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Our rating system for book reviews — 4 Comments

  1. Dear Bro. Bergsland,

    If I take your 5 star rating. And compare it to Lord of the Rings, or the Chronicles of Narnia or as stated in my blog post. The Book of Ruth for example. These books would fail your review criteria.
    None of the three mentioned…

    a. “have .. true believers (that) have a close walk with their Savior, talking to Him and hearing from Him throughout the day—every day.
    b. have the tools available to them which are talked about in I Corinthians 12 & 14. These are Acts of the Apostles believers.”

    This criteria demotes unintentionally stories about the old testament to a second class status in your review system. The Book of Ruth does not even mention God in it. So if I wrote as a Christian, a book like Ruth and submitted it to your site. Your system of review as I understand it would not give 5 stars to such a work. The system mentioned fails to address nuances of truth that can be told in allegorical tales and instead favors a type of fiction that bludgeons the reader to a call to commit to Christ that is more overt.

    The books I mentioned when compared against your review system simply are not 5 star. Now if your system of review has the ability to screen an actual book of the Bible out. I suggest you might consider reevaluating it.

    You further demonstrate in the review system a difference in evaluating Christian Fiction Books when you state, “Two stars: Old Testament. We have a better covenant, so we should be doing better than only the prophets and priests hear from the Lord, and righteousness is determined by following the Law.”

    I must admit it’s simply not clear as a published author what I am to make of such a criteria. What does that statement mean to me as an author? Don’t we want tales that show the uselessness of attempting to live a life in the flesh or apart from God? My problem with this is that this seems to indicate that as a reviewer you seem to value stories that explicitly reference Jesus, and where characters get saved. All of which is of course fine.

    But by the very nature of your criteria this means any fictional work that takes place B.C could not possibly meet your criteria. How then would you even address characters on other worlds like sci-fi when there is no “Christ”?

    The criteria when applied to stories unwittingly hobbles tales outside of the historical world we know. By default a Christian author writing in such a genre might have to use allegory as C.L. Lewis did to even depict an “Aslan” type of figure. My concern is that your system is so rigorously exclusive that it can not seemingly acknowledge that Aslan is a type of Christ. And the old testament is filled with types that point to Christ. Your review system seemingly finds such methods of expressing truth as implicitly inferior. When they are the very methods the Author of Life has used successfully to point people to the very Christ we proclaim. It’s by the law that we come to understand our need to be saved from sin. Jesus consistently used parables which were designed to conceal truths to one audience and unlock truths to others.

    The issue is not, is there an old vs new covenant which contains better promises to the believer. The issue is that your review system seems to consider such works of Christian fiction that just deals with the old covenant to be “less than”. Where the reality is that the whole Bible is able to point one to Christ, not just the new testament, which the first believers did not even have access to.

    You say, “of course the Bible would get 5 stars” But Why? Why when all the Bible does not explicitly have characters that get saved, know the Lord etc. Our Bible is a collection of 66 books in one volume with several divisions. Written in 3 languages over 1500 years by over 40 different authors, in various literary styles. Yet all of which speak ultimately of the Christ we know. Yet your criteria seems to be even above scripture itself when the Bible itself claims, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Is this not enough?

    As a Christian writer, 2 Tim 3:16 is my standard. To attempt to mirror in my fiction what the Word itself does. To help furnish the man of God in all good works, and to perhaps point the unbeliever who reads my work to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

    You control of course how you choose to review books. I am just asking you to prayerfully consider how your doing so might actually stifle the very Christ in published books you want to see.

    With love in Christ our Lord,

    • In looking again at your comments, Donovan, I am struck by the fact that this is a site reviewing Christian Speculative Fiction. So, we are not looking for, or even particularly interested in, Old Testament or antediluvian fiction. There’s certainly nothing wrong with those books, but this site will warn readers that a book is pre-Christian or worse.

      We may well review such a book, and even recommend it, but our calling is to warn readers that there’s no salvation or Savior here. The Messiah has not come, as far as this book is concerned.

  2. I don’t often comment on things like this but since this is a fresh endeavor that I would love to lend my support behind, and there are various reviewers involved, all of whom I respect. I will submit my opinion.

    While I respect Bro. David Bergsland and his views on what he wants as a reader of Christian Spec Fic, I disagree with how he evaluates the spiritual content of the book he reviews.

    Using this system I would never seek a review from him or this group, nor could I advocate other authors to seek reviews from here. This type of reviewing system unwittingly aligns itself with CBA standards, which while on the surface seem fine, actually does Christian Spec Fic a disservice, as the standard assumes that persons who get saved, and a book that presents a “full gospel presentation” is somehow the gold standard of Christian Spec Fic.

    I disagree and have demonstrated in a blog post on my site how such a standard would incredibly screen out works from great authors like Tolkien, Lewis, and even the Bible itself which is simply ludicrous. http://www.donovanmneal.com/why-tolkien-might-not-get-published-by-christians-today/

    In many ways the Christian Spec Fiction genre can be directly traced back to these men, and to create a standard that removes them from consideration or Holy Scripture itself (as I gave an example in my blog post) makes such a review standard extremely suspect at best and professionally amateurish.

    It’s appalling to me that this standard would literally pit one literary division of the Bible against another. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Not just those that seemingly are arbitrarily being preferred to in this system.

    I hope for the sake of the genre that this will not be the standard used by a whole group of reviewers. I am forced to ask what differentiates this group from Bro. Bergsland’s own review site that a group must now be formed using a similar standard he utilizes? One of the things I appreciate about him vs Peter Younghusband is that they are DIFFERENT. They both cater to similar audiences, both don’t always review the exact same books. How they present their reviews are different. I hope the uniqueness that is in each reviewer would be kept and not subsumed into copies of Bro. Bergsland. Who while I respect, strongly differ on what constitutes five star “spiritual content”.

    Lastly, is the group attempting to create/identify a new genre, “Redemptive Christian speculative Fiction”?
    Humbly submitted by a fellow laborer in the vineyard, Donovan M. Neal

    • Hi Donovan,

      Thank you for your comments and insight. I guess I’m not understanding several of your points. I say that because I can’t see how you came to these conclusions from the rating system suggested.

      First of all: the Bible would of course get 5 stars. It is where we learn of the Holy spirit and how He works. It presents our Savior, Yeshua, in the best manner available to us in writing. Of course, I John 2:27 tells us that we have no need for anyone to teach as the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we need to know and lead us into all truth. As I mentioned in another post this morning, even the Bible cannot save us. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But the Bible is the best writing we have in presenting the full gospel.

      Second: CBA standards are not fine. At best, they can give us books of 3 stars in the new rating system. 4-star and 5-star ratings in this system would be flat out rejected by any CBA publisher, in most cases. In truth, CBA standards are a large part of the cause of the dreaded “clean read”–that sanctimonious style which commonly strips out all true Christianity. What I am pushing for can be read in the quote from my book, “Writing In Holiness” seen below:

      “I want true spiritual reality!
      Jesus expects us to walk in the light. Is that really so difficult? Is it that rare? It almost seems to be so rare that no one can write about it. I experience God’s marvelous workings in my life daily. He constantly gives me a fresh testimony. Satan’s reality is also obvious. Jesus’ power to thwart that evil reality is just a normal part of walking in the Spirit as a believer. Satan has free rein in our culture and society. And that has led nominal Christian authors into writing attitudes which are far outside acceptable Biblical living.
      The Bible warns us about people puffed up by tales of angels and the like. I’ve read a so-called Christian book which suggested that demons can repent and be saved, if they can marry a true believer who truly loves them. That’s OK, right?”

      Excerpt From: David Bergsland. “Writing In Holiness: While Keeping It Real.” iBooks.

      Third: About the Old Covenant/New Covenant distinction: I didn’t make that distinction; God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit did. Read Galatians or any other part of the New Testament. An Old Testament level of belief will not save you. New Testament religiosity will not save you. The only thing that will save you from the wrath to come is to be born from God, transformed, and discipled by the Spirit into a deep personal relationship with Jesus and His Spirit on a minute by minute basis.
      That’s the entire point of what Jesus told us in Matthew 7:22-23:

      22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?’ 23 But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.’


      If prophets, exorcists, and workers of wonderful deeds in the church are not known by the Lord–then we know that this is serious stuff. As Christian authors, I believe you and the rest of us have a God-chosen responsibility to write what the Lord gives us to help bring in the final harvest. Have no doubt, the King is Coming Soon! Many argue against that, and tell us that they are not called to that level of communication. That’s between them and the Lord. We are not their master or judge. Our call is to notice, promote, and encourage books which share the truth about daily living, walking in the Spirit, and serving our King.

      We are not talking about a new genre. We’re talking about showing Christian reality in our books. In that, we are lone voices in the wilderness. [You can’t do that!] The great news is that genuine Christian speculative fiction is coming alive. Many authors, and many books are showing the truth in the lives of their characters in their very edgy speculative fiction. But the point of the 1-star and 2-star levels is that these books are not Christian. As people like David G. Johnson, Mary Campagna Findley, Peter Younghusband, and myself are fond of reiterating: it can’t be Christian without a Savior. The uniqueness and variety of each of the reviewers is treasured. Though Peter is telling me that they are going to hold me down and force me to hear Christian horror, I won’t ever like it. As you say, we each have a unique viewpoint and read different portions of the books available. here’s a lot of overlap, of course.

      The goal of this blog is to promote that type of book above all. There has been some mention amongst the reviewers here about whether we should even accept a clean read. Many of these so-called Christian clean reads are written by non-believers. I know because I regularly ask authors about these things before I accept a book to read. Morality is not a substitute for the in-dwelling Spirit of God. Mormons, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other moral person is only saved when they come into a personal relationship with the Messiah.

      My hope is that Christian Speculative Fiction becomes increasingly redemptive–teaching about our Savior and His transformational presence within us. I realize that not all of us are called to this strict vision. Hence the star ranking system, so the different spiritual levels within the Church can be discerned.

      I hope that explains better what we are trying to do, Donovan.
      May the Lord bless you forever…

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