I am in conflict. I believe in telling the truth and I believe in the creativity of Man based on the Imago Dei.
Part of me resonates with the “Evolution Of The Artist.” It sounds so freeing to color outside the box, to soar above and beyond any limitations. I’ve even written an article here at Spec Faith describing how the Christian is the most free writer of all.
On the other hand, I’ve recently written an article at my own blog stating that truth puts parameters around our imagination. Which suggests closing Christian writers and Christian fiction in a box — a regulated, formulaic, orderly, artistic-killing box complete with gatekeepers to insure no toe crosses one of the lines.
Are Truth and Imagination in conflict?
They can be.
Think for a moment about Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He imagined himself to be the central figure of the empire he ruled.
The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ (Daniel 4:30).
The truth, however, was that his importance was all in his head. God proved this fact to him by setting him aside for seven years. Funny how the empire managed to survive and thrive without him.
Imagination in Nebuchadnezzar’s case led him away from the truth that God is sovereign, and he was not.
I’d say imagination is misleading people today. Some professing to be Christians claim they are freeing God from the box of orthodox Christian theology by re-imaging Him — another way of saying they imagine Him to be however they want Him rather than accepting Him the way He revealed Himself. Their imagination leads them away from truth.
It seems to me that all false teaching shares this “imagination over truth” component. Man’s ideas about what a loving God should look like lead universalists to imagine eternity without hell. Man’s imaginings about faith and God’s promises lead Word of Faith believers to invent “revelation knowledge” and “faith-force” that contradicts the sovereignty of God and the authority of the Bible. Man’s inventiveness about the Bible and Christ’s return led Harold Camping disciples to proclaim and follow a foolish and false prophecy.
When it comes to fiction, am I saying that the critics, and especially those criticizing speculative fiction, are right — that we ought not dabble in “lies”?
As forcefully as possible, I want to make clear that fiction is not a form of lying. Lying is an attempt to deceive by passing off that which a person knows to be untrue as if it is true. In contrast, fiction, by the very label on the back of the book or the inclusion of the word “novel” on the cover, declares that the contents within is not a retelling of actual facts about actual people.
On the other hand, while using inventive characters, worlds, events, it seems to me an author of fiction is constrained to tell the truth. Not All Truth — which story could ever accomplish such a goal? But in the realm of ideas that the author communicates to his reader through his story, those ideas should be true.
And here is the point that separates Christian fiction, I believe, from all other fiction. Christian fiction speaks the truth about God. Other fiction can speak the truth about morals or the way the world works or what makes a person love or hate or live on the edge. Other fiction might be silent about God. Other fiction might speak a lie (though undoubtedly the author believes that what he’s written is true) about any of these things. Only Christian fiction speaks the truth about God.
Not the whole truth, though. Christian fiction doesn’t need to — can’t, even — show all that God has revealed about Himself. But whenever the work addresses God, it must do so truthfully.
In the end, then, I don’t think imagination and truth are intrinsically contradictory. Rather, I believe imagination should lead to the truth.
What do you think?