For ‘PG-13-Rated’ Content in Stories, How Far is Too Far?

Comment

For ‘PG-13-Rated’ Content in Stories, How Far is Too Far?

This article was featured by Speculative Faith.

When will we know the answer to the question, “How far is too far to delve into secular culture and adult content in stories?”1

When Christ returns.

No, that’s not a cheesy youth pastor joke. We’ll never stop talking about these things. There will always be another caveat to add, another angle we haven’t explored yet, another cultural development that throws a wrench into our precisely-drawn lines in the sand concerning swearing, violence, and sex. . . .

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

‘Warm Bodies’ Portrays a Vivid Yet Grotesque Gospel Image

Comment

‘Warm Bodies’ Portrays a Vivid Yet Grotesque Gospel Image

This article was featured by Speculative Faith.

After many supporting roles over the last two decades, Nicholas Hoult finally has our attention.

He’s claimed a starring role in two major motion pictures this year—the biopic, Tolkien (2019) as J. R. R. Tolkien, and as Beast in recent X-Men films, including Dark Phoenix. With such a unique face—likely helping him land his break-out role in About a Boy in 2002—it’s easy to see why he’s so frequently cast in speculative films.

Although his role as Tolkien may be his new claim to fame, is it his best work to date? I found the biopic to be sufficiently heartwarming and even inspiring at times, but I wouldn’t say the role was particularly suited to him. Nor was it in any way a story of faith as one would hope.

In stark contrast stands the zombie romance, Warm Bodies. . .

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

The Jacobs are moving again!

Comment

The Jacobs are moving again!

The Jacobs are moving! Well, sort of. 

Let me back up. We’ve been living away from our family and going to school for over nine years now. The last three years have been in Houston. Our time in Texas has been bittersweet. God blessed us in many ways during this time, but, truth be told, it has been lonely and stressful for many reasons. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious to leave. 

All this time, Tim has been bearing the burden of going to school full time and working multiple jobs to support us. He now has three master’s degrees and will soon finish his PhD. This summer he acquired his fifth adjunct teaching position. Yes, you read that right. Five. Jobs. This past semester he worked four jobs, did independent study, studied for a huge latin exam, and prepared for his PhD comprehensive exams. Oh yeah, and he was super dad. Just to put that into perspective for you, most PhD students taking comprehensive exams do nothing else. They don’t take classes or teach, and most don’t have families.

Tim was spreading himself thin, and I was, after nearly a decade of school and being away from family, not emotionally or physically healthy. Well . . . I was downright clingy to be honest. With one very important semester left in Houston until Tim begins his dissertation, we need to make a big change to make sure this semester is a complete success. 

So come August, we will load up the kids, the dog, and a few suitcases and drive to Palm Springs, California. And then Tim will fly back to Houston without us. He will join us after the semester ends, thus ending our time in Texas. We know it’s a little crazy! But with things the way they are, we need drastic change. 

Houston friends, please don’t hear that you are not dear to us. It is because this season has been so hard that you are all the more dear and important. The Lord did not make us comfortable in Texas, but he did give us a few friends that we will miss so very much. My heart breaks just thinking about leaving you

California friends and family, we are looking forward to seeing you very soon! But, as far as we know, this move is not permanent. After Tim finishes his dissertation, he will apply for a full-time teaching position somewhere, and we will, Lord willing, move to a more permanent location. 

Kentucky friends, I know I said that my modular class at Southern would bring me back to Louisville at the beginning of August. But with this change happening, I will be switching classes to later in the semester. I hope to see you all again in September or October. 

Please pray for us during this time. Pray the Lord will refresh us and strengthen us. Pray that he will sustain us during our time apart. 

Thank you for supporting us during this time!



Comment

Let’s Guard Against Temptations in YA Fiction

Comment

Let’s Guard Against Temptations in YA Fiction

This article was featured by Lorehaven Magazine.

Parents can guide teenage readers, starting with these suggestions.

Parents are often thrilled when their child becomes a reading machine. Moms and dads may assume any book is better than hours in front of a screen!

But many parents who don’t read the same books as their children aren’t aware of the amount of sexual content in modern young adult (YA) fiction. . . .

Read more on Lorehaven.com.

Comment

What Women Do and SBC 2019

Comment

What Women Do and SBC 2019

The Southern Baptist Convention 2019 was a momentous occasion. Not only had I never attended before, but everything from the resolutions to the panels to the coffee dates were alive with the whirlwind of change.

Sexual abuse.

Racial reconciliation.

Women’s roles in the church.

No one was afraid to talk about the SBC’s dirty laundry. We didn’t always agree, but that was okay. We talked about all of it in painstaking detail and invited the whole world to watch. Then we voted that sexual abuse and racism were grounds for expelling churches from the convention. And I couldn’t be more proud of our leadership for their humility and resolve in these areas.

While remaining steadfast in conservative, Biblical principles and complementarianism, I saw men—leading men—affirm the value and voice of women in the church. At the SBC Women’s Leadership event, our president, J.D. Greear, expressed his excitement about the new generation of women and change we are ushering in. And while he was glad for what has already taken place, he reminded us that we are only starting to scratch the surface.

The SBC (along with other conservative denominations) are just beginning to see the effects of the minimization of women in churches—especially in the South where legalism over leniency is more common. And I would have to agree fully with Greear—there is much to be done, not primarily in the convention but in church culture.

I was in a state of awe during the convention. There was so much to see, hear, learn, and read. I couldn’t have done it all if I’d wanted to. And I was just so darn happy to see change finally taking place in so many areas, I didn’t immediately feel where it was still lacking. But as we drove out of town on Thursday morning, I finally put my finger on it.

No one asked me what I do.

You know those moments when you get stuck at a table with a bunch of people you don’t know? You’re forced to make small talk, ask where they’re from, what they do, how many kids they have. But people in the church don’t ask women what they do unless they’re alone.

I asked my husband how many times he had a chance to tell someone he’s a philosophy professor and PhD student. It was so many, he’d lost count. When he asked me the same, I recounted the one time I told someone about my various writing endeavors—at the women’s leadership event. It was at a place where there were no men at the table and women only had eyes and ears for one another.

That realization stung deeply. All the implications crashed down around me. I could list all the reasons why they ask him and not her, but there was one that stuck out to me above all the others: they already knew. Or they thought they knew, and they didn’t care to know more.

All the people at those tables and booths subconsciously assumed I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband had a real job. And I assumed right along with them. Don’t think I’m trying to be high and mighty in my critique here. You can bet I did it too. I am guilty of not wanting to hear about other women’s kids and schooling choices because I think (wrongly) that it’s boring and ordinary. Nor do I immediately assume they have something they do outside the home or in their spare time. It’s not something I would ever have admitted to until now since it’s mostly subconscious.

But here’s the thing—I am a stay-at-home mom. My husband really does have a job outside our home. I change diapers, cook the food, fold the laundry (sometimes), and then some. And all those things are extremely important. There were seasons—and rightly so—of my life where that is all I did, and all I was able to do because my kids were little.

But that isn’t the whole story for me. I am a woman who loves the church and the people in it. He has gifted me as well as every woman to serve his church in some capacity. He has gifted you, sister, to serve the body for the sake of the kingdom.

I have things that I do apart from my family. And if we were honest with ourselves, we look a lot more like the Proverbs 31 woman than we usually give ourselves credit for. We care for our homes, our families, start businesses, use our teaching/serving/leading gifts in a multitude of venues, and pretty much git it done.

I know a lot of men in SBC churches who think very highly of women. Some of them even read theology books written by the opposite gender. But I can’t help but wonder if they would think to ask that woman, the one sitting at a table with her husband, what she does.

This is a glorious season of change in the church. Let’s all work together for the sake of the gospel.


Comment

Belief in the Supernatural Builds Faith in ‘Breakthrough’

Comment

Belief in the Supernatural Builds Faith in ‘Breakthrough’

This review was featured by Speculative Faith.

“Mommy, I’m scared to go to bed. What if there are ghosts in there?”

Should tell my daughter ghosts aren’t real? I’d believed that most of my life as do many Christians. But I stopped with the words dangling on the tip of my tongue. Saying ghosts don’t exist felt like a lie.

In 1 Samuel 28, Saul visited the medium at En-dor in order to gain counsel from a deceased Samuel. The medium was able to bring up the spirit, and the late prophet revealed Saul’s identity to the medium and prophesied about the coming battle. From my understanding, this passage implies that not only was Saul in sin when he visited the medium but was truly speaking with Samuel’s spirit. . . .

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

The Fellowship of ‘Tolkien’

Comment

The Fellowship of ‘Tolkien’

This review was featured by Speculative Faith.

Many reviews and ranting blogs backed up my newsfeeds in the weeks leading up to the release of Tolkien. Never have I read more fretting, contradictory articles. Yet despite the variety of opinions on the interwebs, one thing is certain: J.R.R. Tolkien is well loved.

From Christian fans, to purist Middle Earth super-geeks, to indifferent LOTR movie goers—John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (played by Nicholas Hoult) has captured the attention of us all. So it wouldn’t seem too much to ask that a biopic film of his early life would do the man justice.

But did it?

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

Does the ‘Captain Marvel’ Film Promote Feminism?

Comment

Does the ‘Captain Marvel’ Film Promote Feminism?

This review was featured by Speculative Faith.

After I saw Captain Marvel, I read two contradictory Christian reviews—both from writers I follow and respect.

The first was the opposition from Greg Morse at Desiring God. Next came some very high praise from K. B. Hoyle at Christ and Pop Culture.

Morse at Desiring God argued the movie could show a stronger-than-all woman swooping in to save the failing men, when all hope is lost in the battle with Thanos. He suggested this could encourage men in our society to remain weak, passive, and cowardly in their God-given role as a protector. . . .

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

‘Shazam!’ Soars with Humor and a Virtue-Seeking Hero

Comment

‘Shazam!’ Soars with Humor and a Virtue-Seeking Hero

This review was featured by Speculative Faith.

“I found a lot to love about the new DC film Shazam!

Rich with humor, religious symbolism, and a protagonist on a journey toward virtue—Christian fans won’t be disappointed! It was a fun combo of Superman meets Tom Hanks in Big meets Fullmetal Alchemist!

Thanks to Fandango and Warner Bros. featuring an early access showing, I had the pleasure of viewing the much anticipated DC film two weeks early. And I’m so glad I did. . . .”

Read more on speculativefaith.com.

Comment

When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain

Comment

When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain

‘When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain’

Should parents make their kids only play as heroes and good guys?

This article was featured in Lorehaven Magazine.

“Does your child choose to play the cop or the robber? A Sith Lord or a Jedi Knight?

Why choose to play the villain at all when you could choose to play a hero?

Parents might think the answer is simple. Villains may have cooler costumes and passionate personalities in need of redemption. . . .”

Read more when you subscribe for our free, quarterly magazine at lorehaven.com.

Comment

Lorehaven Spring '19 Issue

Comment

Lorehaven Spring '19 Issue

Lorehaven Magazine Spring ‘19 Issue!

Subscribe for FREE!

lorehaven_spring2019-541x700.jpg

Captain’s Log

E. Stephen Burnett

Young fans are slowly guiding Christian fiction toward fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

Book Reviews

Lorehaven review team

Explore twelve new fantastical novels from Christian authors.

Sponsored Review: Outbreak

Lorehaven review team

Outbreak will doubtless thrill readers who enjoy a good zombie yarn.

Sponsored Review: The Reluctant Disciple

Lorehaven review team

The Reluctant Disciple tours popular thematic attractions via disquieting paths.

Featured Review: The Line Between

Lorehaven review team

Tosca Lee’s thriller quests toward truth among apocalyptic madness.

‘Come With Me! I Have A Story To Tell You’

Interview with novelist Tosca Lee

In Tosca Lee’s fictional worlds, heroines find new identities of grace.

Fanservants: How to Geek Out with Godly Purpose

Paeter Frandsen

Does our investment in stories build the kingdom or waste our gifts?

Fanservants: ‘When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain’

Marian Jacobs

Should parents make their kids only play as heroes and good guys?

Comment

Part Two: Tempering Involvement in Culture

Comment

Part Two: Tempering Involvement in Culture

**Click here to read Part One**

Overcorrecting Subculture

I’ve lived in four different states in the US and visited ten countries around the world. God has been gracious to show me how different cultures and subcultures can greatly impact the way we live out our faith. I want to focus on two specific cultures that I have the most experience with: First, where I was born and raised in Southern California, and second, where I have lived the last eight and half years in the Bible Belt of the South (Kentucky for six years and Texas for two and a half).

As I’ve said, it is human nature to overcorrect problems within our subculture. There are two main ways we do this as individuals. First, we observe the subculture around us and think that it is right, then demonize and stereotype people outside of it. Here are some overly simplistic examples: “Southern California is so much more enlightened than most of the US. I’m so glad I don’t have to live in the South with all those racists and fundamentalists.” Or, “The South is so much more grounded in its history and the Bible. I’m so glad I don’t have to live around all those crazy liberal feminists on the West Coast.”

The second way we overcorrect is to observe the subculture we live in, think it’s wrong, and then jump ship entirely, usually into a very different subculture with it’s own set of problems. Here are some examples: “Southern California is way too progressive and the churches are so shallow. I wish we could go to one of those churches that sings only hymns, offers Sunday school, and has a potluck after service every week.” Or, “The South is so legalistic and they hate women. I wish I could go to a more inclusive community in California where I can serve anywhere or teach anyone.”

These examples are trite, I know. But you get my point. No culture is perfect because everywhere you go, there will be sinful people there. There will be sinful you there. Yes, sometimes the answer to a problem is to jump ship. God can use discomfort to call you away from a place. But just because you’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. This is where temperance, critical thinking, and more importantly prayer comes in. Temperance is needed to say, “I know there is a problem with my community but I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water and think the solution is doing the exact opposite.” Critical thinking is needed to ask questions like, “I feel like there is nothing good about my community, but I know that can’t be true. What is good and what is bad? What is salvageable here? What needs to go?” Prayer can enlighten your path more than any virtue or critical thinking ability. There will be times when your options ahead look perfectly equal and you really have no idea what to do. Thank God for his Spirit that directs our hearts and minds toward wisdom.

Comment

Part One: Tempering Involvement in Culture

Comment

Part One: Tempering Involvement in Culture

Temperance and Secular Culture

How far is too far to participate in secular culture? How far is too far to pull out? Can I let my kids read Harry Potter? Should I go live on a farm in the middle of nowhere to escape secular culture?  

I’m not actually going to answer any of those questions specifically. But I do want to talk about one of the virtues we use in answering these questions (and others) for ourselves and our families.

This is an age old conversation, but an important one. I don’t really plan on saying anything new here, but merely to cast this in a virtue ethical light that is rarely seen in the evangelical church. First let me quickly define some terms.

  • Temperance: The ability to moderate your actions. Most Bible translations refers to this as “self-control” in the lists of the fruit of the Spirit.

  • Virtue ethics: Focuses on the virtue or moral character—the heart, dispositions, and habits—of a person rather than on external actions and duty (deontology). We can see this in scripture in many places, most notably in the Sermon on the Mount.

  • Aristotle’s Golden Mean: Virtue is the mean between two extremes—the opposing ends being vices of excess and deficiency. This principle can be seen many times in the Bible when it talks about not turning aside. Such as Deut. 5:32, “Be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left.”

aristotlesgoldenmean

There are two common dispositions towards American culture that I see in the church at the moment (and for all time really, but I’m going to speak only into modern, western society). One is unrestricted (or nearly) indulgence in secular culture which can lead to further sin and idolatry. This is the “excess” side of the golden mean scale. The other is total (or nearly) abstinence from secular culture which often leads to legalism and self-righteousness. This is the “deficient” side of the golden mean scale. Both are vices, not virtues.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking at this point. Most orthodox Christians attempt to find a balance between participation in and abstinence from culture. We don’t always draw the line in exactly the same place. I would agree with that. It’s even a good thing that we don’t all make the exact same choices with our cultural diet because some disagreement, as long as it is civil, builds up the body of Christ.

So then, why say those vices (a lack of temperance) are common? Although it is generally known that we should find balance with our participation in secular culture, there’s real confusion about how to express such temperance. Confusion comes from our evaluation of our subculture and the human tendency to overcorrect when we see a problem. More on overcorrecting subculture in Part Two.

Christians are not taught how to think critically. Most evangelical seminaries do not even offer classes in the basics of philosophy (i.e. critical thinking, logic, metaethics, etc.) whereas Catholic and Orthodox seminaries require them. (Rabbit trail: Why is that important? I could go on and on about that, but I’ll keep it simple. Lest you think “human philosophy” is all evil, recall that logic is a kind of science that says if A and B contradict each other, they can’t both be true. Seeing as God does not contradict himself, it’s safe to conclude that God is logical, and we should strive to be as well. We should not believe contradictions.)

Our church congregants as well as our church leaders typically have no training in how to think critically. And how can we rightly discern the balance of such things as cultural involvement without those skills? We usually don’t. We overcorrect into vice which leads some to cultural indulgence and idolatry and others to cultural abstinence and legalism. Then we sit back and judge those who overcorrect in the other direction. Without temperance, we will not only fall, often unknowingly, into vice, but we will have a complete lack of grace for others who simply fall differently.

Let me give you an example of these two things.

Indulgence (excess vice): The community of Christians who write and read science fiction and fantasy, like myself, varies widely. There are those who make great effort to think critically about how far they should go with their writing and reading and how closely it should resemble that of the secular market. Then there are others who, upon seeing the problems with abstaining from much of pop culture, delve headlong into the fantasy world without restraint. Some of their fiction includes sex and the use of explicitly dark magic by protagonists. They see themselves as critical thinkers because they dodge the bullet of “legalism.” Yet, in their new found freedom from fundamentalism, they display an utter lack of critical thinking against indulgence, seeing it as good or the lesser of two evils. Cultural indulgence in general is prone to either deleting parts of scripture or twisting the meaning to fit certain needs. By some of these well intentioned readers and authors, I have been accused of being a fundamentalist due to articles like this one that tell of my position on sexual purity. (Not to be confused with the purity movement which uses shame to keep young people from premarital sex.)

Abstinence (deficient vice): In some circles I run in, lifestyles such as homeschooling, stay-at-home moms, and even patriarchy are commonplace. For the right family and the right child, homeschooling is prudent. And not only am I a stay-at-home mom, but I think it’s a blessing for any mom to be able to stay with their child when they’re an infant and toddler. Yet, where the indulgent delete or twist scripture, the culturally abstinent tend to stretch the commands of the Bible like silly putty so that they are no longer recognizable. For example, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” This becomes the basis by which they advise others that public school is inadvisable or even immoral. Worse is the petrifying fear within the American conservative community of radical feminism. The overcorrection against such liberalism can be drastic and horribly unbiblical. Was the baby not thrown out with the bathwater by Paige Patterson, former president of a Southern Baptist seminary, when he advised a female student who had been sexually assaulted not to go to the police? In this conservative subculture, I have been labeled by some as erring in indulgence due to my stance on women’s roles within the church because I affirm their need to use their God-given spiritual gifts in accordance with scripture. Their role should not be defined by Bible-belt culture. Ironically, this view is shared by at least some professors at the theologically orthodox Southern Seminary.

I point out how I have been labeled by these subcultures not to merely complain or to show that I must be in the right because I think I fall in the middle of the two and, therefore, must have the virtue of temperance. But, instead, I want to illustrate that they can’t both be right. We can’t all be right, especially when we believe such contradictory things. I said before that disagreement, as long as it is civil, builds up the church. We must have temperance paired with grace if we are to flourish in unity. Knowing that it is in our nature to overcorrect into vice, grace is required for others who do the same in a different direction.

Pray that God grants his people temperance, wisdom, and understanding in this area. Ask also that we would learn to be more gracious to our brothers and sisters who are different from us.

**Click here to read Part Two**

Comment

Is my identity in culture?

Comment

Is my identity in culture?

The New York Times released an article this week about an African-American teenager forced to cut his hair, styled in dreadlocks with a cap over them, or forfeit his wrestling match. He chose to cut his hair. The article, not the teen, stated that he should not have to forgo part of his identity in order to continue the match.

The language in the article disturbed me. It wasn’t the teen who was using it but someone imposing that particular sense of identity on him without his consent. Perhaps he does consider it part of his identity. We may never know. But what disturbed me the most was that the way the author of the article uses “identity,” although normal for our society, was wildly ambiguous.

What is my identity? Who am I? Is my cultural identity the same as my individual human identity? Can I still be me if I’m stripped of my culture?

The word identity is often thrown around in these ambiguous terms. My appearance is my identity. My hometown is my identity. My gender is my identity. My church is my identity. But is this helpful? Does it diffuse racial tension or infuse it?

This is especially important for the Christian. Our individual identity is in Christ first before anything else. We should not be demanding of others to understand us whether they are unbelievers or weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23,

“Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.”

As unpopular as this opinion may be, I am not my earthly culture. Culture, although important in many ways, is not something I will take to heaven with me. It is temporal and I am eternal, made to commune with Christ forever in heaven.

Right about now I probably sound like a know-it-all white evangelical who likes to tell other people who they can or can’t be. But I’m actually attempting the opposite. While keeping in mind that all cultures are flawed in some way, cultural identity should still be celebrated. The teen with dreadlocks shouldn’t have to cut them because of someone else’s cultural preferences. (Whether he actually broke a real rule by having long hair is moot because I’m trying to make a point here….)

To understand this better, I will give another example of evangelicals rudely butting into culture—one which I am passionate about: worship styles. It is so common, especially among my own people (the young, restless, and reformed), to tell people how to worship. “Don’t be too loud, it’s not a show!” “Your smoke machine is too distracting.” “Hymns are the only thing you should be singing.” And my personal favorite as it directly contradicts the example set for us in the Psalms: “Don’t sing any song that’s repetitive!”

Should we not celebrate our culture differences (as long as it does not contradict the Bible’s direct or implied teaching) with something that is as personal as music? Should we not worship God in our own musical, mother language? It is not wrong to play your music loud. It is not wrong to keep using the organ and singing hymns. It is not wrong to dance and shake a tambourine. It is not wrong whip out the synthesizer on a Sunday morning. Worship is a celebration! Celebrate in a way that best communicates your love for God. Celebrate in your own culture, and when need be, gladly celebrate in someone else’s culture for the sake of the gospel.

Cultural identity is much like listening to my favorite style of music. Or better yet, worship music done in my favorite style of music. It can make me dance, cry, or wrap up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea. It feels like belonging.

That’s what the author of the article is talking about when he says that boy was forced to forgo his identity in order to compete. And that’s why it was so offensive. It was like stripping him of his sense of belonging—stripping him of his cultural identity. What he was not stripped of was his value—his innate human worth. Cutting his hair did not literally devalue him as a human being. With or without his dreadlocks, he is made in the image of God and has just as much value as a fetus, a small child, a teenager, a middle-aged man, an elderly man dying in a nursing home. He is always valuable because his individual identity is as a human being made in the image of the almighty God.

But what if the man who forced him to cut his hair really was a racist and was attempting to devalue him? That’s an important question. And it begs another—is every racist act committed, whether purposeful or not, an attempt at compromising another person’s value as a human being? Or is it disrespect for their cultural identity—their appearance, music, hometown, etc.?

You may be wondering why it matters. Racism is racism! It’s all bad! Well I think those categories do exist and they matters because, at least for me, it helps to have specific questions to ask myself in order to root out my own sin. As the song goes, “Everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes.” And if I don’t think rightly and specifically about my sin, how can I find it and, as John Owens says, mortify (kill) it?

Questions I can ask myself (or others) in order to know my heart better:

  1. Do I think I am better than that person? Do I actually believe I have more value than someone else? If so then I am calling into question their human identity given by God.

  2. Do I think my cultural preferences are superior to someone else’s? Am I imposing those preferences on them when I speak to them or advise them? If so then I am being disrespectful of their cultural identity.

  3. Does my life invite the celebration of other cultures or do I make them uncomfortable by being narrow minded or willfully naive?


Comment

Top Ten Books of 2018

Comment

Top Ten Books of 2018

This year’s reading was a little different for me. I normally read a far greater number of fiction books with only a few non-fiction titles. But knowing my weakness in this area, I decided to forgo all fiction (outside of my own writing) during Lent. I needed that time to reset my mind and habits. I also used the “Reading Challenge” feature on Goodreads to help track my books for the year and discourage random seasons of booklessness. Out of 46 books read, here are my top ten of 2018!

Fiction

  • Wayfarer by K.M. Weiland (5 stars)

    I’d been anticipating this book ever since reading a tiny blurb about it years ago. 1700-1800s is my favorite time period and superheroes are my jam. I also knew K.M. would do it right. And she did not disappoint! She definitely did her homework for the period and the characters were well developed. Out of all of her novels, this is probably my favorite (although tied with Behold the Dawn). I highly recommend this to anyone who loves historical fantasy/superheroes.

  • The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder (5 stars)

    Wonderful genre bender! Reeder infused The Electrical Menagerie with elements from steampunk, fantasy, science fiction, and murder mystery. I loved that the world and tech was all simple (mostly--I was a little confused about the stars and what they had to do with religion and politics) but still quite unique. The characters were lovable and had real depth. I originally read this book as research for my own writing about automatons, but I will keep reading this series for sure.

  • The More Known World (#2 in Oddfit Series) by Tiffany Tsao (5 stars)

    Despite the author’s occasional (intentional?) shirking of modern storytelling *rules* I love her. I love this series. I love love love LOVE it! If you are a fan of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sense of humor and a love of awkward people, you just might adore this book (series) as much as I did.

  • Keeper of Shadows by Bridgett Powers (4 stars)

    Christian epic fantasy anyone? This is a classic fantasy setting (including setting, verbiage, and classic mythical creatures such as faeries and unicorns), but the use of "magic" in this world is forbidden by the King--as in scripture. A delicate balance is struck between fulfilling reader expectations for the fantasy genre while simultaneously staying true to commands in the Bible regarding sorcery. The prose was gorgeous and free from common commercial ailments. The characters, especially Brennus, were well developed and grew slowly, and believably over the course of 500 pages. I’m looking forward to the next book!

  • The Gateway Chronicles by K.B. Hoyle (4 stars)

    I reread this series this year because the author rereleased it with some edits including a couple new scenes. She’s even beginning to release it on audiobook! Exciting stuff! It’s been one of my favorite Christian YA series for time and I loved delving back into the world of Alitheia with Darcy and Tellius!

Non-Fiction

  • On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior (5 stars)

    Okay so technically I haven’t finished this book yet. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the most wonderful things I have ever read. And some of my reasons for saying that are very personal. Not only is this book about reading fiction (my heart!) but it’s about reading fiction with purpose and for the sake of Christian virtue (more on why virtue ethics is personal for me in a sec). I have long been discouraged by the amount of modern secular and Christian fiction on the market that seeks to entertain (and even torture) readers for the sake of writing thrilling page-turners. Although this book is about reading well and not specifically writing well, I think the Christian fiction writer can pull a lot from it too. And now regarding virtue ethics! My husband has been studying that branch of ethics for over ten years with the desire to see more people in the protestant church adopt it. We both feel God has called us to serve the church. One of the ways we hope to do that is through the teaching of virtue ethics—he in a classroom and me with my stories (which may one day see the fluorescent lights of a bookshop). I’ll need to stop there before I write an entirely new blog post. Basically I think this book is super important for more reasons that I can say! Read it. And then give it to someone else to read.

  • Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson (5 stars)

    This might be my new favorite book on humility—or perhaps tied with The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. What this has over Keller’s is thoroughness, and (IMHO) a slightly more accurate definition of the virtue. But I could be wrong. (Shrug.) I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a deeper understanding of humility.

  • Lit! by Tony Reinke (5 stars)

    This book was EXCELLENT. Even writing this at the end of the year, I feel like I need to reread it already. Reinke gave a theology of reading along with some very practical thoughts and suggestions. . . . I could go on and on. I loved this so much that I wrote one of my Lorehaven articles based on one quote from this book. If you’re a Christian and you like to read, don’t like to read, don’t like to read but wish you liked to read, then this is for you!

  • Women and God by Kathleen Neilson (5 stars)

    This book was wonderful and timely. I have perused other books on women lately only to be disappointed in their treatment of scripture. Nielson's theology, application, and understand of women's inner workings was on point. She was fair, but critical. She did not throw the baby out with the bathwater (my pet peeve....) I bought this book in kindle format but now I'm going to get it in paperback so I can loan it out. If you're swinging on the pendulum of women's issues in the home and church, READ THIS BOOK!

  • All That's Good by Hannah Anderson (5 stars)

    Two books from Hannah Anderson made it onto my top ten this year! That’s only because I haven’t read her third book yet. Expect that to show up next year! I had a hard time getting into this one, but the pay off was well worth it. I especially enjoyed the last chapter on the spiritual gift of discernment. I will highly recommend this book for a long, long time!

Comment

Divergent wrecks you, the reader.

Comment

Divergent wrecks you, the reader.

This review contains spoilers.

Someone recently asked me how Divergent negatively affected my life. It wasn’t out of the blue or anything. I’d posted it as an answer in a series of questions on social media. Well I ignored the inquiry. It’s a bit of a long story. . . . Long enough to deserve it’s own blog.

In 2013 I’d just given birth to my second child. Pregnancy insomnia hit me hard that year, and clung on until, well, now. I was coming out of a season (a rather long season) of booklessness, when a friend let me borrow Divergent. Much like my initial introduction to Twilight, it wasn’t long before I was completely engrossed. You know what I mean—that kind of book that sucks you in so fast and hard that you are forced against your will to stay up till all ungodly hours of the night reading, never knowing who will be dead by morning.

So I read during the day . . . and during the night when I had to get up to nurse. And in those wee hours of the morning, pages turned, my mind raced, I got even less sleep, and my anxiety (which already bordered on PTSD) soared to new heights. I ate those first two books in a jiffy. Then I stopped. Oh, I didn’t really want to stop. The third book sat on the table laughing at me, watching me pace around the room like an addict without a needle. So, I snuck a look in the back to see what happened in the end. What did it matter if I was resolved not to read it? Well if you’ve read the series or have seen the movie (assuming they didn’t change the ending) then you know what happened.

The protagonist died.

And that sealed the deal for me. I was no longer tempted to read the third book. And I never did. (If only I’d had as much self-control years earlier while reading Twilight.) And in the aftermath of that encounter, I began to see troubling patterns emerge. It was definitely a case of 20/20 hindsight—Northanger Abbey style.

I realized that just about every time the author introduced a likable character, they either died or turned to the dark side. This kept pages turning and emotions running high, but it also guaranteed total heartbreak. Even worse was the near constant nagging by the male love interest for his girlfriend (the protagonist) to please, please, please stop throwing herself into super dangerous situations because it would destroy him if she died. Every time he repeated this plea, it cranked the tension higher. And then, of course, she threw herself into a super dangerous situation at the end of the series and died. I didn’t even read the last book, and I felt like the author slowly dragged me to the top of the Empire State Building then dropped me. Talk about heartbreak.

Those plot points were not only devastating, they were clearly intentional and formulaic in their execution. It was as though the author had plotted the series purely for the purpose of torturing her readers. What better way to keep them turning those pages and buying the next book? Also (and this is my pet peeve but I’ve written about it enough not to get into it too much now) the romance was your typical sexy, obsessive, teen angst nonsense. I’ve also heard there was a sex scene in the third book. (Young adult? Give me a break. It’s just good old fashioned porn for your teen.)

When I started writing fiction in 2014, I heard a lot of authors taking joy in the idea of torturing readers with tension and death.

wreck+the+reader.jpg

“. . . and forget the whole Point of It All. Which is, of course, to wreck you, the reader.” And I get it. Tension is necessary for a story. Without it, there is no story. Without conflict, it’s all just ponies and rainbows and no one will read a story about that. But what happened to caring about the reader? There is such a thing as creating tension, and even realistic darkness, in such a way that takes the heart of a reader on a journey of bad to better, or from mediocre to superior. Not that I’m say that has to be the point of the story. But there is a way to create tension and write an amazing story that doesn’t smash the reader to tiny bits for the sake of sales (not that I’m accusing the author of Divergent of being that shallow—I don’t even know her.)

Maybe some of you are thinking. Who cares? People like to read stuff like that. I mean, the books sold well and they made them into movies. So why not keeping giving them what they want? Well people also like to eat candy and drink vodka, that doesn’t make it good for them. It’s like the tagline I heard recently in a Diet Coke commercial: “Because I can.” And honestly, every time I see a Coke commercial lately, I think, “Wow. These people have the worst logic.”


Comment

Lorehaven Winter '18 Issue

Comment

Lorehaven Winter '18 Issue

Lorehaven Magazine Winter Issue!

Subscribe for FREE!

unnamed.jpg

Inside this issue:

  • Thomas Locke shares his faith journey and creative motive behind his many fantastical novels, including his newest release, Enclave.

  • We review Enclave, in which white-hat heroes in a corrupt frontier cope with the remnants of the now-decaying nation.

  • Our team reviews the best Christian-created fantastical novels.

  • This issue also includes two sponsored reviews: Mary Ting's Jaclyn and the Beanstalk and C. S. Wachter's The Light Arises.

  • Paeter Frandsen asks if Christian geeks might react like Spock and think of God (merely) as "fascinating."

  • Marian Jacobs gives practical, biblical advice to parents of children obsessed with superheroes.


Meanwhile, at the Lorehaven Book Clubs group, we're still hosting many of the authors featured in our book reviews. Staring in January, watch for more storytellers to arrive in the clubs and explore more at SpecFaith.

This March: watch for the spring 2019 issue! (Advertisers, click here.)

But first, watch for more surprises we plan to announce in January ...

Join the mission at Lorehaven.com. You can also browse our the LorehavenLibrary, which helps you find more than 900 Christian fantastical titles. Enjoy daily, free articles at Speculative Faith. And be sure to share this magazine with your church, friends, family, and anyone else who would love to explore great Christian fantasy.

Thank you for joining this mission to find truth in fantastic stories.

Maranatha, and merry Christmas!

Comment

The Biblical Source of Super-Strength

Comment

The Biblical Source of Super-Strength

The Biblical Source of Super-Strength

How can we teach children to enjoy superheroes as biblical Christians?

This article was featured in Lorehaven Magazine.

“Are superheroes real?

Our children would love to think so.

Men and women of supernatural abilities have been a fixation for our culture since the Greek epics. In fact, a boy with comic book in hand is now something of a stereotype. Some have even argued that our society worships superheroes due to the massive number of films, books, and merchandise created to satisfy market demands. . . .”

Read more when you subscribe for our free, quarterly magazine at lorehaven.com.

Comment

Lorehaven Fall '18 Issue

Comment

Lorehaven Fall '18 Issue

Lorehaven Magazine Fall Issue!

Subscribe for FREE!

fall2018_large-768x994.jpg


Fantastic stories are capable of God-glorifying good, but also idolatrous evil.

Book Reviews

Lorehaven review team

Sponsored Review: Affinity

Lorehaven review team

Affinity is a creative and original play on old concepts, and if you’re willing to take the ride, you’ll find it goes places.

Featured Review: Mark of the Raven

Lorehaven review team

Here’s dreaming that fans can share in more stories like this.

‘I Want to Share with Other People Who God Is’

Interview with novelist Morgan L. Busse

Morgan L. Busse’s fantastic realms challenge us to ponder our place in God’s world.

Fanservants: The Secret Identity of Christian Geeks

Paeter Frandsen

In Christ, you are a holy, adopted, cosmic ambassador on a mission.

Fanservants: Molding Your Child’s Plastic Imagination

Marian Jacobs

We can nurture young ones’ creativity for the glory of God.

New Worlds: The Christian Roots of Fantasy

R. J. Anderson

The genre once known as ”fairy stories” sprang from biblical ground.

Folklore: Werewolf Tales Reveal the Beast Inside

C. W. Briar

Dark creatures personify our struggle against the sinful nature.

Roundtable: Engaging the Magical Spellcraft of Stories

Parker J. Cole, Marian Jacobs, Ronie Kendig, Robert Treskillard, E. Stephen Burnett

Our panel explores how Christians discern fiction’s magical elements.

Comment