TLDR version? I was created to do so (If you have not read my Mea Culpa identity blog, click here https://ericwsparks.com/mea-culpa/ to do so).
This is simply what I was born to do. I do not mean this is necessarily how I’m destined to make my living (though it would be awesome if that becomes the case). If you are truly born to do something, it doesn’t mean you were destined to make a living by it, but rather your life supports it. Though I am most certainly and openly both a Christian and a writer, I do not view myself as a Christian novelist (more on this in a couple of paragraphs). Any time I want to address my faith in my writing, it will always be through non-fiction.
As Tolkien points out, God himself is The Creator, and we are called to imitate God (though we do so imperfectly), so when we engage in the process of creation – whether literary, artistic, mechanical – we are imitating him, which is great! In doing these things, we are able to learn more about him, and appreciate him on a deeper level than we were before. The more I write, the more I understand God as my Creator (this will be a whole topic itself another time).
But you shouldn’t think of me as a “Christian Writer”.
The comedian Gabrielle Iglesias one time clarified that he was not a Latino comedian, but rather a Comedian that happened to be Latino. “What’s the difference”? he said people would ask. “My special will air on Comedy Central, not Telemundo!” he quips. By that (and further explanation), he means that his comedy isn’t meant to appeal to one people group, not even the one to which he belongs. Rather, his comedy is personal and human; it appeals to all.
I could say the same thing. I do not write allegory, nor do I preach, and nothing in my fiction has a one-to-one Christian counterpart. For example, my world of Lugon has a Creator, Xiarch. Xiarch is most certainly not a stand in for the God of the Bible, YHWH. They do share many common traits – they are both good, benevolent Creators, the both speak Power, etc., they also have multiple key differences. Most importantly, there is no redemption story, as there is in the Scriptures with The Messiah / Christ. Sure, characters may have personal redemptive narratives, but there is no global debt being paid. In fact, religion in my first several books plays a very minor role, and that is due to another key difference between Xiarch and the one true God. Xiarch may try to provide guidance for how the peoples of Lugon can return to what they were meant for, he himself does not dwell among them – ever. His attempts to reach them are much less direct, and less impactful, than what the God shows throughout Scripture.
And yet, rather than saying I’m a writer who happens to be a Christian, I would say that I’m a Christian who happens to write. But rather than creating allegories like CS Lewis did with the Chronicles of Narnia, my view of writing is much more akin to Tolkien’s. Yes, my faith certainly influences my writing, and those who understand the Christian faith will probably pick up certain spiritual truths taught by Christ, but I am deliberately avoiding preaching. If my main purpose in the narratives I taught was to preach, I would be standing up giving sermons (since that would be much more efficient), not typing from my home on a computer. This leads into the next part of why I write.
I Want to Echo the Themes of the Great Story.
You see, a preacher compels you to immediately consider the implications of their message – to either accept or reject their message. But there are two ways the world, and people, can testify to God.
In Christian teaching, there are two types of revelation: General and Special. Preaching would be under Special. It is a direct message to those who are open to receive it. It is what is necessary to live in harmony with God and live a life that is pleasing to him. General is what can be found throughout the world. The universe is orderly (which is why we can study it scientifically – it follows set rules and patterns), which reflects God’s order and control. We see the beauty of the natural world, and it reflects a Creator who loves beauty. These things testify to their Creator, and their effect is to drive us to look for him. General Revelation is meant to spark a desire for Special Revelation.
While the natural world does reflect God, General Revelation can also be found in humanity, though in a much more broken way (this, by Christian teaching, is due to the effects of Sin, but that’s a whole other article). My stories I hope to fall under this. The Truths of the world – both the Goodness of the Creator we were made in, as well as our evil from our fall – rather than preaching about it, will simply be on display. The fabric – the conflicts, both global and personal, the heroes, the villains, and everyone in-between, will be informed based on my understanding of the Truth as I have been made to understand it thus far. And, just as God cares for the needs of all people, whether they recognize him or not (“he sends the rain on the unrighteous and the righteous alike”), my stories are meant to appeal to all people, but it is my sincere hope that the characters, themes, and all parts drive people to want to know more – and hopefully, recognize the Truth when they see it. As Jewel said in The Last Battle when he saw the new Narnia, he exclaimed (paraphrase), “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this!” Or, as Tolkien called our creations, an “echo”. Instead of preaching to people who do not wish to be lectured, I want to entertain all people. But it is my sincere hope that my echoes allow people when, whoever is called to preach to them does so, for their heart to leap and that parts of my story (and a host of others) that they’ve read, they go, “This is the Great Story! And I can join it! Every other story I liked was because it had parts of it like this one!”
That’s not to say I won’t ever write an overtly spiritual book. I am working on my memoirs, and I have often contemplated writing books to address misconceptions about the Christian teachings on many things (sadly, the misconception is often our own fault, as we Christians do not always live up to what we have been called). But when I do so, it will always be through works of non-fiction. My fiction is meant to be entertaining and appealing to anyone.
So, I invite you all to listen to my echoes. When I hit a sour note, call me out on it. And if I ever reach a moment of brilliance, I hope you love it!