Mark Bertrand on That Reoccurring Question

Mr. Bertrand talks about some pitfalls with that oft-discussed question of Christian artistic excellence.

Fiction has been called “a lie that tells the truth,” a paradox that goes to the heart of the difficulty — and explains why, historically, evangelicals have been suspicious of art and its makers. Many evangelical artists have internalized their community’s critique of art, which has led them to seek ways of doing art that evade the ‘evils’ their fellow believers have articulated. This desire not to be tainted by the criticism has, I think, contributed to the mediocrity problem. Some have been quick to dismiss what they didn’t understand, just to remain in solidarity with other evangelical critics.

For related post (as if he needs me to point out his good posts), see Mr. Bertrand’s posts on “edgy fiction”: Edgy Fiction: A 5-Part Spectrum and Mauriac’s Edgy Fiction

4 thoughts on “Mark Bertrand on That Reoccurring Question”

  1. To those who have read Anna Karenina or the first Kristin Lavransdatter novel or the first of Undset’s Hestviken novels: These works deal with erotic passion. Do you truly think that they miss something valuable by not containing “graphic” accounts of sexual activity?

    It seems to me that there is a good case to be made that the authors had the artistic skill to convey all that was needed, and yet didn’t need to use “graphic” language.

  2. I think you’re right, Dale, but I don’t know that Anna Karenina could be published in the Christian Booksellers Association. I could be wrong. My wife told me that a well-received novel by Francine Rivers was a bit ridiculous in that Rivers seemed to find excuses for her heroine to walk around naked. But even with something like that, I think there’s a difference b/w bold writing and graphic description.

    But I want to heartily agree with you in saying the merit of fiction is not in the presention of vice.

  3. In the first article that’s linked, I wrote: “I don’t believe that these issues have anything to do with whether writing is good or not. Great fiction is possible at any point on the spectrum.” We could cite examples of great writing that transgresses the taboos and examples of great writing that avoids them entirely. I don’t think anyone argues that something is “missing” in classics that are tastefully reticient. Of course, the problem with arguing that “they” had the skill to write about taboos without giving offense is that, in their day, they often did. If you follow the second link to my piece on Mauriac, you’ll see that his treatment of the topic (tame by today’s standard) was condemned by his co-religionists as sinful.

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