Should We Really Try to Find the Gospel in Fictional Stories?

You’ll find no shortage of articles talking about “The Gospel According to [Insert Popular Franchise Title Here].”

New takes on classics like C. S. Lewis’s Narnia and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings make for easy pitches. But you’ll find plenty of evangelical pieces doing this with the Harry Potter series, various Marvel films, Game of Thrones, the new Barbie movie—and yes, even Twilight. Earlier this month, Rick Warren’s church made the news for their pastors cosplaying while presenting a Toy Story sermon series.

How to Discern Beautiful Christian Fiction Without Becoming Snobs

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: you can find real beauty in mass-market speculative fiction novels.

You can find beauty in the elegant simplicity of Patrick Ness’s prose in A Monster Calls: “Every inch of his bedroom floor was covered in short, spiky yew tree leaves.”

Beauty lingers in the poignant reflections of the autistic protagonist in Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark:

The Visions of Grandeur Short Story Collection is Finished!

Today’s the day! Visions of Grandeur (and Other Stories) is finally finished.

And doesn’t it have a fantastic cover?

I love the work that my cover designer did for this short story collection.

And, of course, there are four brand new illustrations inside as well.

Here are the titles for the final two stories contained in the collection (in addition to the seven others I’d previously published):

Finishing My Short Story Collection

Over the past several years, I’ve written a variety of short stories for my Visions of Grandeur short story collection.

I’ve occasionally added new stories to the collection.

But next month, this collection will come to a close.

On March 16th, I’ll be releasing two final stories:

How Christians Can Discern Jesus Adaptations in ‘The Chosen’ and Other Stories

Several moments in The Chosen season 3 have generated a lot of online buzz ever since the biblical fiction drama began releasing new episodes in late 2022.

In season 3, episode 2, Jesus (played by Jonathan Roumie) explains why he’s chosen not to heal the disciple James (called “Little James,” played by Jordan Walker Ross). In the story, Jesus explains how the disciple’s physical disability gives him unique ways to testify about God’s goodness in the midst of suffering.

Many viewers found themselves tearing up by the speech’s end. It’s a touching scene. Yet it’s also 100 percent made-up. Jesus never said or did anything like this in the four gospels. That’s given pause to some Chosen viewers.

Top Ten Books Read in 2022

This year was a squeaker for me in my ability to reach my Goodreads goal by the years’ end. But I managed to squeeze by with one book to spare in hitting my goal of hitting 75 books. I’ll blame my September move from small town North Carolina to river town Pennsylvania for why things came down to the wire this year.

I find myself re-reading books more often as the years go on, so the list of new titles I read each year is slowly shrinking. But there were some deeply moving and resonant new works I read this year. So here are my 10 favorite books I read for the first time this past year (book titles linked to my longer Goodreads reviews).

10. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

This was a rather eye-opening look at the very physical ways that trauma can affect people—and what true healing really looks like. Both as a writer and as someone who wants to know how to best help others who may struggle with trauma in my own life, I found this book quite helpful.

How to Discern Moral Christian Fiction Without Expecting Sermons

Earlier this year, I saw a film with a rather Marxist villain who complained about the protagonist being rich and entitled. By the film’s end, this psychotic villain was defeated and all his arguments were shown as deeply flawed and inaccurate.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I came home to find a Christian film reviewer blasting the film’s “wokeness” because of the villain’s speech. Never mind the fact that the film clearly showed this villain being in the wrong. This reviewer seemed to conclude that, because the villain gave a monologue that wasn’t immediately rebutted, that apparently made this belief part of the film’s message.

Christians want moral stories. But sometimes we fail to understand a story’s actual message. Sometimes this failure leads Christians to condemn stories with moral messages. And sometimes Christians trust stories that slip in devious messages.

Rings of Power isn’t a Terrible Adaptation. It’s Just Disappointing

The first episode for Rings of Power may have been one of the more surprising first episodes of a TV show I’ve seen.

Not because of any shocking plot twist within the episode itself. But because of how low my expectations were going into the show. A bad marketing campaign made me quite worried that the show was just being used as a cash cow with little intent to meaningfully adapt Tolkien’s world. And the fact that the screenwriters’ only prior experience had been as uncredited writers for Star Trek Beyond didn’t give me much trust either.

But then the first episode intrigued me. It was slow. But Tolkien didn’t often write fast-paced fiction, and I was quite open for a slow-burn approach. The showrunners seemed to have a deep passion for Tolkien. Middle-Earth looked stunning. And by the end of the second episode, I at least liked Elrond/Durin & Arondir/Brownyn’s plot lines. And my dismal hopes turned into rather rosy expectations.

With slow shows, however, you can’t really measure how good they are until you see the ending they’re building toward. So aside from a few side tweets here and there on Twitter, I intentionally avoided saying much about the show until I could see it in its entirety.

Now that I’ve seen the ending, though, while I didn’t hate the show, I can’t help but feel that the showrunners made a colossal mistake.

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