The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tulip Driven Life Ch. 1 Pt. 1: Feeding as Sheep





                When we cease to come together with other believers to feed under the authority of the undershepherd God has placed over us, we cease to live the TULIP driven life.

                After Peter had denied Christ three times John 21 tells us Jesus restores Peter by telling him to feed His sheep three times:
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah,[b] do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[c] do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[d] do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”


                Peter and the apostles were the rock, the foundation upon which Christ would build His church, and Christ’s charge to Peter was to feed and tend His flock. You and I are the flock of Christ, which means, among other things, we are dumb, ignorant, prone to forget what we were just told, and worst of all, stubborn. We don’t enjoy being rebuked, charged, and exhorted even as Christians, especially as Calvinists. It is easy for us to believe that, since we have the gospel right, we can get the rest right largely on our own. We may begin to think that our local pastor doesn’t know as much as we do, or isn’t preaching what he should be, and while all of that may very well be true, it doesn’t change the fact that we are sheep who need the shepherd’s food and rod.
                No pastor is perfect, but assuming you are a member of a Bible believing church that is preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and practicing church discipline, then you have a true undershepherd over you, and God commands you to feed from his teaching and receive his correction. If you are not a member of a church, then you need to become one. In the same way a marriage must be formally announced and made official by the church before it is consummated, so a child of God must come before the church to become a member in order to receive the blessings of the church community, to come inside the fence of the sheepfold. It is the rebellious sheep that does not have the humility to become a member of a Bible believing church and wanders aloof from the flock. This shows our stubbornness, our unwillingness to submit to those whom God has put in place for our well-being. Maybe the pastor doesn’t have a lot of savory sayings, maybe he isn’t as pithy as you would like, perhaps his voice doesn’t thunder when it ought, or maybe he seems dry and unamicable. The reality is that pastors are sheep too, which means they are also stubborn, forgetful, and sinful. There will be no perfect pastor, there will always be disappointment, and every undershepherd will mislead his flock at some point, starving a few sheep while tickling the ears/fattening the bellies of others.
We are called to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, which includes patience and longsuffering. Sometimes, we must endure with patience and longsuffering inadequate shepherding. This is not to say that there isn’t a time to speak up and talk to the pastor about his pastoring, nor does it mean that there are not times where another shepherd should be sought, but all of this must be done with humility and deference, because imperfect pastors have been anointed by God to feed His imperfect people.

Submitting to Pastoral Authority
                Part of being a sheep means recognizing pastoral authority. When the pastor steps behind the pulpit, he is not the pope, but he is the mouthpiece of God. Consider this- in John 17:17-20 Jesus prays to God for all believers, that all sheep will heed the words of His disciples and be saved. Christ calls His disciples, His apostles, and now His pastors to carry on the task of feeding the sheep in His absence, until His return. But it is not a total absence, in fact, Christ is more near than ever, because the sheep and the undershepherd have in common the Holy Spirit of Christ dwelling within them, which convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Pastors reflect the munus triplex of Christ, being in some sense our prophet, priest, and king. Like David, they can sin greatly and lead the sheep astray, but they have the anointing of God upon them to feed us the Bread of Life- Christ Himself. They administer the sacraments, and they bar the table. They prophetically speak to us about the judgments and blessings that the Word of God reveals. They praise faithfulness and pronounce forgiveness to the repentant, and they turn the rebellious, unrepentant sheep over to the devil to be saved (1 Cor. 5:5). They are held to a higher standard because they have a special anointing and authority over the flock and will receive the greater judgment if they do so poorly (Jas. 3:1). Being a good sheep means understanding this, understanding who is in charge, understanding that when the shepherd gives out food on Sundays, it’s more than a lecture, but it comes with the authority of God Himself. It is foolishness and disobedience toward God not to come with a humility and sobriety, a desire to be taught as a sheep by the shepherd. 

There and Back Again: The Story of the Christian Life



By: Andrew M. Gilhooley


I am fascinated with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and among my favorites is The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. This epic story is about the unexpected adventures of a peculiar hobbit, namely Bilbo Baggins. He was not the traveling type (at least not before his adventures), and preferred to stay within the bounds of his comfortable hobbit-hole, limiting his journeys to the pantry and perhaps the cellar. The story begins by describing his comfy home:

“It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill - The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it - and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.”

It was a pleasant abode, one in which I would even enjoy to live in. Tolkien later tells that it even has a cellar full of cider and beer! Bilbo loved his home and never desired to leave it. His unambitious life of contentment within confines of his hobbit-hole, however, is suddenly disturbed one day when a wizard and party of thirteen dwarfs arrive on his doorstep and whisk him away on an unexpected adventure.

Along his journey, Bilbo is continuously thinking of his home from whence he was exiled. In the midst of trials and peace alike, he is always daydreaming, pondering of, longing for, or actually dreaming of his homely hobbit-hole where the kettle is always singing and second breakfast is never forgotten (this is a favourite of hobbit meals.) Here are a few excerpts of his inner thoughts and longings he had on his adventure:

§  “He was thinking once more again of his comfortable chair before the fire in his favourite sitting-room in his hobbit-hole, and the kettle was singing” (chapter 3).
§  “He thought of himself frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home – for he could feel inside that it was high time for some meal or other” (chapter 5).
§  “But I am afraid he was not thinking much of the job, but of what lay beyond the blue distance, the quite Western Land and the Hill and his hobbit-hole under it” (chapter 11).

Bilbo missed his hobbit-hole and desired more than anything to be restored to it. At the end of the adventure his wish is granted, and the story ends with him happily restored to his home (hence “There and Back Again”.)

This story of a hobbit’s exile and restoration to his home typologically parallels the story the Christian life. In Adam, our federal head, we were all exiled from our heavenly abode in the divine presence (i.e. Eden) and thrust into the adventure of life in this accursed world. Like Bilbo, we encounter times of trials and peace alike, but in the midst of them all our eyes are fixed heavenward, longing for our ultimate restoration to life in God’s presence from whence we were exiled. As the Apostle Paul says, we groan and long within the deepest chasms of our soul to be at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 4-5). In a sense, we are therefore typological Bilbos in the adventure of life looking forward to that day when we are finally restored to our glorious heavenly abode.

As The Hobbit, or There and Back Again concludes with Bilbo restored to his home, so will the great story of history end in like manner for the faithful. Death brings us into the immediate presence of God but ultimately we look to greater things, namely the second coming of Christ. For it is then that the dead shall be raised, judgment rendered, and the elect planted in the new heavens and earth to dwell happily in the presence of our glorious triune God for all eternity. We were exiled from our hobbit-hole, but one day we shall be restored.

Therefore, read The Hobbit, go to the theater December 14, and witness the world marvel at the story of the Christian life without even knowing.



--Andrew M. Gilhooley is currently a sophomore at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. Among his hobbies are fishing, archery, writing, playing piano, and reading classic literature. Upon graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and possibly enter into bible translation ministry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Apostle Paul And The Existence Of Jesus


By: Sean Rice




"The Apostle Paul," writes the agnostic and best-selling Bible scholar Bart Ehrman in his newest book, Did Jesus Exist?, "is our earliest surviving Christian author of any kind... Paul was writing some years beforethe Gospels. His first letter (1 Thessalonians) is usually dated to 49 AD [which is just sixteen short years after Jesus' death on the cross in 33 AD]... Paul understood Jesus to be a historical figure, a Jew who lived, taught, and was crucified at the instigation of Jewish opposition."[1] What Bart Ehrman is saying, then, is that Paul is one of our earliest witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ - one who should be taken seriously.

WHY IS PAUL A TRUSTWORTHY SOURCE?
How do we know that Paul actually wrote letters about Jesus shortly after Christ's death on the cross? (We'll leave the resurrection part out just for now.) Maybe some later Christian made up the persona of Paul, pretended to be him, and wrote untrue things about Jesus. Maybe there never was a man named Paul. There are no recognized scholars -agnostic, atheist, or Christian- who actually believe that Paul wasn't a historical person, but the question deserves to be asked. If "Paul" was a later Christian author hiding behind an elaborate persona, he sure didn't have much time to make things up. By 96 AD Paul was already widely known by Christians all over the Roman Empire as the man who "taught... the whole world" about Jesus (1 Clement 5:5), and his first letter to the Corinthians was already considered Scripture written "under the inspiration of the Spirit" (1 Clement 47:3). Think about how early Paul and his letters would have needed to be around in order to achieve that kind of renown and name recognition!

WHAT WERE PAUL'S SOURCES ABOUT JESUS?
In Paul's letters, he sometimes mentions that he "received" most of his information about Jesus from someone else [2]. He does this, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15.3-7. The question then is, well, who were Paul's sources? By his own admission he never knew Jesus before he was crucified. The apostle tells us what his sources are in Galatians 1.18-19. Three years after his conversion in the mid-30's AD [3], he went to visit Peter (Cephas) and Jesus' younger brother James in Jerusalem. As far as sources go, Jesus' right-hand man (Peter) and his kid brother (James) are good people to know. If Jesus didn't exist, wasn't crucified, didn't die on the cross, and didn't rise again, you would think that Jesus' little brother and his closest friend would know something about it. So when Paul writes about Jesus, these are the sources that he is using. He also mentions, in connection with the resurrection, another "five hundred" people who saw Jesus after he rose from death (1 Corinthians 15.6). Add all of those things up, and Paul gives us a pretty solid basis for our beliefs about who Jesus was, what Jesus did, and what Jesus taught.

WHAT DID PAUL WRITE ABOUT JESUS?
If Paul had good sources for what he wrote about Jesus, we might want to stop and take some time to look at what Paul actually said about him, and what Paul knew about his life. Hover over Scripture references with your mouse to see the verses.

God: Jesus is "Lord of glory" (1 Cor 2.8), creator of all (Col 1.16-18), and God (Rom 9.5)
Birth: Jesus was born of a woman (Gal 4.4)   
Lineage: a descendant of King David (Rom 1.3) and of Abraham, therefore Jewish (Gal 3.16)  
Siblings: mentions brothers in 1 Cor 9.5, specifically James in Gal 1.19 
Economic Status: mentions that Jesus "became poor" in 2 Cor 8.9 
Disciples: "twelve" disciples, including Peter/Cephas (1 Cor 15.5) and John (Gal 2.9
Teaching: calls him "the Lord", alludes to teaching (1 Cor 7.101 Cor 9.141 Cor 11.23-26
Betrayal by Judas: mentions "the night [Jesus] was betrayed" in 1 Cor 11.23-24
Crucifixion: died on a cross (Phil 2.8)
Burial: Jesus was buried, (Rom 6.41Cor 15.4Col 2.12)
Resurrection: mentioned, for example, in 1 Corinthians, especially 1 Cor 15.12-13 
Ascension: ascended into heaven (Eph 4.8-10

Taken together, this shows a pretty well-defined picture of who Jesus was!

WHAT DOES THE OTHER SIDE SAY?
As Bart Ehrman (an atheist, mind you, not a Christian with a vested interest) puts it, those who don't think that Jesus really lived claim "that these references to Jesus were not originally in Paul's writings but were inserted by later Christian scribes".[4] But this is no way to do history! This is a cheap way of ignoring the evidence about who Jesus really was, or is. Ehrman mockingly dismisses this argument against Jesus' existence by saying "If historical evidence proves inconvenient to one's views, then simply claim that the evidence does not exist, and suddenly you're right"![5] To disprove the claim, though, Bart Ehrman writes "there is no textual evidence that these passages were not original... they appear in every single manuscript of Paul that we have".[6] He also writes,

"if scribes were so concerned to insert aspects of Jesus's life into Paul's writings, it is passing strange that they were not more thorough in doing so, for example, by inserting comments about Jesus' virgin birth in Bethlehem, his parables, his miracles, his trial before Pilate, and so forth...whatever else one thinks about Paul's view of Jesus -and however one explains why Paul himself does not say more- it is safe to say that he knew that Jesus existed and that he knew some fundamentally important things about Jesus's life and death."[7]

SUMMARIZING EVIDENCE FOR JESUS IN PAUL'S LETTERS
Drawing mainly from the non-Christian author Bart Ehrman, we've learned (1) that Paul was an extremely early source about Jesus, converted within a very short time of Jesus' death, and writing his first letter within sixteen years from the death of Jesus, (2) that Paul's own sources were the Apostle Peter and Jesus' brother James, (3) that there are very good reasons to believe Paul was also a historical figure who wrote when he appears to have written, (4) that Paul mentions a wide number of facts and beliefs about Jesus that he would have definitely gotten from Peter and James, and (5) that arguments against the evidence for Jesus in Paul are not very good and wouldn't be allowed to win in any respectable debating forum.

A BRIEF NOTE ON QUOTING EHRMAN SO MUCH
That said, with all of this evidence for Jesus' existence, Bart Ehrman still does not believe that Jesus is God, that he was resurrected from the dead, or that he really was born of a virgin, did miracles, or cast out demons. I think that Ehrman's unbelief is the result of huge personal bias on his part. Bart Ehrman thinks that Peter and James' information (especially that of James) makes for an almost airtight case when it comes to details about Jesus' life. But somehow, when it comes to details with bigger implications like the resurrection, this evidence is not good enough - at least not in this one case. In an upcoming post I will explain how I can so heavily lean on the arguments of a man with whom I so thoroughly disagree. But for now, I think that a good case for the existence of Jesus in Paul's letters has been made. Let's leave it at that.

Signing off,
-Sean Rice

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, pg. 117-118
[2] Ehrman writes "Even where Paul does not state that he is handing on received tradition, there are places where it is clear he is doing so. I have mentioned, for example, Romans 1:3-4... This creed was not written by Paul: it uses words and phrases not otherwise found in Paul (for example, spirit of holiness) and contains concepts otherwise alien to Paul... He is using, then, an earlier creed that was in circulation before his writing." -Did Jesus Exist?, pg. 130
[3] Paul converted sometime in the 30's AD. This is shown based on the fact that in 2 Cor 11:32 Paul mentions that King Aretas of the Nabateans tried to "seize" him. But, King Aretas died around year 40 AD. So Paul must have converted some time before that, in the 30's.
[4] Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, pg. 118
[5] Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, ibid.
[6] Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, pg. 133
[7] Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, ibid.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Is My Motivation?


By: Nathan Fox


Disclaimer: I have never experienced severe persecution for my faith and cannot rely on personal experience to assist me with this blog. Any persecution I have experienced in my life for Jesus has been minor, especially in comparison to the persecution of the early church and those around the world today.

My Topic
Right now I am working through the book of Acts as a part of my devotional, and I have found it very enlightening and encouraging. I am working right now through the latter chapters in the book, which highlights the difficulties that the Apostle Paul faced while in ministry. I was truly flustered as to what I should write about for this week as many topics seemed to cross my mind. Should I write on thankfulness (it was just Thanksgiving after all), the Christian’s response to politics (after the recent election this is also a hot topic), or living a pure life while engaged (my current situation). I decided to go with none of these topics, as I was amazed at something I have missed on a large scale from the entire book of Acts. This blog post will focus solely on our motivation as believers in the face of hard circumstances, or in the early apostle’s case, persecution.
Background of Persecution in Acts
There is not one particular verse I am going to point us too today. Typically that is how I like to teach any lesson, but I found it hard to focus on only one verse for this topic. I mean, take a look at the entire book of Acts. Every chapter seems to have some story of the apostles facing pretty intense persecution. Remember that at the time, they were living in a society (the Roman Empire) that is far different than ours. Unlike us, they lived under a ruler who counted it treasonous to worship someone else as a king. For a “treasonous” act such as claiming Christ as King, the apostles faced some of the most intense persecution known at the time. The majority of the chapters in the book of Acts involve some sort of persecution, ranging from verbal persecution (Acts 4) to death (James in Acts 12). In a time where crucifixions were common, the apostles faced the most intense of persecution. The amount of hate harbored not only towards the apostles but also to Jesus’ name really boggles my mind.
The Apostles’ Dynamic Response
However, what boggles my mind even more is not the intense persecution that the apostles faced. I know from my own life that the name of Jesus is hated among certain people who want nothing to do with Him. No, what boggles my mind is the apostle’s response to every single situation of persecution. They had every excuse to stop talking about Jesus, but never did. They had every excuse to recant at the time of death, but many proclaimed Jesus to the point of death. These apostles were steadfast in their faith, and their steadfastness truly is a characteristic that blows my mind away!
Let’s take a quick look at one example of this in the book of Acts. In Chapter 16 of the book, we see the Apostle Paul beaten and imprisoned for his faith. Note that just two chapters before this, he was stoned and nearly killed for his love for Jesus. In Chapter 16, he is publicly embarrassed and sentenced to a time in chains, where it is the hope of his persecutors that he would remain quiet about Jesus. If you think about it, Paul had every reason to throw in the towel. He had been beaten, stoned, humiliated, and imprisoned (not to mention all that he would go on to face later on in his missionary trips). He could have had the mindset of defeat, and it would have been perfectly logical for him to doubt God’s sovereignty in his life.

But Paul never felt sorry for himself, and never thought about giving up his ministry (so far as Scripture tells us). Instead, he sang in the prison about Jesus, ensuring that not only did the other prisoners hear the name of Christ, but also the jailor. The story goes on to show us that during the midst of an earthquake the jailor’s eyes were opened, and he and his family ended up receiving Jesus! Why do you think that is? I would venture to guess it was because Paul and Silas never stopped praising Jesus (both internally and verbally). The jailor, after hearing their songs and seeing the earthquake, wanted what they had. And it was all because of this: Paul and the rest of the apostles were motivated by something (rather someone) that this world cannot touch. They were motivated by their Savior, even in the midst of the most trying days of their life.

Personal Application

So what do we take from this? What can we learn from Paul’s account along with many other early church fathers? I would like to leave this one thought in your head: make it all about Jesus. In the good days of victory and in the hard days of pain, make it all about Jesus. In the days where everything is easy and in the days where you wonder how in the world is God still in control, be driven by Jesus. His role in the Christian’s life has not changed. He is as much in control today as He has ever been, and He is looking for you to sing songs of praise in the times of imprisonment. You might not face the actual bars of prison, the actual rocks of the stoning, or even the verbal insults of the Pharisees, but you do face the tough days. You do face days where it is easy to feel sorry for yourself, and wonder whether God is really who He says He is. I encourage you in that day to do this: be motivated by Jesus. Make it all about Him, and watch as the world around you sees Him because you praised Him all the day long.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Reflecting God's Creation Work In Our Writing


By: Thomas Clayton Booher



Author’s Note: This article demonstrates how writing (in particular, fictional writing) reflects God’s work at creation and thereby gives writing a certain nobility. However, I don’t want the reader to think that if he is not a writer that he is doing nothing noble. All of our labors are to bring glory to God, and many of them do that through the imitation of God as the Grand Creator: cooking, gardening, carpentry, mechanical engineering, chemistry, hair dressing, interior design, landscaping, architecture, computer games, painting (commercial and fine art), et. al. For those of you who have an interest in writing, I hope this reinforces what a splendid labor awaits you.

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 seeming 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)

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