Saturday, February 09, 2008

Adding to or Taking Away From Scripture?

I have noticed a flurry of blog chatter concerning my book Eye of the Oracle. Some claim that it violates the biblical command regarding adding to or taking away from Scripture, that somehow since I use a biblical framework for my fantasy story I have crossed a line into forbidden territory. Of course, this accusation that has no foundation at all, but since the claim seems to have grown worldwide web spider legs, I will address it here.

I assume the accusers would point to one or more of the following verses to back up their claims:

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

No one should add to the commands of God or take them away. No one should add to his word at all and claim it is Scripture. No one should point to any Scripture and claim it is not God's word, thus taking away from the word of God. In obedience to the word of God, my stories commit none of these errors.

Eye of the Oracle is a fantasy story. It mentions biblical characters and stories and creates a fictional account, asking "what if" questions, thus creating a new story. My story is not true. I don't claim it to be true. In fact, I emphatically claim that the extra-biblical events that I created never happened.

Is this adding to the commands of God? Of course not. Am I claiming that my story is scriptural, and thereby adding to Scripture? Definitely not. Am I pointing to any part of Scripture and saying that it's not true? No, again. Therefore, I am neither adding to nor taking away from Scripture, and I have heeded the Bible's warnings.

Still, I am claiming that the story communicates truth in a powerful way. Since the only "what if" questions I ask are in areas in which the Bible is silent, it never contradicts Scripture, and for many readers the story shines light on what the Bible teaches in a way that is helpful and enlightening. The story communicates unconditional love, selfless sacrifice, godly perseverance, and God's faithfulness in ways that line up exactly with biblical truth.

Some people worry about my use of myths such as Lilith and Naamah or stories from the Book of Enoch. Certainly I am not the first to do this. Both Tolkien and Lewis borrowed from myths, and the book of Jude in the Bible quotes from the Book of Enoch. I think I'm in good company. I certainly can't find any Bible command that forbids the use of such things in telling a fictional story, so if someone claims that God forbids it, who, then, is the one adding to the commands of God?

Others are concerned about the presence of evil or occultic influences in my story. Yes, they are there, portrayed in all their wickedness. Evil is clearly evil, and good is clearly good. The Bible does the same, showing us what the forces of evil are like and how the children of light can overcome them. Again, I am in good company.

I tell stories to illustrate truth, fantasy stories that open our physical eyes to the unseen spiritual world. Jesus did the same. He told us of a camel passing through the eye of a needle and performed wondrous miracles. Although his miracles really happened, if they were put in a storybook that took place in another world with a name other than Jesus, it would be a great fantasy story.

I sat at the feet of my Lord and learned about using fantastic stories from the Master Himself. That is the greatest company of all.



Awesome post! I fully agree.

Christian_Fantasy_Adict said...

I couldn't agree more with everything posted here.

Scott Appleton said...

It is unfortunate that some Christians are so busy bringing down fellow believers that they fail to first attend to the beams in their own eyes. This post was great.

Ian said...

I think that some people try to follow the Bible to literally and too strictly - while I agree that we definitely must follow everything God says in it, we should not be searching everything for the smallest hint of something that we can accuse. The Bible is not a tool to be used to accuse others. It is supposed to be something that shapes our own lives. Unless we see something obviously disobeying Scripture, we shouldn't be placing blame just because we think that something might possibly disobey in a way.

And even if we do see something that we think is wrong, we should question it before accusing it...I don't think God wants for us to quickly jump to conclusions about everything we see.

Great post!

bookworm_for_god said...

Wow. That is really true. Great job for backing up your story! I loved it anyways:)

S. J. Deal said...

Well controversy is great advertising, for a price. But in all seriousness...

I agree with you. I don't think writing stories that takes ideas from The Bible would constitute adding to or subtracting from the scriptures. My guess is that those verses are referring to the sacredness of the text itself warning against meddling with doctrines to make them fit our own agendas. A great example of this meddling would be (sorry if I open a can of worms here but it's true....) The Book of Mormon. The claims are that it is the "corrected" version of the scriptures when there is nothing scriptural about it. I think also all these supposed "new gospels" such as "The Gospel of Judas" and this course called "The Gospel according to Jesus" that my New Age uncle took (He needs all the prayer he can get.) that the world gets all excited about would fit in the category. I do not think your books would fit in that category. Not good company really.


Anonymous said...

I think what you're doing with Oracles of Fire is great. In fact, it encouraged be to reread parts of Genesis. I feel kind of sorry for any group of Christians who think Eye of the Oracle is against the Bible. They're really missing out. Keep up the good work!

Dan said...

Very well stated, Bryan. I agree with your approach and principles. God is using your faithfulness to accomplish great things, take heart!

Pam Halter said...

I agree with Ian. So many Christians take it upon themselves to be the Bible Police without knowing the Bible that well.

So much opposition, Bryan. You must be doing something right. :)

Mark Goodyear said...

Great post. I'm behind you 100%. The vitriol I've seen on some blogs left me so flabberghasted, I didn't even know how to respond.

The best thing about this post and your comment at SpecFaith, though, is how you apply Matt 18:15-16.

And be encouraged. All of this has made me want to go buy your book!

James Somers said...

As a Pastor, let me say that I also agree...I've read Eye of the ORacle and did not find that Bryan was violating scripture in any way.

Nice post. thumbs up.

Oh, and thanks for your willingness to help me and Gregg Wooding,'re a true brother in christ!
James Somers

Austin said...

Well, it's probably only cold comfort to you coming from one of the most vitriolic malcontents over at specfaith, but honestly... I think a part of my violent reaction there came simply from seeing how violently people were reacting to your work. For the life of me, I couldn't (and still can't) figure out what their fuss is all about!

You had won my respect and trust with your DioM books, and now I must also say you have furthered that respect with how coolly and honestly you have confronted some of these things said about you and your works.

When you pointed out "there is no command either implied or explicit that forbids what I'm doing, so it seems to me that the critics are the ones who are trying to add to God's commands by saying such stories are out of line," I smiled, and it healed me a bit. I have to deal with non-believers and the opinions about Christ that Christians have given them just about every day. Of late, it's seemed more and more like everything they've said is true.

You have helped give me a little hope that maybe what they say isn't true, and it's humbled me for showing what kind of a malcontent I am. Keep up the work. I think I'll be checking up on the last two books in DioM that I missed presently... :-)

Bryan Davis said...

Thanks to all of you who have offered support. I really appreciate it.

Austin, it's more than cold comfort. You and the others commenters make me feel warm inside, if that's not too unmanly of a thing to say. :-)

Anonymous said...

This post helped me remember that it's is fantasy you're writing, and that you aren't saying that what you write actually happened in the Bible. I was having a hard time enjoying the books when I read them. Y'know, dragons turning into humans and stuff. It could seem very weird and mislead someone who doesn't know anything about the Bible, possibly.
It was taking away from the enjoyment I get from reading your books.

Araken said...

I agree. But if anyone asked my opinion, and I know they're not, I would say that I don't think that the dragons should give up being dragons, nor should the anthrozils give up their traits. (don't take this the wrong way, I LOVE the books!!!) But shouldn't we be who we are and not give up our heritage? Y'know, be who/what God made us to be? Just a thought.

Pais Charos said...

We make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Yay! Just that knowledge alone makes me want to heap more and more love on your head :P

Seriously, though, I love you. As much of a book lover I am - your books will still always be at the very top of my "favorites" list. I still remember that fateful day when I stood in the library and went, "This is a Christian series?! Cool!" *HUGS*

Minstrel Ayreon said...

I apologize if I shouldn't be commenting on an older post, but I can't tell you how much this post mean to an aspiring Christian fantasy writer. I've already had to deal with unfortunate comments about the use of magic in my stories, or the fact that I am neither hugely conservative nor hugely liberal (and it's amazing how vicious we Christians can become to those who are not EXACTLY as we are in doctrine!). My main warrior character is a woman who does something that the world, and I suspect many Christians, would call crazy...some people are born with genes (or something similar) that allows them to do things that in this world we call magic...the Church there has had to find its way despite being physically isolated from our own world, etc.--and that's not every can of worms I've managed to open, by far.

The biggest problem is that my form of Christian not the sanitized thing that seems to be most popular these days. It's more akin to something like the Canterbury Tales, where you can see both the sacred and profane in clarity, and the presence of the one makes the nature of the other all the more obvious.

And that really struck me when you defended your showing the occult in all its hideousness. Sometimes I think we need to boldly depict the darkness in order that we understand exactly what evil really is and why we need the light.

This really galvanizes my belief in the creative vision that God has given me to write, that it is right to continue. Thank you very much for putting this is a blessing.