Philosophical Story Challenge of the Week

amenWell, in a comment on Tuesday’s post Wayne made an excellent point, and while my series this week hasn’t been focused on his point, it is one that I believe is extremely important and that I want to address. In Christian theology, and I am utterly convinced in all truth, the Holy Spirit is active and works in the life of every believer, even before that individual becomes a believer. Every biblical theologian with a lick of sense (including Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Arminius, etc–my point here is major figures from each of the significant camps of Christian soteriology) accepts the doctrine that the holy spirit works in the life of the believer both after they are saved, to guide them in (as Paul puts it) working out their own salvation in fear and trembling, and before they are saved in initiating within them the ability to respond to God. In John 15 Jesus tells his followers that if they abide in him he will abide in them, and many theologians take this to refer to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the human soul. H. Richard Niebuhr, in his book The Responsible Self, makes the excellent point that a Christian should imagine the world around him as under the control of a sovereign God, and thus respond to every action as though it were an action in God’s design. This is not an argument that the believer should respond to sinners as though their sins were God’s perfect will for their lives, but that the believer should respond to sinners as though God allowed them to remain in their sins, and allowed those sins to affect the life of the believer, and thus should respond to those sins primarily as though he were responding to God’s hand in his life, and only secondarily respond to them as though they were sinful actions performed by sinful men.

The Holy Spirit is what Christians believe guides us towards and in this response. That if I am abiding in Christ then I can respond to all things as God would have me respond to them (i.e. as though responding to God’s hand in my life), and thus live out his calling to be holy, or wholly set apart for his worship through the of bearing his image to the world. Now, there are many mysteries here, not the least of which is that which has occupied Calvinists and Arminians through several centuries of sometimes vicious debate–the question of how the salvation of any individual may be both God’s choice from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1 and 2, etc) through which the individual was crucified with Christ, buried with him, raised with him, and ascended with him into glory, and be the individuals own efficacious choice (1 Peter 3, 2 Timothy 2, Matthew 23, etc) to repent of his/her sin, confess Christ as Lord, and submit to Him before which he/she cannot be saved. There are actually two mysteries here–1) how salvation can be both man’s own efficacious choice and God’s preknown, predestined will before creation, and 2) how man may both have been crucified, buried, raised, and glorified with Christ either after the individual’s own death (for those who lived before Christ), while the individual yet lived (for those who were contemporaries of Christ), or before the individual was born (for those who were born after Christ’s death), and not be saved until the individual repents of his/her sin and confesses Christ as Lord. These are things that don’t seem to work together, and yet we are told that they are true. Some have tried to reconcile them in various ways (which often leads to heresy of some kind as you must deny one truth to justify the other); attempted to use them to dismiss Christianity as illogical, unreasonable, or ludicrous (which only works if you have already dismissed on other grounds the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent, personal deity that is not bound by time); and some have accepted them as mysteries that are fundamentally true, but beyond our current understanding and thus knowable only to God.

So, here is your question: given these ideas 1) the indwelling of the holy spirit, 2) the unity and mystery of the faith, 3) the individual’s response to God in every action, and 4) the aid of the holy spirit in doing so, what does it mean to write fiction as a Christian?

Normally I would ask you to write a story of 1000 words. However, I have a feeling that 1000 words may not be enough for this topic. So, I’m going to ask you to either write a creative, non-fiction essay on the topic or write a short story of up to 20,000 words on the topic. Please don’t post these in the comment, but feel free to make shorter comments or to post links to your longer responses.

Words Between the Lines

Sometimes, the most beautiful music is heard between the notes.

I tend to be an emotional writer, for the most part. Most of my stories (and all of my poems) have roots in some deep, powerful emotion that I feel or have felt and want to convey. Sometimes these emotions express themselves in poetry, sometimes in short fiction pieces, but once in a while I’ll sit and down and end up writing something that basically falls into the category of creative nonfiction. It’s about some important event in my life, and usually ends up just being a way to vocalize my thoughts and feelings around that point in time. The story I have for you today is one such story. I wrote it earlier this year during a really difficult, depressed time in my life. Maybe some of you will connect to it. At any rate, enjoy.

The Words Between the Lines

You were the words between the lines, everything that was subtle and beautiful about the world. You swept into my life like some fairytale prince to save me from the villains who hurt me and the demons that haunted my dreams. I was so broken, so shattered, I couldn’t even see myself as human anymore, but you could. You were gentle to me, gentle and kind. You picked me up from the ground I’d been thrown on, and showed me that not every character in my life’s story was a villain, that there were still some heroes to be found, if I only knew where to look. I saw adventure in your eyes, beckoning me to press on and explore. Not every tale has a tragic ending, you seemed to say whenever I looked at you. You said my story would be a happy one.

You were the music between the notes. Your soft words fell on my ears like a symphony, stirring me to greater depths of feeling. It was you who first called me beautiful, you who told me that no one ever had the right to say otherwise. The way you cared for me in my pain and sickness lifted my spirits as if I was listening to a sweet chorus that let me believe, if only for a moment, that I wasn’t hurting at all. Your strong arms around me held me close, and our spirits sang together like angels in the gathering twilight. We danced to the music in our souls, pure and lovely. There was great beauty in those moments, listening to that music.  

You were the light in the void. You showed me that I wasn’t alone, that someone else would help me share my burden. You touched the emptiness in my heart and filled it with your love. I learned to laugh again, because of you. You coaxed me out of my shell a little, trying to show me that I didn’t need to hide. I slowly began to lean on you in the tough times as you encouraged me to trust you. I started to look for you when things got rough, always searching for that beacon of hope, you who would let me cry when I couldn’t make sense of my world.


Few things are sadder than a beautiful book with empty pages.

But you weren’t there. I searched and searched for you, but you had disappeared into the darkness. Many were the nights I lay awake screaming your name as the emptiness inside threatened to tear me apart. I looked for you in the words, but your story had taken a different road. I looked for you in the music, but the notes were discordant. I looked for you in the void, but the light had been extinguished. Gone. All hope had disappeared with you, and the pain finally engulfed me in a storm I had no strength to fight against. I almost allowed myself to be swallowed up by the emptiness. And then you came back. I saw you, heard you, felt you, as if at a great distance, a dim figure shrouded in mist. But I’d gone back into my shell. I wouldn’t let you see me anymore. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, saying goodbye to you. You don’t know the eternity I spent in the dark, senseless, deaf, and blind. But I had to say goodbye. I watched you walk away again, and it was all I could do to not scream your name and beg you to come be mine again. But I couldn’t. You’re gone now, gone forever, and I’m all alone. You were the words between the lines, and now the page is blank.