. I wish you so many blessings on your journey. I know you are being well looked after from above. =)

  4. I 'liked' your book's page on Facebook! I look forward to learning more about it. =)