Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Fiction and Christian Sanctification

Growing up it was sometimes interesting to hear people object to my father’s ministry writing Christian novels. “Why not just tell the truth plainly, instead of putting it into stories?” I would sometimes hear people say. Other times I would sometime people say something like this: “If I wanted to learn more about the Lord, a novel would be the last book I would pick up. Why not go straight to the Bible or to works of theology?”

Charles Finney
In its more extreme manifestation, this prejudice against fiction expresses itself in the idea that works of fantasy are little more than clever lying. The Christian evangelist Charles Finney seemed to hold this idea because he once dismissed both Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott as nothing more than “a host of triflers and blasphemers of God.” 

The same idea was expressed by someone interacting with the ministry of Zondervan publishing. “Fiction is wrong because it’s not true” the person said. “As Christians we should hold fast to the truth and not saturate our minds with falsehoods regardless of what ‘good’ they seem to bring about.”

There are many things we could say in response to this prejudice against fiction. We could point to the example of our blessed Lord, who constantly told stories to illustrate important spiritual truths. Or we might draw attention to the fact that the Bible’s definition of truth is far larger than mere factual accuracy, and so a novel can convey truth even if it deals with characters and situations that are purely imaginary. We might also point out that this prejudice against the novel often arises as a symptom of an unbiblical rationalism—a rationalism that fails to come to terms with the importance scripture attaches to the imagination.
While all the above points are crucial for developing a Biblical defense of fiction, in my Colson Center article on fiction I have shared a more subtle and often overlooked reason why fiction is important, even crucial, for our sanctification as men and women of God. I argue that fiction (whether in books or films) allows us to grow in sanctification by simulating the type of experiences that God designed should lead to sanctification. To read my article, click on the following link:


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