Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CSFFBT: 'The Skin Map' by Stephen Lawhead (II)

Traveling today, and the book not completely read yet, so today is even more brief.


The Skin Map continues to be quite engaging - partly due to the subject matter, but in no small part to the chapter structure. Especially in the beginning, the chapters are short, compact without being choppy, and leave the reader if not hanging from the cliff, at least jerking short at the top of a short hill, barely able to keep momentum from hauling one on down the other slope in a tumbling run.

The plot and characters have brought me around to wondering, again, what makes Christian fiction Christian?

I'm about a zillion percent certain that this has been debated before on CSFFBT (hint: links would be good). And I'm just as sure that I don't want to set up some sort of holier-than-thou litmus test for books of any sort.

(I'm reminded of a very acid internet exchange, some years back, when a magazine/website (can't even remember which one) published a list of books with 'Biblical world views' - and included Diary of Anne Frank. Jewish reader/bloggers were not amused. "Books about Jews can't be 'Christian Biblical'!" While I disagree, I can see where they were coming from, and don't begrudge them their indignation, esp in the case of Anne Frank and the way the Nazi party co-opted the German Church.)

Any road. Litmus tests are not what I'm going for, here.

I think that just as every person will respond to Christ differently, and that everyone would use different words to describe God to their friends and neighbors, that everyone's definition of what made a book 'Christian' will vary.

I think a definition along the lines of the old joke about 'if they made Christianity illegal, is there enough evidence to get you convicted' might be appropriate - ie, if 'THEY' were to start banning (or burning) Christian books, would this one escape the bonfire? (note 1)

Thus far in The Skin Map I haven't seen anything that would need bribery to get past a secularist censor. (There's been some reference to the grace of providence, and the main characters - in 1600 England - go to church, but that's it.) Not that I'm ready to write the book off. But I'd rather something more concrete than a general sense of joyful hope before I labeled a book as 'Christian'. There is enough mention of drinking and carousing, not to mention some ethically shady time-intervention actions, but next-to-zero sex.

I'm not asking for more sex in the book, but I'm going to be very disappointed if that turns out to be what defines the book as 'Christian'.

Note 1: Not advocating burning or banning books of any sort.


Fred Warren said...

Great post! Yep, the definition of Christian Fiction gets batted about nearly every Tour (no links needed, just take a stroll through the websites), and the discussion continues with this month's selection.

I like your working definition. Nobody ever wins this debate, but I think it's important that we keep talking about it. We have fiction by Christians, for Christians, about Christians, with or without an explicit Gospel message, with or without an invitation to conversion, and with or without sexual activity, bad language, or poor manners. Some would go so far as to assert that Christian fiction is a contradiction in terms, but since everybody on the Tour is an avid reader and/or writer, that position never gains much traction.

I don't think anybody's actually burned a book yet, but that would definitely generate some discussion.

Sarah Sawyer said...

My take on this particular story is that Lawhead was putting the groundwork into place to explore the nature of God and the universe in a great deal more depth in the subsequent books. Toward the end, explores the idea of "Providence" a little more, but I'm really expecting the stronger faith elements to come as the characters continue on their journey. Just my two cents.