Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Divine Inspiration Syndrome

Among the Christian publishing professionals, there is a common disdain for those writers who claim their work came from God and therefore cannot be altered in anyway when it is obvious they have not taken the time to learn the craft or even weed out grammatical errors.

Yet in recent years, I’ve heard, much to my alarm, some of these same professionals offering this fallacy's counterpart, which seems to me an equally ludicrous (yet more insidious) idea: If I’m a Christian, my writing will be Christian and God will not permit me to write anything otherwise.

To them (from what I understand), it is impossible for a Christian to write anything theologically incorrect. They cannot write a story that is too dark or depict anything is a way (positive or negative) that would be displeasing to God. There’s no way God would ever allow them to overstep any boundary.

When I hear this, I sometimes wish I could ask these professionals, “Do you understand what you are claiming?” But I do not want to believe—cannot believe—they do understand, for surely most would be appalled if they did: while they admit their craft may need some work, this statement contends their content is divinely inspired . . . on the level of God-breathed Scripture.

Yes, I fully believe in the inspiration of God, often times in ways that are unpredictable and seen only after the fact. Yes, I fully believe the Holy Spirit will guide. Yes, I fully believe God steps in at times and warns us we are headed in the wrong direction.

But to contend that our content will never overstep? That God would never allow us to do so? That idea is just plain wrong. Christian can and have espoused in their works some decidedly un-Christian ideas—and some of those Christians were very mature, theologically grounded, and scripturally knowledgeable.

So how can this happen? Sometimes it’s outright rebellion; we refuse to listen to what God is saying or follow his directions. Sometimes we lack maturity—just because we have become a Christian doesn’t mean we are instantly purged of old ways of thinking and bad theology that can creep into our writing. Likewise, some of us are scripturally illiterate, for being a Christian a long times does not equal a thorough knowledge of Scripture—or your mind’s conformity to it. Others have developed wrong ideas through trials, pain and encounters with the irreconcilable they've suffered. And the reasons go on and on.

But whatever the reason, we Christians writers can and do err. None of us are perfect. All of us are still growing. And so whether we write fiction or nonfiction for instruction or entertainment, we all assume a position not far removed of a teacher. Therefore, we must tread with extra care in our work, aware of our fallibility, growing in our relationship with God, open to correction, developing in our biblical literacy, and exercising diligence and discernment at every step along the way.

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