Tag Archives: Bible

A Colossal Mistake

My son Cody, at age thirteen, picked up a Bible and started reading. Later that evening, he announced, “Hey, I thought this would be a lot of preaching, but it’s a great story.”

Whatever the Bible may be to whomever, there’s no denying it’s a story. And having been a fan of stories from age two, a student of stories from age six, a writer of stories from age thirteen, and from age twenty-something a holder of several degrees in the study of stories from one angle and another, I feel it’s about time to offer my take on the Bible.

Suppose it’s the directly dictated word of God; or a literal history; or a collection of tales from a variety of sources; or a life-instruction manual. Or suppose it’s a work of fiction in the sense that it doesn’t mean to be read as fact but as a dramatized reflection of truth.

Most of us who have studied literature during high school or beyond have at least once been annoyed by a teacher giving us what he claimed was the only way to read a certain work.

As a writer, I don’t care how anyone reads my stories as long as they gain from them what I intend. If I write to entertain, as long as they are entertained, I’m satisfied. If I write to honor a certain type of character, if they admire the character, I’m content.

So from the creator’s angle (meaning whoever we deem the Bible’s creator or creators to be), I’ll argue that as long as readers receive what the creator intended, they have done the creation justice.

And what does the Bible intend to do? Unless I’m sorely mistaken, that’s simple enough. The Bible intends to bring people closer to the creator and more in harmony with each other.

Meaning, whatever genre someone might consider the Bible, as long as it works toward those intended goals, I believe the creator would be pleased.

Maybe I’m a heretic. Still, I’ll point out that an attitude like mine can eliminate a lot of bickering, bullying, and smugness that convince too many people not to read the Bible at all. Which is a colossal mistake.

Angels and Demons 1

A mysterious force prompted me to read a Frank Peretti novel. I found a deal on The Visitation. After reading that, feeling compelled to read another, I bought This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, both of which I had read long enough ago so the details of the story had escaped me.

For those who haven’t read Peretti or have forgotten, the novels’ main characters are demons who work undercover to accomplish Satan’s schemes; angels who stand guard over the humans who play parts in the great drama; and the saints without whose fervent prayers the angels might get massacred.

Aside from the demons, Peretti’s bad guys are mostly occultists, devotees of various religions and practices such as yoga and meditation, psychologists, public servants gone over to the dark side, and of course lawyers (generally enployed by a group based upon the ACLU).

Politics and cultural issues aside, the books make me crave to know what exactly are angels and demons. I mean, here in reality, are they beings or metaphor? Do they exist apart from us, or are they facets of us?

I’ve attended lots of churches but never yet gotten a straight answer, at least from the preachers.

Some friends and acquaintances have claimed to know all about angels and demons. I have witnessed and even participated efforts to exorcise evil spirits. About therapy, meditation, yoga and other such practices, I’ve heard, from Christians, all kinds of advice and arguments, pro and con.

But I can’t remember a church taking a firm stand on any of these issues that Peretti takes on.

No matter whether I believe his themes and characters are soundly based in reality or if I consider him a screwball, I admire him for stepping into an area of inquiry churches appear reluctant to enter.

Which leads me to believe more strongly than ever that the world needs writers who will, like Peretti, cut loose and share their opinions in story form, thereby nourishing the imaginations of us readers.

About Peretti in particular: I only hope he believes what he preaches. The Bible warns of serious consequences in store for liars, right?

I mean, as Dorothy Salisbury Davis wisely wrote, “Don’t sell your soul for peanuts to feed the monkeys.”

Write What and Why?

In the context of advising a friend about what kinds of books to read, Franz Kafka asserted, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”

K’s assertion offers us writers plenty to think about, no matter if we agree. Whatever we believe books should be, or can be, we ought to know what we’re aiming for. Clarity about what we hope our books can accomplish may inspire us with direction, help us set boundaries, or give our work what writing teachers refer to as unity.

Some of us may respond to the Kafka quote (see a longer version here): “So what if I write not to awaken anybody with a blow to the head but to commend and strengthen their faith, which is constantly threatened by messages and temptations the world throws at them?”

That’s swell. You have a purpose, and a goal. But I’m betting most of us aren’t yet clear about our purpose for spending countless hours wrestling with ideas, or plots, or characters. So we ought to resolve to get that clarity.

Reading the journals or letters of a writer you admire might deliver some clues about what you are up to. Aside from Kafka’s, Flannery O’Connor’s letters come to mind. Or, since you read the Bible, how about praying for a clue from that most worthy and reliable source. Say you’re a romance novelist aiming to help people lift their spirits and keep hope alive. Then consider this line from the prophet Isaiah. “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary.”

Aristotle, in his Poetics, noted and described three “unities” he considered crucial to the success of a dramatic work: unity of time, unity of place, and unity of action. I would suggest that more important than any of these is unity of purpose, which derives from the author knowing and applying what on earth he or she hopes to accomplish through all this time and effort.

What I mean to offer here is an admonition to go beyond the sense that you were called to write and ask yourself “So what exactly am I called to write? And, why?”