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Samuel Dark
06-27-2005, 10:33 AM
A lot of Christian fiction I see can't be enjoyed by non-christians. Stoeirs like Left Behind. Sure, they can enjoy it. But will they really pick it up? I don't know any non-christian who reads it. Do you?

And then, because of Left Behind, there are many 'end of the world' books. And sure, some of interesting concepts -- but the writing 9at least for me) isn't good enough.

And then you get into the 'too preachy' types. With stories that are great, but can get too preachy.

Why don't we have more writers like Ted Dekker? Who just writes. He always has a jammed packed message in every book, yet he paints each novel in a way that anyone could enjoy it. Christian or not.

Am I the only one who see's this? Sure we should have stories for us Christians, but if you truly want to help he sick -- you gatta interest the sick, first. Am I right? Or wrong? Or what...

ldumont999
06-27-2005, 04:51 PM
I'm with you 100%. A perfect example of a top-notch writer who doesn't shy away from the gospel but simply writes good fiction from a Christian World View is Brandilyn Collins. I knew Brandilyn before she signed her nine book deal with Zondervan and became a hot commodity on the Christian writers circuit.

As I mentioned in an other post... Brandilyn writes mazing works of suspense. There are some Christian characters but the main character of her one forensic series is not a Christian. I think she's heading in that direction and will make a profession of faith before the series is over, but it is not bang-them-over-the-head writing.

Brandilyn also has a book out called "Getting into Character." Excellent writing book. She teaches at Christian writing conferences around the country, has a great website (http://www.brandilyncollins.com/ (http://www.brandilyncollins.com/)) and a writers blog called Forensics and Faith (http://www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com/ (http://www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com/)) To top all that off, Brandilyn is a lovely lady :Thumbs:with an amazing faith.

If you decide to drop Brandilyn a line through her website, tell her I sent you there :Thumbs:.

Betty W01
06-28-2005, 07:19 AM
Other writers who can write interesting stories without shying away from Christianity or beating you over the head with it: Dee Henderson, Kathy Tyer, Francine Rivers, John Laurence Robinson (hey, Gravity!!), Sally Wright, Tricia Goyer, Jane Fitzpatrick.

Gravity
06-28-2005, 08:13 AM
Well, garsh!! (blush). Thanks Betty! I'm in pretty good company there, and not entirely deserving of it, but I'll take what I can get! *G*

John

Betty W01
06-28-2005, 09:58 PM
Those of you who are curious to see what all the fuss is about can see my review of Gravity's book here:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/mar_05.htm (http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/mar_05.htm)

I can't wait until John
1) gets back the rights to his first book
2) gets the next one published.
Hurry up, John, hurry up!! People are waiting here!! :Jump:

ldumont999
06-28-2005, 10:54 PM
I ejoyed your review, Betty. John's book certainly does sound interesting. I'm not a man, but I love suspense and I think I'm going to get a copy of this book. Nothing "going in the wrong direction" here. :)

Gravity
06-28-2005, 11:43 PM
Thanks, ya'll! By the way, I was talking with a colleague recently, and she said that when the second book in a series comes out (for instance, my next Joe Box book will be out October 1), it naturally helps with sales of the first. Then the next one out helps with the first two, and so on, growing exponentially.

Sounds good, but does anyone have any any hard data that this is so?

Thanks in advance.

John

MadScientistMatt
06-29-2005, 12:06 AM
I know what you mean. The guy who teaches the Sunday School class I attend sometimes jokes about Christians who are so into their own parallel world that they "eat Christian cookies and wear Christian underwear." Some Christians manage to become too insular. I've seen some people in church commenting that they can't understand how non-Christians can get by without (well, fill in the blank here). I usually wind up thinking, "Well, you'd better figure it out if you want to have any meaningful dialog with them."

I sometimes wonder if some of the Christian fiction out there also reflects this sort of mindset. I haven't read any of the Left Behind novels myself, but I've found a lot of the Christian attempts to dramatize the Rapture don't even manage to sell me on their interpretation of how the various end time prophesies fit together. They're written with the assumption that both the writer and the reader or audience agree on the underlying interpretations. This does sort of limit their appeal...

I'm not sure if I would write a "Christian novel," per se. But if I wrote a novel, it would definitely be from a Christian mindset, and I might even work in various questions about faith or Christian living into the book's themes. But I'm not sure if I would call it specifically "Christian fiction."

Samuel Dark
07-02-2005, 10:20 AM
Hey guys! Thanks for replying. I am going to read that Review of John's book, ASAP!


I know what you mean. The guy who teaches the Sunday School class I attend sometimes jokes about Christians who are so into their own parallel world that they "eat Christian cookies and wear Christian underwear." Some Christians manage to become too insular. I've seen some people in church commenting that they can't understand how non-Christians can get by without (well, fill in the blank here). I usually wind up thinking, "Well, you'd better figure it out if you want to have any meaningful dialog with them."

I sometimes wonder if some of the Christian fiction out there also reflects this sort of mindset. I haven't read any of the Left Behind novels myself, but I've found a lot of the Christian attempts to dramatize the Rapture don't even manage to sell me on their interpretation of how the various end time prophesies fit together. They're written with the assumption that both the writer and the reader or audience agree on the underlying interpretations. This does sort of limit their appeal...

I'm not sure if I would write a "Christian novel," per se. But if I wrote a novel, it would definitely be from a Christian mindset, and I might even work in various questions about faith or Christian living into the book's themes. But I'm not sure if I would call it specifically "Christian fiction."

I agree. And although I call myself a Christian writer, there will be times when a book in a series will have no message at all. Why? Because, I am in this business to do a ministery. And, just like the writers hook, I want to hook people into the story: everyone. So, what I will do sometime (with a book called Smoking Guns, mind you..I think you might remember it, Matt)...is that with the first book, there will only be a hint of a message; a mystrous preacher man, who just happens to meet Rex (the main character). In fact, I the main characters will show their distates for 'Christians'. But, with the end of the second book -- you will start to see the message of the story is. Not quite sure what it is just yet -- but I am not at the book yet, so there! lol...

Anyway...thanks again!

Ralyks
07-04-2005, 10:38 PM
I've said this before but I'll say it again, since we're on the topic. I think part of the problem is the modern secularization of culture in general. This forces Christianity into a kind of cultural ghetto, where its insularity breeds mediocrity. In the past, everything was made in God--architecture, paintings, literature, music--it was all infused with Christianity, and it was never labeled "Christian music," "Christian literautre," "Christian art." It was just literature, music, art. And it was Christian because the culture was informed by Christianity.

Christians need to re-enter the cultural mainstream and bring their Christianity along with them. It's hard to do, because our culture is so secular, and it puts up barriers to anything remotely Christian in its message. And this in turn leads the Christian cultural ghetto. The first way out of that is to raise our artistic standards to meet those of the secular world. Yes--I'm saying I think Christians have low artistic standards. I'm saying the Christian public tolerates in work labeled "Christian" a low quality it would never tolerate in work labeled secular. It puts up with mediocre art simply because it appreciates that the art is theologically correct. Until the Christian public demands higher quality, it won't happen.

There is also an anti-intellectual strain in modern Amercian Protestantism which has bred this problem as well. The problem is not as widespread, I do not think, in Catholic culture--there you tend to see works of greater depth, complexity, nuance and more widespread appeal. I'm not sure how one overcomes this anti-intellectual tradition, other than to continuously remind people of the riches and complexity of older Christian writings.

TLHines
07-13-2005, 11:48 PM
I think Skylar has nailed this one--in an argument much like Francis Schaeffer made about art/literature and Christianity.

Are we moving in the right direction? Depends on your viewpoint, I guess. Love it or hate it, the success of the "Left Behind" series opened a lot of doors--for people such as Ted Dekker. I think we'll be seeing edgier Christian fiction coming out of the CBA in the next year or two. If you are truly interested in this topic, I suggest you check out the "Faith*in*Fiction" blog maintained by Bethany House Editor Dave Long at http://faithinfiction.blogspot.com; Dave talks at length about this very subject, and his goal is to find the kind of fiction we're talking about.

DrRita
07-14-2005, 01:59 AM
Christians need to re-enter the cultural mainstream and bring their Christianity along with them. It's hard to do, because our culture is so secular, and it puts up barriers to anything remotely Christian in its message. And this in turn leads the Christian cultural ghetto. The first way out of that is to raise our artistic standards to meet those of the secular world. Yes--I'm saying I think Christians have low artistic standards. I'm saying the Christian public tolerates in work labeled "Christian" a low quality it would never tolerate in work labeled secular. It puts up with mediocre art simply because it appreciates that the art is theologically correct. Until the Christian public demands higher quality, it won't happen.


In his book, Open Windows written in 1982 Philip Yancey predicts exactly what you are saying, Skylar. And I quote:

Somewhere in the magnetic field between art and propangada the Christian author works. One force tempts us to lower artistic standards and preach an unadorned message; another tempts us to submerge or even alter the message for the sake of artistic sensibilities.. . .Success often lies with the extremes: an author may succeed in the evangelical world by erring on the side of propaganda. But ever so slowly, the fisure between Christian and secular worlds will yawn wider. If we continue tilting toward propaganda we will soon find ourselves writing and selling books to ourselves alone. On the other hand, the Christian author cannot simply asorb the literary standards of the larger world. Our ultimate goal cannot be self-expression, but rather a God-expression.

Homesar Runner
07-14-2005, 04:47 AM
There is also an anti-intellectual strain in modern Amercian Protestantism which has bred this problem as well. The problem is not as widespread, I do not think, in Catholic culture--there you tend to see works of greater depth, complexity, nuance and more widespread appeal.

skylarburris,

You're on to something here -- i.e. the bit about Catholic culture. But, I suggest it is not Catholic culture per se, but rather the sacramental spirituality that underlies it which is "delivering the goods." Sacramental spirituality is based on a fundamental relationship between the external, objective, tangible, sensate world and that of the internal, subjective, intangible, and reflective. Within a sacramental world-view, everything has meaning, everything is haunted, as it were, with significance. Those who are reared within this kind of intellectual framework routinely develop the capacity -- even if only an embryonic capacity -- to do what all good art does, viz. to capture meaning which is otherwise unsensible and to render it in sensible forms.

Looking around the American landscape, we can see this tendency in Catholic culture, because Catholic culture is just largest and most familiar culture to evince a sacramental world-view. It is certainly present within other Christian cultures (for example, Anglican or classical Lutheran culture), but these are not nearly so common or so highly populated on the American scene.

Homesar

Ralyks
07-27-2005, 03:41 PM
skylarburris,

You're on to something here -- i.e. the bit about Catholic culture. But, I suggest it is not Catholic culture per se, but rather the sacramental spirituality that underlies it which is "delivering the goods." Sacramental spirituality is based on a fundamental relationship between the external, objective, tangible, sensate world and that of the internal, subjective, intangible, and reflective. Within a sacramental world-view, everything has meaning, everything is haunted, as it were, with significance. Those who are reared within this kind of intellectual framework routinely develop the capacity -- even if only an embryonic capacity -- to do what all good art does, viz. to capture meaning which is otherwise unsensible and to render it in sensible forms.

Looking around the American landscape, we can see this tendency in Catholic culture, because Catholic culture is just largest and most familiar culture to evince a sacramental world-view. It is certainly present within other Christian cultures (for example, Anglican or classical Lutheran culture), but these are not nearly so common or so highly populated on the American scene.

Homesar

I think you are correct in this assesment, but it is more than the sacramental quality--it is the intellectual quality as well. I should probably say that I am an evangelical Protestant, lest anyone think I have a particular axe to grind with Protestants. Though of a non-denominational/Baptist background, I have, however, joined a Lutheran church because my soul longs for the beauty of tradition, and I wanted to participate in the liturgy.

Ralyks
07-27-2005, 03:43 PM
I think Skylar has nailed this one--in an argument much like Francis Schaeffer made about art/literature and Christianity.

Are we moving in the right direction? Depends on your viewpoint, I guess. Love it or hate it, the success of the "Left Behind" series opened a lot of doors--for people such as Ted Dekker. I think we'll be seeing edgier Christian fiction coming out of the CBA in the next year or two. If you are truly interested in this topic, I suggest you check out the "Faith*in*Fiction" blog maintained by Bethany House Editor Dave Long at http://faithinfiction.blogspot.com (http://faithinfiction.blogspot.com/); Dave talks at length about this very subject, and his goal is to find the kind of fiction we're talking about.

Thanks for the URL. I'll be reading that blog.

Puddle Jumper
07-29-2005, 07:17 AM
I don't even want to read "Left Behind" and I'm a Christian.

Pat~
07-29-2005, 10:11 AM
I think you are correct in this assesment, but it is more than the sacramental quality--it is the intellectual quality as well. I should probably say that I am an evangelical Protestant, lest anyone think I have a particular axe to grind with Protestants. Though of a non-denominational/Baptist background, I have, however, joined a Lutheran church because my soul longs for the beauty of tradition, and I wanted to participate in the liturgy.

And might I add, the mystical quality (though this term makes a lot of evangelicals wince). I, too, am an evangelical Protestant raised in a nondenominational/Baptist background, who has attended Anglican services (in addition to my Bible church attendance) due to that same soul-longing for a richer experience of worship. This seemed to go hand-in-hand with my discovery of the early church writings, and writings of the early saints and mystics. It's truly a shame that there is so little Christian writing today that reflects the same depth, passion, and wisdom.

Edgarallenwannabe
07-31-2005, 05:14 PM
It's good to see some of these posts. I've always felt a little bad that if I had the choice between a Christian novel and something by Dean Koontz or Stephen King, I'd end up picking DK or SK, (unless it was a Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker novel), because even though I have to put up with things like swearing and sexual references, at least I have NO idea where the story will go next...and isn't that the point...the journey?

I would love to someday, if it is God's Will, publish an "edgy" Christian novel. I'm self-publishing one right now, (not going to go into it, because this is the wrong thread...check the self-promotion for Dark Waters), and I'm doing some small promotion, hitting a few Christian writing conferences in my area with copies, but I sometimes despair of ever getting really published. I think I'm far too conservative for a secular publisher to pick up....but maybe a little too edgy for the Christian market.

Anyway, seeing posts like these gives me some hope.

Kevin Lucia
www.kevinlucia.net (http://www.kevinlucia.net)

Gravity
07-31-2005, 10:35 PM
Kevin...don't give up. If RiverOak, a CBA house, can take a chance on my stuff (and they did) which is waaaaay out on the ragged edge of "edgy", then anyone has a shot. My editor says the CBA is changing almost daily. To which I can only cheer.

John

Edgarallenwannabe
07-31-2005, 10:53 PM
Thanks for the encouragement. As long as I get to tell my story to even a few people, that will be enough for me.


Kevin

NicoleJLeBoeuf
08-01-2005, 01:18 AM
I don't even want to read "Left Behind" and I'm a Christian.From what I hear, they're not very well written; nor is their theology very good. (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/index.html) I really appreciate reading Fred's take on what's wrong with the Left Behind series from a Christian point of view--and I'm not Christian.

The comments on his blog led me to an article (http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind.htm) that labelled those books "evangelical porn". If the LB series is at all representative of Christian fiction today (I do not know; y'all will have to tell me), then this article goes along way towards answering the question "Is Christian fiction going in the wrong direction, and if so, how?"

Apparently, watching the LB books get trashed in reviews is my latest obsession--I even dreamed about the Rapture last night. Must be time I shut off the blog trawl and went back to working on my novel. ;)

Gravity
08-01-2005, 06:10 AM
I have no problem with the theology; I've subscribed to the same scenario for nearly three decades now. From what I can ascertain in studying scripture, all the pieces are just about now in place. Yee-freakin'-hah, and ya'll can have the place. Here's the keys, don't mess up the carpet.

As to the quality of the writing of the LB series, however....well, charity forbids me *G*.

John

rosewood
08-03-2005, 03:36 AM
From what I hear, they're not very well written; nor is their theology very good. (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/index.html) I really appreciate reading Fred's take on what's wrong with the Left Behind series from a Christian point of view--and I'm not Christian.

The comments on his blog led me to an article (http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind.htm) that labelled those books "evangelical porn". If the LB series is at all representative of Christian fiction today (I do not know; y'all will have to tell me), then this article goes along way towards answering the question "Is Christian fiction going in the wrong direction, and if so, how?"

Apparently, watching the LB books get trashed in reviews is my latest obsession--I even dreamed about the Rapture last night. Must be time I shut off the blog trawl and went back to working on my novel. ;)

I scanned the article that you mentioned above and from what I could gather it is just another attempt to poke fun at fundamentalism, which is funny because the article criticizes the "Left Behind" authors for creating unsaved characters just so their readers can enjoy seeing them humiliated and made fun of.

Jamesaritchie
08-05-2005, 12:03 PM
It's good to see some of these posts. I've always felt a little bad that if I had the choice between a Christian novel and something by Dean Koontz or Stephen King, I'd end up picking DK or SK, t (http://www.kevinlucia.net/)

Who said Dean Koontz and Stephen King weren't Christians? King claims to believe in a personal God, and Koontz has sometimes been called the "Christian humanist." In a good way, of course.

Cheryll
08-12-2005, 05:14 AM
I have to agree with James concerning Dean Koontz. Many of his novels, especially in the last few years, have very clear threads concerning faith and God running through them.

Cheryll

NicoleJLeBoeuf
08-13-2005, 08:53 PM
Hrm. Regarding the theology of Left Behind, my personal problem is this. Way back when I was in Sunday School, before the age of theological reason, when they made us memorize bits of the Bible, I probably got quizzed on the Beatitudes. I imagine that, if presented with the fill-in-the-blank question "Blessed are you if they hate you and scorn you because of Me, for..." that if I had answered "...for one day I will whisk you away into Heaven so that you might look down and chortle while I smite the unbelievers with My laser-beam eyes," things would not have gone well. And yet that seems to be exactly the theology that the LB books are selling.

As for the article, yes, its point is exactly that LB's appeal is in inviting the reader to identify with the raptured characters, getting off on watching their left-behind friends and family go through horrors and humiliations. I'm not sure that pointing it out as being contrary to the spirit of Christ in and of itself counts as "making fun of." It's disagreement, critique, but not ridicule.

(Now, some of the folks commenting on Fred's blog, yeah, they're doing some ridiculing. But I would propose that Fred Clark himself, as well as the author of that article, are simply giving honest critiques.)

Anyway, the above offered as my personal outsider's opinion on the issue of whether Christian fiction is going wrong. In sum, not enough Sermon on the Mount in LB and those books that follow in its footsteps.

nycdiane
08-18-2005, 09:34 PM
The references to "non-Christians" got me curious. What do you folks, as "Christian writers" consider non-Christian? I mean, do you only consider the works of fundamentalists valid? I've known "Born Agains" who called Catholicism a "false religion" - yet Catholics are Christians. I was raised Lutheran and was never taught about a Rapture to prepare for. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. Does that mean I'm not a Christian? Do I have to believe in the same concepts you do in order to be considered Christian? Are you writing to convert people who do not believe what you believe into your way of thinking? If an author wrote a story about seeing and sensing the divine in the world around him or her, but that story also included violence or sex (or both!) would you say it was not a proper Christian story? Would you disapprove, for example, of a character who "found God" from exploring intimacy and the pleasures of her body? I'm really interested in your responses.

ldumont999
08-18-2005, 11:02 PM
The references to "non-Christians" got me curious. What do you folks, as "Christian writers" consider non-Christian?
I can't answer this for everyone but I can answer it for myself and from what I see in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Assoc).

Overall Christianity holds to a few basic truths.
1. The Trinity (Father, Son-Jesus, Holy Spirit) together are one God
2. Jesus is the Son of the Father is fully God and fully man
3. There is an afterlife, there is a heaven and hell
4. There is but one way to heaven - through accepting the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah who died and rose from the dead
5. Those who don't choose to accept Jesus' sacrifice condemn themselves to hell

Now you can call a tomato a potato but it doesn't make it so. There are many who call themselves Christians and many who point the finger at others who say "this one isn't a Christian or that one is." Bottom line, through the course of history - going back to the first century - Christians (who were mostly converted Jews at the time) had to adhere to these principles in order to "BE" Christians.
So what does this have to do with Christian writers? I've found there are two basic kinds of writers. Christian Writers (those who write for a predominately Christian market) and writers who are Christians (those who write from a Christian perspective or world view but who may be writing for the market as a whole).

If you are a Christian Writer you will be writing for the CBA. They have pretty strict rules about what they want and don't want. The reason for that is easy. It is because their audience doesn't want to buy some things so it limits what the publishers will publish.

On the other hand, Writers who are Christian (who write for the whole world) don't shy away from controversial topics (because the publishers publish that stuff and the world buys it) but these writers sincerely share their beliefs (Christian values/view point) from their perspective. They simply say what they believe and allow the chips to fall where they may. Jim Watkins who (I believe) writes for Chicago papers and has a great syndicated humor column is a writer who is a Christian. He writes great humor columns using today's headlines as fodder. He expresses his view point clearly but does it with great wit and sensitivity.
My two books were written for the CBA but I write numerous articles for the "secular" world -- always from a Christian perspective. This simply means that "who I am" (a Christian) comes through my writing. I don't bang anyone over the head with the Bible but I'm not going to compromise what I believe either.

I find it rather amusing (but sometimes annoying) that a person who is a staunch animal rights advocate, lets say, can tout their views in every piece of writing and never get called narrow minded. People just agree to disagree with them. Yet when a Christian stands firm for what they sincerely believe, they are often called narrow minded or bigoted - and they are often told they shouldn't believe such-and such. Go figure.

nycdiane
08-19-2005, 12:58 AM
I can't answer this for everyone but I can answer it for myself and from what I see in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Assoc).

Overall Christianity holds to a few basic truths.
1. The Trinity (Father, Son-Jesus, Holy Spirit) together are one God
2. Jesus is the Son of the Father is fully God and fully man
3. There is an afterlife, there is a heaven and hell
4. There is but one way to heaven - through accepting the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah who died and rose from the dead
5. Those who don't choose to accept Jesus' sacrifice condemn themselves to hell

<snip>

If you are a Christian Writer you will be writing for the CBA. They have pretty strict rules about what they want and don't want. The reason for that is easy. It is because their audience doesn't want to buy some things so it limits what the publishers will publish.

On the other hand, Writers who are Christian (who write for the whole world) don't shy away from controversial topics (because the publishers publish that stuff and the world buys it) but these writers sincerely share their beliefs (Christian values/view point) from their perspective. They simply say what they believe and allow the chips to fall where they may.

<snip>

I find it rather amusing (but sometimes annoying) that a person who is a staunch animal rights advocate, lets say, can tout their views in every piece of writing and never get called narrow minded. People just agree to disagree with them. Yet when a Christian stands firm for what they sincerely believe, they are often called narrow minded or bigoted - and they are often told they shouldn't believe such-and such. Go figure.
Oh, you explained that really well. I didn't know there was a Christian Booksellers Association. I am just surfing the boards and responding to what threads seem very interesting to me. Of course I know what a Christian is, being one myself, so I wasn't really looking for a definition of Christianity -- but I did ask for what a Christian writer thinks a Christian is and your numbered list of basic truths is clearly illustrates what you say you've observed as a writer for the CBA. I would suspect the last two items are really more the basic truths for fundamentalist Protestant Christians and not Christians in general. I appreciate your delineation of the two types of writers that you see dealing with Christianity in their works. It was illuminating - thank you.

Re your last paragraph...
Yeah, most people don't realize that a belief is just that - a belief. Well, there's certainly plenty of hyprocrisy in all aspects of the world, Christians and animal rights activists included. Everyone's human, after all. Thanks again for your clear explanation!

NicoleJLeBoeuf
08-19-2005, 06:00 AM
I find it rather amusing (but sometimes annoying) that a person who is a staunch animal rights advocate, lets say, can tout their views in every piece of writing and never get called narrow minded. People just agree to disagree with them. Yet when a Christian stands firm for what they sincerely believe, they are often called narrow minded or bigoted - and they are often told they shouldn't believe such-and such. Go figure.Well, it depends on the belief of the animal rights advocate, and the belief of the Christian. I've been rather often on the painful end of the thwacking stick described in belief #5, and there are some self-proclaimed Christians who use it as an excuse to be perfectly horrible to non-Christians. There are those who use it as an excuse try to get books banned from libraries and art evicted from museums because such works are "leading people astray". There are some self-proclaimed Christians who use Paul's letters and the book of Leviticus as an excuse to be perfectly horrible towards homosexuals, or who use Genesis as an excuse to be perfectly horrible towards dark-skinned people.

And there are some animal rights activists who are equally narrow-minded in that they want to make the whole world conform to their beliefs regarding what you should eat, or whether you should have pets.

And then there are people with beliefs we can just agree to disagree with, whether they're about humankind's relationship to God, or humankind's relationship to the animal kingdom. The ease of agree-to-disagree tends to be indirectly proportional to the belief-holder's tendency to get in everyone's face about that belief.

Really, bigotry and narrow-mindedness are as they do, regardless of what religious or political terms cloak them. Every group has bad apples, and those bad apples are usually loud enough that some outsiders make the mistake of tarring the whole group with the same brush.

It's certainly not as simple as "I'm a Christian so I get treated as a bigot, but that animal rights activist gets off scot-free!" Not saying y'all are doing it, but there's a particular sort of religious bad apple that likes to wear its martydom complex on its sleeve, and it makes that sort of comment all the time. (I hasten to add that the wanna-be martyr isn't limited to any one religion, either. Any group that has at one time been the subject of persecution will undoubtedly turn out a few overzealous types who can't hear any criticism without interpreting it as an attack on their group.)

Pat~
08-19-2005, 06:54 AM
I would suspect the last two items are really more the basic truths for fundamentalist Protestant Christians and not Christians in general.

Many people today call themselves 'Christian' meaning that they were raised in the Christian faith (versus being raised Jewish, or Moslem). This is a broad term that actually bears little relationship to Biblical Christianity. In the Bible, people were first called Christians who were followers of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). These people followed (believed) Christ and the claims He made about Himself. At the core of this belief is the idea that there is only one Way to heaven (John 14:6, where Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.") Because of this, the early Christians were also called 'followers of the Way (Acts 24:14).' The core belief is in Christ, God Incarnate, and His necessary work of atonement (cleansing from sin) when He died on the cross for sinners. (Read Peter's speech in Acts 2 and 3). People who didn't believe they needed atonement (eg. the Pharisees and the 'religious' leaders of that day) would never have called themselves Christians, because to do so implied an admitted need of a Saviour. The Pharisees thought they were righteous already based on their good works and religious heritage. Likewise today, those who think they have admittance to heaven based on anything but the death and resurrection of Christ (e.g. good works) are not Christians as defined in the New Testament. This is admittedly a difficult truth to swallow--in fact the Bible itself calls Christ a 'stumbling stone' to those who don't believe (Romans 9:30-33).

brinkett
08-19-2005, 03:52 PM
Yikes! Pat, many of the "core beliefs" you talk about developed long after Christ's death. One interpretation of Christ's life and death was accepted as THE Christian story at the Nicene Council (held in 325). There were others. There was a LOT more variety of thought among early Christians. Unfortunately, those who didn't toe the party line were ostracized as heretics, sometimes killed, and their writings destroyed.

Luckily, when "true Christians" were on their rampage to stamp out any inspiration but their own, someone (the guess is a sympathetic monk) hid some of the "dangerous writings", where they remained hidden until they were discovered in 1945. This discovery has revolutionized the way religious scholars and theologians view the formation of early Christian beliefs. I strongly suggest you pick up any book that discusses any of the texts found at Nag Hammadi. Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Gospels or Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas would be a good start.

Also check:

www.nag-hammadi.com (http://www.nag-hammadi.com/)

Otherwise you've only got half the story...

Pat~
08-20-2005, 12:12 AM
Yes, the Nicene Council may have formally set down the 'core' beliefs, but that doesn't mean that the disciples and early apostles themselves didn't believe them at the time of Jesus' death and resurrection. What happened was that in the centuries after Christ walked the earth, Christian beliefs began splintering off into different factions, some heretical, some not. The Nicene Council was an attempt to get back to the original 'core' beliefs--the claims made by Christ and the facts of His death, burial, and resurrection. It's my belief that one should always go back to the Bible as a basis for Biblical Christianity. It will never contradict the true claims of Christ--He was the Word incarnate.

I am aware of the other writings you've mentioned and have even looked at them, as well as the apocryphal books, but do not personally believe in their inerrancy as I do the Bible. The topic of the canon and inerrancy is a huge one, but the important thing to remember is whatever stand you take on these, it is faith-based. Though I base my beliefs on careful study and consideration of a lot of information, not the least of which is the incredible consistency throughout the Bible, it is, in the end, a matter of faith. I do have formal educational training in the Bible, even at the post-graduate level, but the thing that actually keeps me rooted in my faith is simply how the Bible has never failed in my life to personally prove true, sound, and provide the answers I have searched for. In fact, it goes much beyond that. It has 'proven' itself to me personally in that it is not so much a book I read as a Person I commune with on a daily basis. It is a daily experience with transcendence and divine love. (Sorry if this sounds too 'mystical'... ) And though I would never want to try to coerce anyone to believe in it, it is such an incredible experience that I can't help but wish everyone I met could experience it, too.

I enjoy talking with you, Brinkett. :-)

brinkett
08-20-2005, 02:38 AM
It's my belief that one should always go back to the Bible as a basis for Biblical Christianity. It will never contradict the true claims of Christ--He was the Word incarnate.

Well, what you have to understand is that men decided what's heretical. Men decided what books made it into the New Testament. Men decided what the "true claims of Christ" are. It's naive to believe that they chose what books were included in the New Testament with no regard to their own personal beliefs and the politics of the day.



I am aware of the other writings you've mentioned and have even looked at them, as well as the apocryphal books, but do not personally believe in their inerrancy as I do the Bible. The topic of the canon and inerrancy is a huge one, but the important thing to remember is whatever stand you take on these, it is faith-based.

If you mean it's something that has to be accepted with no independent supporting evidence, then can you understand why saying things like, "if you don't believe what I believe, you aren't a Christian," comes across as arrogant?



Though I base my beliefs on careful study and consideration of a lot of information, not the least of which is the incredible consistency throughout the Bible

The gospels contradict each other.



And though I would never want to try to coerce anyone to believe in it, it is such an incredible experience that I can't help but wish everyone I met could experience it, too.

People who don't believe what you believe also have incredible experiences that they frame within a religious or divine context. People who have never read the bible have experienced God.



I enjoy talking with you, Brinkett. :-)

Considering how far apart we are in what we believe, it's amazing we can have a coherent discussion. :)

Pat~
08-20-2005, 05:17 AM
Brinkett, youíve raised a lot of interesting questions and objections, and I get the feeling that no sooner would I address one, than 5 more would be raised! J Which is good and necessary thinking, but in the interest of time and space, youíd be better served by my suggesting you visit one of several very good websites on the topic of Christian apologetics: http://www.christianapologetic.org/ (http://www.christianapologetic.org/)



This site was written by a scientist who doubted the accuracy and historicity of Scripture for 40 years before studying it using the principles of logic and science. He addresses the apparent discrepancies in the New Testament in these 2 sites:

http://www.christianapologetic.org/purity_new_testament.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/purity_new_testament.htm)

http://www.christianapologetic.org/accuracy_new_testament.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/accuracy_new_testament.htm)



In this site he addresses how the different books made it into the Bible:

http://www.christianapologetic.org/source_of_bible.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/source_of_bible.htm)



And in this site, he addresses the basic definition of Biblical Christianity:

http://www.christianapologetic.org/theology_corner.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/theology_corner.htm)



Iíd like to address your statement in response to my claim that ALL beliefs concerning God are at the root faith-based. You seemed to think that meant that something was accepted with no consideration of supporting evidenceóbut I didnít say blind faith. Our faith is based on rational consideration of the evidence we have. You also asked if I could understand that ďsaying things like, Ďif you donít believe what I believe, you arenít a Christianí comes across as arrogant.Ē I donít think I told anyone that personally. In any case, the issue is not whether I think you are a Christian or not; I simply gave the definition of Biblical Christianity as stated in the Bible. I canít claim any credit for it, so Iím not sure where personal arrogance would enter in.

brinkett
08-20-2005, 06:25 AM
He addresses the apparent discrepancies in the New Testament in these 2 sites:
http://www.christianapologetic.org/purity_new_testament.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/purity_new_testament.htm)

I'm not talking about spelling or translation errors, I'm talking real contradictions. If you google "gospel contradictions", you'll find all sorts of gleeful atheist sites that are more than happy to point them out. However, they've missed the point, as did your scientist. The contradictions don't matter, and it's a waste of time to pretend they don't exist or to point to them as proof that the Bible should be thrown out the window.

It doesn't matter to me that the gospels contradict each other because I understand that each gospel (a) isn't meant to be taken literally, and (b) was written for a different audience with particular goal(s) in mind, hence certain accounts were slanted differently to appeal to said audiences. I was just responding to your statement that the Bible is incredibly consistent. It isn't. And that doesn't affect my beliefs at all.



http://www.christianapologetic.org/accuracy_new_testament.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/accuracy_new_testament.htm)

What this argument doesn't allow for is the possibility that they weren't lying or telling the truth. That the stories the authors told in the gospels weren't meant to be taken literally.



In this site he addresses how the different books made it into the Bible:
http://www.christianapologetic.org/source_of_bible.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/source_of_bible.htm)

I don't see where he addresses that. He basically uses the Bible to "prove" that the Bible doesn't contain errors. That's not an argument, and doesn't address how books made it into the Bible. There's also no mention of the books that didn't make it in, or why they couldn't have been inspired by God too.



And in this site, he addresses the basic definition of Biblical Christianity:
http://www.christianapologetic.org/theology_corner.htm (http://www.christianapologetic.org/theology_corner.htm)

He gives one definition of Biblical Christianity. There are others.

To be honest, I see a feeble attempt at logic and absolutely no science in the four links I looked at. But to be honest again, I think approaching the Bible logically and scientifically is the wrong approach. It's not a logical document. In some places, it's not meant to be read rationally. To me, imposing a literal interpretation on it weakens it considerably.



Our faith is based on rational consideration of the evidence we have.

What evidence do you have that the Bible contains no errors and must be interpreted literally? You cannot reference the Bible, Jesus, or God in your response, otherwise your argument will be circular in nature.



You also asked if I could understand that ďsaying things like, Ďif you donít believe what I believe, you arenít a Christianí comes across as arrogant.Ē I donít think I told anyone that personally. In any case, the issue is not whether I think you are a Christian or not; I simply gave the definition of Biblical Christianity as stated in the Bible. I canít claim any credit for it, so Iím not sure where personal arrogance would enter in.

My comment was in response to what you said to nycdiane:



Likewise today, those who think they have admittance to heaven based on anything but the death and resurrection of Christ (e.g. good works) are not Christians as defined in the New Testament. This is admittedly a difficult truth to swallow--in fact the Bible itself calls Christ a 'stumbling stone' to those who don't believe (Romans 9:30-33).

That certainly sounds like, "If you don't believe xyz, you aren't a Christian," unless you believe there are other acceptable definitions of Christian, in which case I'll gladly eat crow. The arrogance comes in when you appear to decide who can call themselves a Christian and who can't.

BTW, I don't mean to get at you in particular about any of this. I respect your beliefs and your right to hold them. I see our discussions as friendly exchanges where you represent a "fundamentalist Christian" and I represent a "liberal Christian", sort of like those setups in magazines and newspapers where two columnists write opposing opinion pieces and you know they'll never agree with each other.

Pat~
08-20-2005, 11:33 PM
Brinkett, please don't worry that I take any of this personally. I have no problem with a respectful difference of opinion, and often find such exchanges mentally and spiritually stimulating.

The site I gave you was simply a starting point, if you're interested in pursuing some of the questions you brought up further. There are tons of sites on 'Christian apologetics' on the web--just google it, and you'll find arguments to counter all the ones on the atheist sites. There are no shortages of words on the net already that address the questions you've brought up. That was my only point.

I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on how we interpret the Bible. And I don't think to believe in something is the same as being arrogant. As you said,

"The arrogance comes in when you appear to decide who can call themselves a Christian and who can't."

I agree--any 'arrogance' would have to come from the source of those claims--which is God, not me. And I guess He, of anybody, would have the right to be a little arrogant, though it would certainly be arrogant of us to say so, don't you think?

brinkett
08-21-2005, 02:12 AM
I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on how we interpret the Bible.
I think we will. :)

Until next time...