Direct Allegory or Over-arching Theme for spreading the gospel message?


(Connor Mooneyhan) #1

Spreading the gospel is one of the most important (if not the most important) purposes of Christians. This does not necessarily mean direct evangelism, although that is important as well. Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien understood this, and attempted to meet the world where it was at and use their talents of writing to convey a Christian message without directly stating it. For those familiar with Lewis’ and Tolkien’s works The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings (respectively) it is immediately apparent (even for a lot of non-Christians) that Lewis is crafting a very clear allegory of Jesus and Satan with his portrayal of Aslan and the White Witch. This is certainly conducive to spreading the gospel. However, some people consider Lewis’ writing to be too up-front for non-believers, and that a more subtle approach that still portrays Christian morals and themes is better. That was Tolkien’s view. He wrote The Lord of the Rings in such a way that it clearly portrays themes such as “good triumphs over evil”, “actions have consequences”, etc. so that it isn’t blatantly apparent that it comes from a Christian viewpoint, but a strong, morally good message is still being portrayed. My question is this: which style of writing (fiction) do you believe is most effective for conveying a solid gospel message for the eventual purpose of the reader coming to know Christ?

A video with highlights from a (very informal) debate about this subject is located here if you are interested.


#2

God may use both methods. But while Lewis may offend some atheists, as I experienced with a friend once, especially when they realize they been had, yet they will know more immediately what the writer’s message is. Tolkien possibly may believe the same thing. But if the message merely conveys a strong, morally good message, then it might not reveal what he wants. And the reader may simply agree with the moral message while at the same time rejecting Christ, so they have then missed the gospel.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

Interesting question.

One thing that strikes me is that both Tolkien and Lewis wrote from within Christendom. By that I mean that even when their cultural peers were not believers, they lived in a culture where worldviews and norms were profoundly shaped by the Christian narrative and Christian truth claims.

In our multicultural, post-modern, post-Christendom, and increasingly global society, I don’t think the Tolkien or Lewis approach is actually conducive to spreading the gospel. The gospel is much more than “good conquers evil against all odds” or even the more explicit Narnia message of “sin requires a sacrifice.” I am not convinced at all that just communicating “true themes” pushes anyone closer to the Kingdom in a relativistic, pluralistic world. With the fall of Christendom, to spread the gospel, we need a more explicit proclamation of the Lordship of Christ and a more visible embodiment of Christ through the love and service of the church in the world.


(Martin Mayberry) #4

I agree 100% however love and service will not be enough however,christian homeless shelters and soup kitchens are full of people that hear the Gospel of Christ over and over and all they want is a free meal and not much else it would seem their lives never seem changed in the least they just show up for the next free meal.


(Larry Bunce) #5

While we live in a very secular age, people seem more desperate than ever for some kind of reassurance that we are not alone in the world, and that there are things we can do to ward off the evil we see around us. I am thinking here about the success of Star Wars and Harry Potter. While mainstream religion has been trying to play down miracles and magic, and many kids grow up without a religious background is all, society is very fascinated by a world where saying the magic words makes everything right, and there are strict rules to follow to stay safe.

Traditional religion carries so much baggage that a movie or novel where the evil demons could be defeated by a Christian prayer would be laughed out of the theater. Vampires can be defeated with holy water, consecrated wafer, or a crucifix, but those are all mere objects, and items that are foreign to most Protestants. One problem that affects Christian oriented movies that I have ever seen is that the writing is not very good, and the acting even worse. Perhaps a story set far enough into the past, where it could be assumed everyone was Christian, might be able to get an audience, but any lesson it might present would be hard to relate to today’s world.

Perhaps someone will come along and surprise everyone with a first-rate story that would give a Christian message to today’s world. The world is certainly ready for something like that, and paganism and witchcraft are still not enough in the mainstream to fill the emptiness that so many feel these days.