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Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Do We "Glorify God" in Our Writing?


When asked what they hope to accomplish with their writing, Christian writers are fond of saying that they want to "glorify God." They want to magnify, exalt, honor, give witness of and uphold God in the stories they tell.

Which leads to a confession: I have no idea what they're talking about.

Of course, I realize that Christians are to glorify God in everything they do.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31).
But doesn't this render the Christian writer's response moot? I mean, if you're supposed to do EVERYTHING to the glory of God, why must you single out your writing?

  • Do you glorify God in how you eat?
  • Do you glorify God in your TV habits?
  • Do you glorify God in how you manage your money?
  • Do you glorify God in how you treat your boss?
  • Do you glorify God in how much you serve others?
  • Do you glorify God in your online presence?
  • Do you glorify God in how you market your book?

"Do ALL to the glory of God."

If this is assumed, then why are Christians writers so concerned to point out that their literary mission is to "glorify God"? That should be a given. In fact, if you're not glorifying Him with your whole life now, why should it matter that you stick references to Him in your stories?

And, sadly, that's what many folks mean by glorifying God in their writing. For most Christian writers, glorifying God is all about their message. It means not backing away from the Gospel and not avoiding references to Christ in their novel. It means developing content that is virtuous, redemptive, and spiritually uplifting.

Which leads me to ask: Can only writers of explicit "Christian content" glorify God in their writing? Can a Christian sportswriter glorify God in his writing? Can a Christian textbook maker glorify God in her writing? Can a Christian chef God in their cookbook? Can a Christian op-ed columnist glorify God in their editorial columns? Can a Christian scriptwriter for Nickelodeon glorify God in their writing?

IF NOT -- if only Christian writers can glorify God in Christian stories -- then how can a Christian ever hope to "do all to the glory of God"?

IF SO -- if Christians can glorify God in whatever kind of story they write (or task, service, job they perform) -- then how is glorifying God in a Christian story any different than glorifying God in a "secular" story?

Call me a stickler, a wet blanket if you like. But glorifying God seems to be a lot more than just going to church, quoting Scripture, referencing God, and distributing Bible tracts. Glorifying God is a lot bigger than just our message.

So why must our novels be any different?

* * *

Mike is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. He is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

15 comments:

Linda Yezak said...

I write primarily to entertain, to give Christian readers an alternative to mainstream books. That's the answer I give to anyone who asks. But when someone gives the more lofty response, "I write to glorify God," the implication is that I don't. False impression.

Thanks for posting this, Mike.

Henry McLaughlin said...

Very thought provoking. Makes me take an honest assessment, not only of my writing, but of my entire Christian walk. I want my writing to entertain and encourage by giving readers good stories with real (i.e. flawed) charcters who live out a Christian world view. If I'm not living my life to glorify God, than my writing will not ring true.

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

I taught my children that, whatever their hand found to do, they were to do WITH ALL THEIR MIGHT as unto the Lord. I guess that encompasses everything, doesn't it?

Now, I haven't always lived that way, but I try to duck under the Father's Wings and curl up in His lap when I fail. We're to do our best, in all that we do, always, remembering His Grace and trying to show it to others.

So, I don't write Christian fiction. I write to touch hearts, to help others find healing, to minister to the broken, and because I love words -- their juxtaposition, the sound of them -- and because I love stories. This is what my hand finds to do, which means I must do it with my whole heart, praying in this to please my Lord. But I'd better be trying to please Him in everything else, too. Because I'm old enough to know that even if I never write another word, even if my books never sell, even if my world collapses around me, He is faithful, and I'd better want Him more than anything else.

Jim H said...

While I agree with your sentiment, Mike, I'd edit your last bolded statement to read "Glorifying God is a lot bigger than just our vocation."

When Christians tell us they're writing to "glorify God," let's ask them, "How's it coming? What are you doing to accomplish that?" We might learn something (or have an opportunity to share or teach).

Much of what we do (especially as writers) is highly subjective. Only God can determine if he's been glorified. In the meantime, let's encourage one another to keep trying, regardless of our vocation.

So, Mike--since glorifying God should be a given for Christians, how are you attempting that in your writing? Teach us something.

Jim H.
Author of Moe - "...woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" Eccl. 4:10
http://www.gracefulword.com

wadewebsterwrites.com said...

My favorite Old Testament character is Joseph, a man who lived out glorifying God in all he did. Whether he was sold as a slave, seduced by a woman, sent to jail, or made second-in-command in the most powerful nation of his day his thoughts and actions were always vertical.
I've spent most of my life trying to emmulate his example. Glorifying God in many jobs, mostly truck driving. One day, almost four years ago, He told me to put my thoughts into a book. I was surprised by how well the words came together for someone who never had any training on writing.
I continue to strive to glorify God in all I do. Writing is just another venue for that objective.
Wade W.

Bethany Kaczmarek said...

Normandie, LOVE this response. Beautifully expressed! Thank you.

Bethany Kaczmarek said...

Thought provoking, Mike. I always dig deeper when I hear that. "Like what? How exactly?"

The written page is one of my favorite venues for telling stories that give voice to all God's done in my life, but not the only one. I am Christ's no matter where I am or what I do. When I write, I pray that my words call up familiar experiences in others--cause them to think about how God has reached into their lives as well. I'm thankful for writing as a gift, as an outlet. It is in the living and breathing world around me, though--Boyfriend-Who-Is-My-Husband, my children, my neighbors, young ladies in crisis who are brought to me-- It is in Christ's ministry of reconciliation to flawed humanity that I find the best Story and inspiration. Whether I use words or silent hands, feet, tears, and smiles, I am His vessel.

Mike Duran said...

Jim asked, "So, Mike--since glorifying God should be a given for Christians, how are you attempting that in your writing?"

Thanks for asking. First, I want to glorify God by using the gifts He's given me. If writing is one of them, it's sin to bury that talent. So simply working at multiplying my talent glorifies God. Along those lines, becoming a conscientious craftsman glorifies God. God called the most skilled craftsmen to build His temple (I Chron. 2). If He called 1,000 of the best writers today, would I be on the list? Hm. Nevertheless, it's a reasonable to ask whether we are becoming more skilled at our craft. Third, I think I glorify God by developing content and stories which resonate the Truth, inspire the imagination, provoke thought, disturb convention and status quo, and move readers to think about bigger things. I know that's vague, which is one of the reasons for this post. What I am resisting is the idea that I can only glorify God in my writing by saying something explicit about the Gospel. That, to me, amounts to superstition.

Jodi Janz said...

very though provoking post! I have enjoyed the comments as well.
I have often pondered the question if one is a christian who writes fiction or a writer who write christian fiction? I do not mean to be so black and white, but in our church library we have the discussion many times. There is always a book that pops up with no obvious christian content but written by a confessed christian author - should be it be allowed in our library?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Gina Holmes said...

I never seem to answer what is at the heart of your question so consider this an off-beat comment rather than an attempt to answer. I've never been one to say I write to glorify God. I eat because I'm hungry, I work on the yard because I like to live in a pretty environment. I write because it is the gift I have and it's a great outlet for so many inner things. However, let all I do be to God's glory nonetheless. I would not write porn because it doesn't glorify God even if I'm the best at it. Can a story glorify God that has no mention of Him? I think so. Can nature glorify God? Of course. I happen to be a wrestler of faith in my fiction and in my life so that comes out. Incidentally, those of us who write strong Christian messages in our books but don't live them out in our lives are not glorifying God. We are to be doers, not just writers.

David A said...

Every true, good, and beautiful sentence glorifies God.

Ane Mulligan said...

Well said, Gina.

Katie Ganshert said...

I'm tangenting (that should be a word) from the question to the whole idea of "glorifying" God in general.

What's the point of glorifying God?

Why does God tell us to glorify Him?

I honestly don't know the RIGHT answer.

I looked up the word "glorify" in the dictionary and the definition I got was "to honor with praise, admiration, or worship"

Which makes me think we should glorify Him because...
- He's worthy
- He designed us to glorify Him, so when we live our lives in a way that glorifies Him, we're fulfilling our purpose
- we live in a broken world with hurting people who need to hear about a Truth that sets us all free

I can't speak for any other Christian writers. But when I say the words "I write to glorify God", here's what I mean....

- I want my stories to point to that Truth.

And when I say "I write to glorify God," here's the biggest reason why I say it...

- As a reminder to myself

I have one book published and it is SO easy for me to get consumed and overwhelmed and worry-laden with sales and earning out. When I say or think, "I'm doing this to glorify Him" it's a sweet reminder to myself to rest my eyes on Jesus, because He's why I'm doing this. He's the one who gave me the gift and the opportunity. He's the reason I live and breathe. And boy, in all my self-absorption, do I need that reminder. Daily...sometimes hourly.

Perhaps the "right" answer then, when people ask why I write, would be:

I write to uplift and entertain others. I write to point people toward freedom. And of course, I write because I love telling stories.

Perhaps that's more specific, seeing as writers can glorify God with their words and stories apart from the message.

Thanks for making me think, Mike.

Gina Holmes said...

Katie, beautiful way to put it.

Elaine Baldwin said...

Thank you, Mike. Well said! I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of this topic. I liken it to people thinking the pastor and missionary are automatically called and doing God's work and super spiritual. But the lawyer, the plumber or baker maybe not so much.