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Disappointment

I have lost all faith in the possibility of good Christian fiction this side of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. On the recommendation of a good friend (who shall remain nameless in order to protect the innocent), I read Ted Dekker's Thr3e. It certainly had its moments of brilliance and interest; however, I honestly wanted to quit reading the book with ten pages left--only my obsessive-compulsive tendencies kept me reading long enough to finish this trash.

First, the good. I'll grant that Dekker wrote a page-turner. The man can be a good writer. For example, the first sentence of the book made me want to cry: "The office had no windows, only electric lanterns to light the hundreds of spines standing in their cherry wood bookcases" (1). On the whole, though, the book was a downward spiral (reminiscent of a toilet flushing, come to think of it) of cliches of writing, plot, and material. Basically, if you have seen a certain existentialist movie (I'm not talking about I Heart Huckabees, but a different, more Kafka-esque movie which I will not reveal, because doing so would completely ruin Dekker's book, in case some of you still want to put yourself through the torture of reading it) and know anything about Sigmund Freud (not so much the sexual stuff, but his id, ego, and superego ideas), you have read this book. So disappointing.

How did C.S. Lewis write unapologetically Christian fiction that didn't completely suck? How did J.R.R. Tolkien write fiction that reeked of Christianity without having anything to do with it, all the while writing the best and most influential fantasy series known to literature? Is it because they made us think? Is it because they were good writers? Is it because they were literary geniuses? Is it all those things? I was very excited to read this book, because I've heard so many people say that Ted Dekker is the one bright light in the dark abyss of "Christian" fiction, which otherwise includes the Left Behind series and what I call "Christian girly-books"; if so, we're doomed.

Do we no longer have creative ideas? Do we no longer have good writers? Have the doctrines of Christianity become so dumbed-down and trite that they no longer inspire us to the beauty of truth?

So many questions; so few answers.

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By "this side of C. S. Lewis and Tolkein" do you mean people who have written more recently than they? Or just that they're the only good examples of Christian writers who produce good books?

P.s. What determines if a book is Christian or deals with Christian material/themes?

Having talked about this with Jacob, I'll venture a guess. By "Christian fiction" I think he means fiction written by a Christian, from a Christian worldview. Tolkien is able to express his worldview artistically without shoving it down your throat.

"There has been very little good fiction written by Christians (and expressing a Christian worldview) since Tolkien and Lewis," is I think what he means.

And I agree.

But I could be wrong.

For further reading:
Excellent Christian writers who write good fiction (some prior, some after, Lewis and Tolkien):

Flannery O'Connor
Dorothy Sayers
Frederick Buechner
George Macdonalad
G. K. Chesterton
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Victor Hugo
Madeleine L'Engle
Anne Lamott
Graham Greene
Leif Enger
Walter Wangerin
Thomas Merton
Larry Woiwode

...to name but a few off the top of my head and bookshelf. I am sure those more well-read than I could add to that list considerably.

More questions; I'll see what I can do about answers. :)

I have not found any fiction writing explicitly Christian after Tolkien and Lewis that I have considered good writing. I may be overstating this a bit (Frank Peretti, as I recall, was fairly good, but I'd need to reread his books before I give him a good thumbs-up; in any case, he was no Lewis or Tolkien), and there are probably really good authors that I haven't read (Flannery O'Connor comes to mind, but there could be some I haven't heard of or am not thinking of--and, as I was almost done with this comment, Bethany added a great list of who else this might be).

Mainly, though, I meant that they are semi-recent examples of Christian writers who produce exemplary books.

As far as what a Christian book or a book with Christian material/themes, I think that Lewis and Tolkien are good examples of, in my mind, the two ways to do "Christian" fiction.

C.S. Lewis wrote straight-up Christian fiction. The Chronicles of Narnia were about as allegorical as fiction could get; his Space Trilogy (my personal favorite) explored extra-biblical possibilities (i.e., that there may be life on other planets), but it couldn't possibly explore it in a more explicitly "Christian" way; even his most vaguely Christian book (Till We Have Faces) drips with his ideas on who Christians are and are becoming--most easily accessible in his address called "The Weight of Glory" (found in the book by the same title). In this way, Lewis probed deep theological ideas with creative stories. The writing was as delightful as it gets, and the analysis was as rich as his non-fiction.

Tolkien, on the other hand, (most famously) wrote a prequel, and then a trilogy that had nothing to do with Christianity. At the same time, it had everything to do with Christianity. In a land of elves and dwarves and wizards, Tolkien crafted a story of a struggle of good and evil, love (in many forms), and courage.

In this way, I think that Christians can write about whatever they want, in any setting they choose, and the ending does not have to be happy (although, with Tolkien, it was). The ongoing battle between good and evil, grace, love, hatred, human nature, hope, a faltering faith, and a million other subjects all would work as fodder for Christian writing--after all, anything we could possibly write about would be within the dominion of the God of Christians. What makes it Christian is the way the author spins (or, more accurately, doesn't spin) the material.

Dekker's Thr3e, on yet another hand, had shallow theology that it dealt with in fluffy ways. Furthermore, it was almost entirely derivitive from other works made in the last ten years. There was entertainment, but no creativity, no depth, and therefore nothing of real value as fiction, much less Christian fiction.

When C.S. Lewis wrote fiction that included the Bible, I think that he made us look good and intelligent. No offense to Mr. Dekker, but I'm not sure his fiction does that at all.

Oh, and what Andrew wrote (while I was trying to get all this out) is pretty good. Also, this is a pretty good article on the subject, although I think that they severely misrepresent history at points (i.e., by arguing that Hawthorne's counts as Christian fiction--has the author of this article read "Young Goodman Brown"?).

So, I hope that helps with what I'm thinking. Perhaps I shouldn't write while I'm angry.

This is way off-topic, but I always found the ending of The Lord of the Rings to be rather sad. Sure, the world was saved from Sauron, but all the elves + Frodo and Bilbo sailed away, and everyone else stuck around to die out, while the Age of Man was ushered in. I for one would gladly revert to a time of hobbits and elves and give up our current days of automobiles and internet. I just always thought it was sad that the books marked the end of that age, and the beginning of the one we know now.

But that is neither here nor there. :)

Also, having just completed a Jewish-American fiction course, I think that Christian fiction should be about as similar as would be comparable groupings of ethnic fiction. In other words, our class read an incredibly wide variety of literature in that class, and, although there were several similarities in outlooks, each work was very different from the others. Still, there was a certain je ne sais quoi to it that seemed to distinguish it from other groups of writers' fiction.

Although I haven't taken courses in African fiction or Latino fiction, I think that there might be similar strands to the sort that I'm talking about that should be found within the corpus of Christian fiction.

Well, to be fair, your professor probably selected Jewish-American works that he thought represented good work. Ted Dekker would top no one's list of good Christian writers, I hope. :)

It's the same in any genre; there are a handful of really great artists mixed in among throngs of utter crap. For every Zora Neale Hurston, there are a dozen Terry McMillians.

I kind of feel that on some level you guys are book snobs, that enjoy talking about books more than you enjoy reading them. Though there is a place for analyzing someone's writing, the analysis is only your opinion and should not be declared fact. I think there is one specific way that our views on "Christian" fiction differ. You emphasize the Christian, while I emphasize the fiction first. As Jacob said, it is an entertaining book, which I believe should be the first objective of Christian fiction, with the spiritual aspects being a bonus. I consider a good Christian fiction book to be an entertaining read, but without the random sex scene on the beach.

Grant, I think that our differences lie more in a fundamental disagreement about art. I think you're incorrect that I, at least, put too much emphasis on the "Christian" part of Christian fiction; I am automatically wary whenever someone begins talking about "Christian ____," hence my question at the beginning for Jacob to define what he meant by Christian fiction. To me, the most important thing is that a book is well-written. I think that is the fundamental problem with writers like Ted Dekker or Francine Rivers or whomever. Their books may espouse an evangelical Christian worldview, and they may be entertaining, but they are not (at least in my opinion, and I would tentatively venture that in as objective a sense as one can obtain when talking about art) skillful writers of good literature. If Dostoevksy and Lewis are the meat and potatoes of Christian fiction, then Ted Dekker and his ilk are the Doritos. Tasty for five minutes, but ultimately unhelpful.

Oh, and Jacob, your link to that article just linked back to your own post.

Grant,

I'll second what Bethany said and try to add to it.

"As Jacob said, it is an entertaining book, which I believe should be the first objective of Christian fiction, with the spiritual aspects being a bonus. I consider a good Christian fiction book to be an entertaining read, but without the random sex scene on the beach."

If this is what you're looking for, then the books mentioned are probably a good choice.

However, if you're looking for more than mere entertainment, things that deal with fundamental/important issues of life in new or innovative ways (retellings?), then these books are not good. This, IMO, is what distinguishes "literature" from the rest of fiction. (i.e. Grisham is entertaining but he's not good literature. And I enjoy Grisham on occasion.) I think Jacob's worry is that Christians don't seem to be writing good literature any more.

So if the most important thing about a book is that it is well written, then why read the book at all? If someone that shares your standards on books says that a book is well written, then I assume that you wouldn't read it, right? Just the knowledge that a writer was able to put together words in a manner approved by the elect "art" connoisseurs amoung us would be satisfaction enough. Why waste time reading the book, when your time could be better spent critiquing another book.

Grant, I can't tell if you're just being sarcastic or hostile or both. Either way, I'm not following your logic. A few of us have expressed different artistic standards that we hold to thoroughly enjoy a book. Why would it follow that we wouldn't want to read it? If someone whose taste I trusted told me a book was well-written, then that would spur me to want to read the book. Using your logic, if the most important thing is that the book be entertaining, then why read the book at all? If someone that shares your standards on books says that a book is entertaining, then I assume that you wouldn't read it, right? Just the knowledge that a writer was able to put together words in a manner that holds the idle interest of the amusement-seekers amoung us would be satisfaction enough.

I'm sorry, though this post is well written, it has lost its entertainment value. Instead I'm going to go read the back of a Doritos bag, which might actually be interesting. Here's a fun fact for ya: "Although difficult, it's possible to start a fire by rapidly rubbing together two Cool Ranch Doritos". Now that's what I call good literature.

All this is said in good fun. I only wish I could distinguish a difference between Shakespeare and LaHay/Jenkins. Oh well, to each their own.

An an unrelated note, I'm eating a beef brisket sandwich, listening to Boards of Canada, and occasionally writing a sentence or two on my paper.

Not that it really matters. Continue.fggggggggggggggt5666666666666666666666666
(Note: ^ That's where my cat walked across my keyboard. Seriously.)

Has anyone else noticed that Dekker's "Thr3e" looks incredibly like the title for the movie "Se7en"?

First things first--the link that I was going for is here. Seriously. I promise.

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Grant said:
"As Jacob said, it is an entertaining book, which I believe should be the first objective of Christian fiction, with the spiritual aspects being a bonus."
*******

Yeah. I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on this one. First, I do not think that being entertained is bad. That said, I do not think that entertainment should be the primary goal of anything, especially Christian fiction. I think that the primary goal should be to glorify God through the book (whichever angle it is taken). I think that this primarily happens when bad writing is not a distraction, and when the author deals seriously with serious issues.

*******
Bethany said:
"To me, the most important thing is that a book is well-written."
*******

I'm not sure that I agree with this, but I also do not disagree. Let me attempt to be a bit clearer: I think that a pre-requisite (usually) for a good Christian book is that it is well written, but I think that, to really be a good book, it must make a person think deeply.

Oscar Wilde argued that art could not be moral or immoral. His version of art, then, was as sweet as cotton candy, but also had about the same nutritional value (this does not apply so much to Dorian Gray, but to The Importance of Being Earnest). This does not mean that I do not like explicitly non-Christian books/movies/music (I really like, for example, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, The Fight Club, and Radiohead), but it means that such art is limited in that, while it represents the heights of the wisdom of humankind, it is the foolishness of God. We should appreciate it for what it is (and we can certainly appreciate it quite a bit), but for nothing more.

A good book also may, but does not have to, add the author's opinion (i.e., the Screwtape Letters is well-written and offers the author's opinion on the nature of the universe, but more open-ended books like Till We Have Faces or LOTR are not so clear on the practical side of what the author is saying).

Also, allow me to use one of John Piper's favorite examples concerning the value of reading certain writing. He would say that the writings of Johnathan Edwards were extremely poorly written, but that there is invaluable material contained therein. So, Piper argues that when we rake, we get leaves; but when we dig, we sometimes find diamonds. (This, of course, is also another argument against entertainment-only writing.)

*******
Grant said:
"'Although difficult, it's possible to start a fire by rapidly rubbing together two Cool Ranch Doritos.' Now that's what I call good literature."
*******

I don't doubt it, Grant. :)

*******
Andrew said:
"Has anyone else noticed that Dekker's 'Thr3e' looks incredibly like the title for the movie Se7en'?"
*******

Good point. Bad book.

"I'm not sure that I agree with this, but I also do not disagree. Let me attempt to be a bit clearer: I think that a pre-requisite (usually) for a good Christian book is that it is well written, but I think that, to really be a good book, it must make a person think deeply."

It sounds like you agree with what I was saying, but disagree with the words you put in my mouth. ;) I didn't say that good writing is the ONLY important thing, but that it is the MOST important thing.

What do you mean by "explicitly non-Christian art"? That the artists are not Christians, or that the art itself is somehow "non-Christian"?

*****
Bethany wrote:
"It sounds like you agree with what I was saying, but disagree with the words you put in my mouth. ;) I didn't say that good writing is the ONLY important thing, but that it is the MOST important thing."
*****

Sort of (Andrew took me to task for this statement just now on the phone, too). What I meant was that it is almost always the case that good books are well written, but I consider substance to be of equal importance in a good book. Thus, extremely good substance can outweigh the fact that a book is poorly written in order to classify it into my "good book" category.

*****
Bethany wrote:
"What do you mean by 'explicitly non-Christian art'? That the artists are not Christians, or that the art itself is somehow 'non-Christian'?"
*****

Both, but the latter would be subsumed by the former. So, because Ayn Rand is very atheistic and because that atheism is all over the pages of her works, she can be a good artist, but of "explicitly non-Christian art."

I don't think that real Christians can create anything other than Christian art (or, at least, what I'm conceiving of Christian art). If Jesus actually affects the way someone thinks about life, I don't see how their art could reflect anything other than some facet of Christianity. It may be extremely veiled, but I think that it has to be there.

That said, I think that it is very possible for non-Christians to create art that would line up with a Christian worldview. For example, I think that Charles Dickens (this is from what I know and have heard--this is pure speculation, but I would be very pleasantly surprised if I were mistaken) was probably not a Christian, but he certainly wrote novels that promoted social justice and condemned greed, or that had beautiful stories of redemptions. Forgive me, but at this time I'm not sure whether I would classify this as Christian art or not. I'll have to keep thinking about that.

Unlike Oscar Wilde, I do think that art has moral qualities; I do not, however, think that we should write off (pardon the pun) art that has immoral qualities. There is something that gets me every time about Billy Joel's "Piano Man"--the lives of the people in the song are so empty that it makes you want to go right down to that bar and preach at Open Mic night. I think that looking at non-Christian art has great value in understanding the minds and thoughts of non-Christians (especially if someone has been a Christian his/her entire life and cannot truly conceive of anything else, as I have). Also, I think that we must realize (as many of the Fundamentalists--as I used to be--have not) that, though humans are under the curse of the Fall, all humans were made in God's image, and can therefore create beautiful things. I don't think that there is anything wrong with appreciating those beautiful things.

Part of the problem in communication here might be that I used to be a HUGE Fundamentalist. There was a time when I would not let people change the radio dial from the local Christian radio station (although nothing I did in relation to non-Christian art ever involved sock puppets). It might help to know that I am thinking and writing primarily as a reformed Fundamentalist to people (including me still, sometimes) who think that if it ain't Christian, don't fixate on it; you are probably writing from a perspective of "What are those crazy Fundamentalists up to now?" :)

I am more writing from a Reformed, or a "there's no such thing as 'Christian' and 'non-Christian' art," or an "all truth is God's truth" perspective. I think that may be the schism between our thinking, because in my thinking, a Radiohead song that portrays the emptiness of selfish living is no less valid/good/whatever (trying to avoid the word "Christian" here) than a song by Caedmon's Call that portrays God's love. If it's truth, it doesn't matter who's speaking it.

Yeah--that's a better way to put the Reformed perspective. :)

I suppose that that idea was what I was trying to capture with my paragraph about when non-Christians make art that lines up with a Christian worldview (Charles Dickens, etc...).

What would you do, then, with people like Ayn Rand (I know I use her a lot, but I think that she's a really good example for our purposes here)? I think that she makes good art, but she doesn't really make "truthful" art. Her books portray a utopia where (unlike the Radiohead song) selfishness is a virtue that leads to the greatest heights humans can live up to.

Also, it's tough to find a movie or something that does not glorify pre-marital sex--this wouldn't really be God's truth, but this broad range of movies includes many which would be good art. How would you classify those movies?

Or, could you really say that Rilo Kiley (though they produce artistic, beautiful music) extols God's truth in all their music?

These are the sorts of things that I would include in my category of "explicitly non-Christian art."

::What would you do, then, with people like Ayn Rand (I know I use her a lot, but I think that she's a really good example for our purposes here)? I think that she makes good art, but she doesn't really make "truthful" art. Her books portray a utopia where (unlike the Radiohead song) selfishness is a virtue that leads to the greatest heights humans can live up to.::

I think Ayn Rand doesn't produce great art because what she writes amounts more to propoganda, and for lies at that.

::Also, it's tough to find a movie or something that does not glorify pre-marital sex--this wouldn't really be God's truth, but this broad range of movies includes many which would be good art. How would you classify those movies?::

I don't know how to respond to that question, partly because I don't know what you mean by "classifying those movies" and partly because the phrase "glorifying pre-marital sex" is a rather broad one, and without more specific examples, I am reluctant to comment.

::Or, could you really say that Rilo Kiley (though they produce artistic, beautiful music) extols God's truth in all their music?::

Not all of it, no, but in a lot of it, yeah. Certainly they don't portray the full spectrum of Truth (Creation, fall, redemption, sanctification, glorification), but most people, even Christians, don't.

How would you define "propaganda"? I would agree with your assessment that what she writes amounts to lies, but I'm hesitant to rule it outside the category of art; it's pretty darn good writing, and the stories, I think, are very creative in the way they get across her worldview.

I don't really care about the terms "Christian" or "non-Christian" for individual elements within art. If black and white terms of "truth" and "lies" work better, those sound good to me.

What I was trying to say is that quite a bit of what I would consider "art" is a mixed bag of truth and lies, and much of it has quite a few more lies than it does truth. I think what you are saying is that Christians can't (or at least don't) get everything right, but non-Christians don't get it all wrong; therefore, categories of "Christian" and "non-Christian" (at least in categorizing a book/movie/band as a whole) are too hard to sustain over the long run.

The only reason I'm hesitant to let go of the titles is that C.S. Lewis just seems so easily classifiable as "Christian fiction"--"Truthful fiction" doesn't quite have the same ring to it. :) Also, I think that it makes some sense to classify Christian fiction in the same way that we might classify other categories of ethnic fiction (i.e., African, Latino, Asian, etc...), since all such "Christian fiction" might be completely different, but would still handle the same type of issues (i.e., Christian fiction would handle redemption, good/evil, etc..., where Jewish literature might handle suffering, community, tradition, etc...) in relatively the same type of ways (often, but not always). This, of course, does not mean that ONLY Christians write about good and evil or that ONLY Jews write about suffering, but I think that it's helpful to know the probable belief-background of an artist if you are trying to figure out what they are trying to say. I suppose, then, based on this line of reasoning, "Christian fiction" would only include anyone writing who is a Christian.

Does that seem like a helpful system of classification or not?

I just read alot of stuff on Christian art and had to post in response!

First, the idea that kept hitting me the entire time the book discussion was occuring was, regardless of Christian or non-Christian, themed or not-themed, has there been a book since Lewis and Tolkien that is a classic in the same style? I think that even the modernist era, with its Joyces, Faulkners, and Fitzgeralds, was able to produce works that could be defined as classics. However, I cannot think of any book I have read that was written in recent years that could even compare. A few spots on the radar include Watership Down and maybe Crichton's first novel, The Andromeda Strain, but even those are just tricklings of the thoughts that once governed the literate of mankind. Italo Calvino as well, but we are only given him in translation. In fact, most Nobel prizes winners in literature these days come from non-English speaking countries or specific circles, such as poetry or ethno-specific writers (also including playwrights, such as Samuel Beckett). So following this function, if there is no literature being produced in the modern era, how can we expect there to be Christian literature on the scale of Lewis, Tolkien, Edwards, Blake, and Milton? The epic form has died, replaced by the serial. I can think of two potential things to blame. We no longer teach our children Latin and Greek in school (read Ulysses by James Joyce, or just realize that Lewis was also one of the last true Latin scholars of the modern age). Without this foundation, children do not understand structures of speech and rhetoric in the manner the Greeks and Romans used them, which is a manner similar to theatre. Theatre's function is to bring the invisible to life through what is only called the "magic" of the stage. In the same way, the style (rhetoric and structure) of the Classics and those who followed them (even in the divergent Romantic period) elucidated invisible, noumenal objects, heightening their writings to literature and art instead of cliched drivel. We do see this happening in recent years in certain movies, and sometimes in plays and poetry, but rarely in the novel. Another reason could be that publication in America has become a commercial enterprise relying on "entertainment". Like blockbuster film studios, publishing houses see only merit for a book that can spawn a series of productive products, or they relegate it to self-help/textbook status. If it is not sequel worthy and does not fall into the other category, it is lost. Reason number three is, quite simply, the majority of our Christian children are now raised on crappy "modern" translations and not the King James or Geneva translations. In this way the epic form and style are lost, settling for the immediate gratification of an easily digested line. Of course this will impact our ability to handle larger issues, especially the idea of an epic story and the themes associated with it.

Secondly, on the question of Christian vs. Non-Christian art, I think the best place to go is back to Lewis, for both a warning and a validation. In "The Great Divorce", one of the spiritual guides (it may be George MacDonald, I'm not sure) discusses the ideas of Heaven and Hell working retrospectively. Once in Heaven, a man can look back and see how Fight Club, Picasso, and the neighbor's dog were all a part of heaven. In the same way, once in hell a man can look back and see how Fight Club, Picasso, and the neighbor's cat were all a part of Hell. HOWEVER!!! The guide warns specifically about the tendency to work prospectively instead of retrospectively, and to assign values to grey based on our current perception of the color spectrum. It is only in the future looking back that we will be able to realize fully the impact of each form on our state of being. In this way, we should guard our hearts and minds, and think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. And put into practice whatever we have learned from God and his teachings (see Phillipians 4). Not saying don't watch Fight Club, but know what you are watching and watch with discernment. In the same manner, do not blanket LOTR movies or books as harmless and "Christian" without paying attention to the critical deviations from truth and even the moments of fantasy that may become unhealthy. In this way all things should be balanced and viewed, so that we can be accountable when we transcend and are made to answer.

Those are my opinions. Thank you for reading and encouraging these thoughts in me.

Ivan Lovegren
www.geocities.com/prayn4food

Ivan again:

btway, i just reread my former post and noticed certain stylistic errors, such as misnumbering things in my argument and a little bit of jumbled sentence structure. Please understand that it is 4:30 in the morning and don't pick it out like so many typical literature "snobs" do and realize the argument I am making beneath my poor writing. I hope that my comments can further a discussion instead of create a tangent about my lack of cohesion. Perhaps the thoughts are worth considering, even if the style bruises.

Ivan--
We should have 4:30 a.m. parties (I started writing this at 4:35)! I read your post, checked some other stuff, and came back to find the second one, and only then noticed what time you posted the first one. I usually don't expect other people to be up at this point in the morning.

Anyway, I think that you make very good points about all this. On some levels, I'm probably a little too eager to lazily label things "Christian" and be able to be comfortable reading it, as if everything Christian were inspired. On another level, though, I also think that I examine Christian art much more critically than something I know to be produced by a non-Christian. This is not because I do not think that there can be truth that can be produced by non-Christians (indeed, non-Christians are still under common grace), but because I think that Christians are often able to be much closer to the truth while still introducing insidious errors into their ideas.

For example, I have recently been listening to sermons by a certain preacher whom so many people I know adore. I listened to one sermon and was blown away by some of the historical information he included about how God severely used Judaism in what he did through Christ. But, I listened to another sermon and was shocked at some of the things he said. I have to be able to discern the good from the bad, I guess.

I really like your ideas on the lack of classics and the over-abundance of entertainment being one of our major problems in producing quality literature, but I would take exception with the idea that "'crappy' modern translations" of the Bible are partly to blame. I think that there are crappy modern translations, but I also think that there are good modern translations. For the Bible, I think that I'm usually more interested in getting as absolutely close as possible to the original message than having Elizabethan language. I think more of the problem might be that people simply do not read the Bible at all anymore (crappy translation or not), since the Bible is probably the only remaining widely-disseminated work of antiquity. Also, its being the very words of God doesn't hurt. :)

Also, I love the Great Divorce. Apparently, after having thought much about art in general since I read it, I need to go reread it. I remember the section you are talking about, but it's been awhile. I'm still working on the issue of discernment. It's far too easy for me to go to one extreme or the other, either saying, "Well, this movie has such and such bad things, so I shouldn't go watch it, lest it corrupt me," or, "Well, all things are pure to the pure, right? I can watch/read whatever I want indiscriminately as long as it's well made." It's going to be some time (or maybe not before I die) before I'm able to know how to discern properly the role of art in my life. I guess that I have to continue to engage it, but always warily, keeping in mind the Philippians 4 passage all the time.

Thanks for the comments, Ivan. We are snobs (as Grant so astutely pointed out earlier in the thread), but we usually don't get too hung up on grammar and spelling--wee all has are problems. By the way, wasn't it your birthday a few days ago? :)

Excellent post, Ivan.

I want to add one author to post-Lewis classics: Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I've only read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch," (1962) but I think it's a masterpiece.

It must be a masterpiece with a name like that in the title =)

the bible thing was really more of an aside, just a wondering if maybe part of our development isn't caused by the way we examine Christianity, which is not necessarily wrong but is an easily-digestible form. I mean, honestly, the NIV was created to be just that - truth, yes, but easily digestible. I think it may have been said earlier (or in a recent conversation with a friend) how maybe part of art is the work put into understanding.

Anyway, I just wrote a ten-page paper on Milton, Blake, and Lewis and their respective ideas of spiritual ascendancy. If you're interested:

www.geocities.com/prayn4food.

rock on!

Ivan

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