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   In 1948, when George Orwell was writing his futuristic blockbuster, 1984, (reversing the last two digits) he presented a depressing, controlling world that included thought-control.

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   Part of the magic of the story was that “1984,” the date was impossibly far off. The numbers, in fact didn’t even look right…

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   In the real 1984, a Christian writer, Philip Yancy, (Wheaton College ’72) wrote this¹ that appeared on the back cover of the Wheaton Alumni (June 1984):

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“…we Christian authors must confess to having bored plenty of people. So far the evangelical reading public has been tolerant, buying millions of books of uneven quality…

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For more use the DOOR.

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“…each year. but a saturation point is inevitable. If Christian writing is not only to maintain interest in the forgiving Christian audience, but also to arouse interest in the skeptical world beyond the Christian subculture, then it must grow up.

   “If we need models of how to do it well, we need only look as far as the Bible. Only 10%  of the Bible’s material, the epistles, is presented in a thought-organized format. The rest contains rollicking love stories, drama, history, poetry, and parables. There humanity is presented as realistically as in any literature.

   “Why else do the paired books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles exist, if not to give a detailed context to the environment in which angry prophets were to deliver their messages? Can we imagine a more skillful weaving of nature and supernature than the great nature psalms, the theological high drama of Job and the homespun parables of Jesus? What literary characters demonstrate a more subtle mixture of good and evil than David, or Jeremiah, or Jacob? And, from the despair of Ecclesiastes to the conversion narratives of Acts, is any wavelength on the spectrum of faith and doubt left unexpressed on the Bible’s pages?

   ” ‘C. S. Lewis’ once likened his role as a Christian writer to an adjective humbly striving to point others to the Noun of truth. For people to believe the Noun, we Christian writers must improve our adjectives,’ “

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   “Non-Christian” stories, or “secular stories,” regardless of how one defines them, may have real value for many reasons. Christian fiction, if we choose that limiting adjective, is also not easy to nail down. But any definition that makes sense would include that within the matrix of Christian stories, poems, and other writing, there is not only the awareness of terrors and triumphs of real life, but room for flawed characters, real redemption, and a real God. In that respect, the Bible is a good model.

   Let’s remember this on the 30th anniversary of one Christian’s writer’s plea for better Christian writing.

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   ¹ This piece in Wheaton Alumni was excerpted from the chapter “Pitfalls of Christian Writing” in Open Windows by Philip Yancy (Crossway Books, 1982).