Should storytellers be more careful to keep readers from stumbling into sin?
These days it seems Christians and others are asking this question about secular comedians, filmmakers, and, of course, fantasy novelists.
This question calls for wisdom. You need to know your Bible and how the Bible explains sin. You also need to know the person, or type of person, who is tempted.
You also need to know something about the story’s creator.
For example, let’s say we’re talking about a biblical Christian author, who wants to glorify God per God’s word, writes from a gospel worldview, and strives to live like Jesus. Can we expect this author to avoid any content that makes fans stumble?
I suggest our answer is no, for two reasons.
First, this expectation can be unbiblical. When the apostle Paul warns against making others stumble, he does not blame “strong” believers for doing a non-sinful action. He only refers to spiritually “weak” people who can’t help but associate that action with evil, and thus fall into their own sin (see Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8–10).
Second, this expectation is unworkable. You yourself can’t act in a way that keeps everyone from associating you with sin. For example, if you enjoy discussing biblical doctrine, even kindly, others may associate you with sins like arrogance.
But in fact, this kind of discussion is a great solution to temptation conflicts.
Paul did not urge believers to find possible temptation hot-zones and avoid them in advance. Nor did he hush up the temptation risk or blame anyone. Instead, he aired this issue publicly in his open letters. Paul urged more discussion, not less.
Whenever we have questions about stories, we can do the same.
For example, if you’re concerned that a Christian-made story has tempting themes, you can discuss it with other fans. Or contact the author! You may need to hear the author’s view, and the author may need your reminder about fans’ sin-struggles.
If we do this, however, let’s ensure we’re not acting like big-cheese leaders, ready to protect an imaginary crowd of temptation victims. Such posturing can easily lead us into the wrong kind of hero complex. Let’s instead remember that it’s Jesus, not us, who leads us away from temptation and delivers us from evil.