what is christian writing photo

Photo from aristocrats hat, creative commons license 2.0: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36821100@N04/4508732411/

 

What makes writing “Christian” writing? Or, a movie or song “Christian”? Who gets to make that call? Does secular acceptance disqualify? Does “church” acceptance automatically make a work “good”?

As a creator (that means you – its how He wired you), either you are His or you’re not. Your status with Him doesn’t change when you make a mistake, flip-off someone in traffic or scream at your computer invoking Bill Gates name in vain. You’re still His. If you are a Christian, what you write, draw, record or film is created by a Christian. Does that mean all the content is inspired by the Holy Spirit? Every word, every phrase, every note?

Inspired?

There is only one book I know of (technically 66 books) that meet the criterion of being completely Holy Spirit inspired. Even then, some scholars argue that only the original King James version of the Bible qualifies. Does changing “thou” to “you” change the Spirit’s intent? Maybe they have a point – a fully sanctified author is easy to believe, but an editor in tune with God? Ha! (Yeah – the jokes are bad, but how much did you pay for this again? That’s what I thought.)

Unless your name is Paul (formerly Saul, who was a real “card”) or Matthew or Luke, its unlikely you will write 100% Holy-Spirit inspired text. In this very post, I will inevitably insert a semicolon that is “of the flesh” (there it is-); we all fail to be 100% accurate when representing God. That’s why the Bible truly is a miraculous work – if you don’t read it, check it out. It will mess with you in ways no other book will – a “living word” its called. So, if we can’t represent God with 100% accuracy (short of a miracle), does that disqualify modern writing or music or film from being “Christian”?

There are different levels of inspiration to consider. One is absolutely, totally 100% inspired, captured, reproduced, translated, edited and transmitted words straight from God. Number of books qualifying: 66, (65 if you are a prude and have a problem with the Song of Solomon).

The second is writing based on an idea that God gave you. An idea that burns within you. The Prophets felt that. Their message had to come out. Although the “biggies” Isaiah, Malachi, Ezekiel, and a few more made the 66 book cut, there were (and arguably are…) other prophets who didn’t make the cut. These people spoke and wrote what God spoke to them to the best of their ability, too. If a phrase or two they wrote or spoke wasn’t directly Holy Spirit inspired, but the main IDEA was, is that Christian writing?

What if your art has nothing to do with exhorting or correcting God’s people. Can it still be God inspired? What if the gift He gave you is making people laugh, like Tim Hawkins or Andy Andrews. Are their performances “Christian”?

Do we classify work as “secular” just because it wasn’t written by a Bible scholar? What if a piece of “secular” art draws people to God? Consider U2’s song Magnificent – a public testimony of His splendor and God-given purpose. Consider two extremely violent films (The Passion and Saving Private Ryan) that both force people to look at their lives and re-consider eternity and the value of life. Consider films with sexual references that show the damage such lifestyles may cause (Tyler Perry movies).

God speaks through many vessels, not just the ones that appear on Christian television.

Sure, there is a limit – labeling a film that contains 100+ “F” words as “Christian” would be a stretch. But does a book have to have gold leaf edges and a cross on the cover for it to have spiritual value? People who need God’s message are more comfortable with a brown paper wrapper. He came for the sick, not the well.

Doors Into the Kingdom

Our primary responsibility is to reach a lost world. Waiting for them to walk through the front doors of a church will leave a large segment untouched. They aren’t all going to have the opportunity to hear a great Christian orator like Billy Graham. They aren’t all going to have the opportunity to associate with a personal friend or coach or co-worker who is an authentic believer.

That’s why some pastors get tattoos. Its why some inner city ministries pass out condoms to prostitutes or clean needles to drug addicts. Its a battlefront mentality. Its uncomfortable. It makes us vulnerable and forces us to rely on His grace.

You can’t judge the heart behind a work by your comfort level with the work or its source. Nor can you assume a book that talks about Jesus is Holy Spirit inspired without further examination (consider the “Sprituality” section of Barnes & Noble). Some books at Lifeway may have been driven by greed, pride, publishing contracts or worse.

The Word tells us to judge a tree by its fruit. When writing to reach those outside of Christ, if I write “my butt hurts” (or similar) instead of writing “my posterior is tad achy”, does that mean the book will produce bad fruit? Is “polish” a Christian requirement? You do recall that dude Peter that Jesus had as one of His 12, right?

The goal with outreach oriented writing is to to cause a “seeker”, at least for a few moments, to think about where they stand with Him, to see His good nature, to realize it is His love that makes life good. Sometimes that involves a kiss on the cheek, sometimes a 2×4 across the head. Do any of us discern perfectly which tool to use in every situation? No. Sometimes we blow it. But, comfort isn’t the goal and perfection is a pipe-dream.

Impactful Christian Writing?

I feel a mandate to reach out to spiritual seekers. I want to obey the mandate as best I can. In that effort, I have used an occasional “flowery” word. Does that make the work more impactful on someone who lives in that world every day? Maybe. That being said, I sanitized the verbiage in the “Good Enough for God” ebook after early reviews. Why? My hope is that this book will be shared by Christians with people outside of Christ. If a Christian flushes it because it contained the word “ass”, the net outreach effect would be less. So, I took the four “color” words the text contained out.

Right decision? Wrong decision? I’m not sure. Pretending to have all the answers is something I cannot do.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting to be perfect, do your work anyway.

Produce your art.

I covet your prayers for wisdom and for this work, whether Christian writing or not. I am happy to offer prayers for you, too. Just comment below or contact me directly. I look forward to your thoughts on this piece and may His peace be with you.

Jeff

 

Jeff McKinney
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