Response to a Reader Concerned My Novels Include Some Disrespectful Uses of God’s Name

Note from Randy: This is a great and important response to a reader who sent us a question about my novels, concerned about some of the language I chose to include in character dialogue. I appreciate the answer that Stephanie Anderson, one of our EPM staff, gave in understanding and sympathizing with this reader’s concerns.

A reader wrote us:

I have read your books as a teenager, and they have benefitted me much. A few years ago, I rediscovered them (in audiobook-format). However, since then I have stopped reading some of your books. Some of your books contain parts that, in my opinion, are against the third commandment. Most of them are non-Christian characters, that use the Name of our God without good cause.

I was very surprised to see this and feel sad that I have to skip these books, that teach me so much about God. Therefore, I am curious why you made these choices. If I know why you did it, and you can convince me that it is not an idle use of God's Name, or if you acknowledge that it was wrong, my conscience is free to cut them out of my audiobooks, and once again enjoy the spiritual lessons that you give. Also, I hope that in future books, you won’t use God's name in this way.

In the novel The Ishbane Conspiracy, it says the character Ian doesn’t want “to hear anything more about Slopainia, or whatever the heck that God-forsaken place was.”

I hope that you will be able to reply, and I wish you God’s blessing in all of your works.

Deadline, chapter 12:

Another tombstone caught his eye… Jake read it, his eyes suddenly large and his heart pounding. “Oh, my God,” he cried aloud. It said, “Jake Woods.”

Deadline, chapter 25:

Jake picked up the contraceptive tray with all the samples, holding it out as evidence toward Ms. Beal. “I suppose you’re offering these kids clean needles and teaching them how to take safe drug injections? After all, they’re going to do drugs anyway, so it’s your job to teach them how to do it safely. God knows their parents are too stupid to teach them how to do drugs the right way.”

Deadline chapter 27:

Jake sat in perplexed silence. After ten seconds he said in a shaky voice, “Clarence. All that about my daughter? It was all off the record, every word. …I’ve betrayed my daughter. My God, Clarence, she was suicidal about this thing. Now it’s all out in the Times. What am I going to do?”

Deadline chapter 32:

“This is the real thing, an FBI badge, confiscated from a man in the line of duty, God rest his soul.”

Deception chapter 1:

I smiled and waved to the camera and said, “I want to thank you newspaper and TV folks for showing your support by coming to our little crime scene. God bless you, every one. I only wish I had time for tea and cookies.”

Dominion chapter 16:

Winston: “Yeah, that’s true, I don’t deny it. And something would be wrong if everybody did like them. I’m not telling you anything official. God knows I don’t have any control over this paper, I’m just an editor.”

Dominion chapter 37:

“Gracie? Her type’s always expendable. Like the girls that go to L.A. to become movie stars. Most of them end up hookers, beaten up by their pimps and their johns, dying from bad needles and God knows what diseases. Gracie died in Portland. Saved her the drive to Hollywood.” Ollie looked at the floor. “Yeah. I feel bad for her too.”

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

I appreciate your sensitivity and desire to honor Jesus with the things you read and listen to. That’s a wonderful goal, in keeping with Philippians 4:8, which says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

As you noted in your email, the characters in Randy’s books that use this language like “Oh my God,” which doesn’t revere Him as the Holy God, are non-Christians. Randy absolutely agrees that as believers, we should be set apart by our use of language, and by honoring God’s name and character through our words and actions. (See this article from John Piper about how we take God’s name in vain—which includes the use of such terms as “Oh my God” but also goes far, far beyond it.)

The challenge of how to portray realistic characters, without using unnecessary language (like curse words) and scenes which would cause temptation, unnecessarily offend, or lead readers into sin, is a very real one for a Christian author like Randy. He wants to realistically show that people are very lost without Jesus, and far from understanding who God really is. He also wants to have a book be believable.

If you’ve ever tried to read a book that comes across as naive and unbelievable, then you can probably understand that concern. It’s hard to keep reading when you know a book isn’t well researched, and the author clearly has no idea what they’re actually writing about. As a reader, it’s almost impossible to take the book seriously.

Therefore, as I’m sure you know from reading his novels, people are depicted as doing drugs, having sex outside marriage, getting an abortion, being racist, committing violent acts, and other crimes against others, etc. All these things break God’s commandments and laws. (One area where Randy struggled with this was whether to include the word “nigger” in his novel Dominion. He writes, “I made the difficult decision to actually include the word, because most every black person has been called that name, and it’s continuously used on the streets.”)

In his writing and research, Randy felt that including those lines, as well as other realistic things that unbelievers do, portrays someone’s distance from God, and was worthy of inclusion. He’s not saying that we should emulate that language or use it. We should be offended by it, just as we are offended by the other sins depicted in the books. Hopefully, through Randy’s writing, it is clear what is sin, and we see it for what it is—awful, separating us from God, leading only to unhappiness and misery.

I noted that some of the quotes you shared are where characters say, “God only knows…” I did want to share a different perspective on those quotes. Surely, if we can’t say that about God, we can’t say anything about Him. For example, someone might say, “God knows I love this church, but my heart is still broken.” In that case, it’s affirming the omniscience of God. Certainly, it’s possible for someone to use that wording in a sarcastic or otherwise inappropriate way, but that wasn’t Randy’s intent when he had his characters make those statements. 

Bottom line, if you are tempted to refer to God in disrespectful ways after listening to Randy’s books, then I would certainly never encourage you to keep listening. But if you are able to keep in perspective why Randy included those lines, and see what is being portrayed as sin vs. what is being encouraged as righteous, then I think there might well be a place to keep listening and reading. (And we hope that might be the case!) But either way, keep seeking Jesus and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life.

We wish you all the best as you follow Him.

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.