95 Theses for Christian Fiction Reformation, part 1

500 years ago, God’s church needed reformation. Now Christian fiction needs reforming.
on Oct 5, 2017 · No comments

500 years ago, God’s church needed reformation. Now Christian fiction needs reforming.

This month brings us the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day on Oct. 31, 1517.

In honor of Martin Luther’s famous posting of 95 theses on the church doors of Wittenberg, I’m sharing 95 more theses. These focus specifically on the need for a similar reformation of Christian-made fiction, including fantastical-genre novels.1

This article is only part 1 of this complete series, 95 Theses for Christian Fiction Reformation:

Part 1: The purpose of Christian-made stories

  1. Humans need stories because God created us in His image—He creates, and so should we.
  2. Stories are not a mere bonus for life, pleasant if you can get them but technically only optional.
  3. Rather, stories are part of human culture, which God told humans to make in Genesis 1:26-28.
  4. Culture, with stories, is an essential part of our humanity, as necessary as food, water, and air.
  5. God’s call for humans to make culture, with stories, continues even after humans’ fall into sin.
  6. God’s call to make culture (called the cultural mandate) is enslaved by humans’ corruption.
  7. However, God’s common grace keeps humans and our culture from becoming absolutely terrible.
  8. God’s common grace gives us sunshine, rain, laws, and culture that reflects His original purpose.
  9. The greatest stories come the closest to reflecting truth, beauty, and goodness in our world.
  10. The greatest stories also come the closest to reflecting the lies, ugliness, and evil in our world.
  11. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ shows all of these elements most clearly.
  12. The gospel of Jesus Christ, as Self-revealed by God in the Bible, is the greatest Story of all time.
  13. Jesus “wrote” the gospel, with Himself as the Hero, into reality, so He is the greatest Storyteller.
  14. Other stories, even by non-Christians, can reflect explicit gospel truths (such as sacrificial heroes).
  15. Only in the gospel can we find salvation for our souls, which redeems us from enmity with God.
  16. Only in the gospel can we rediscover the original, God-exalting purpose of human storytelling.
  17. Only in the gospel can we find freedom from sin, to pursue our original callings to glorify God.
  18. Christians are called to spread this Story explicitly as the Church: preaching, praying, and more.
  19. Christians are also called to illustrate Gospel-redeemed life with our original purpose of worship.
  20. We see God’s older cultural mandate in light of Jesus’s newer Great Commission, and vice-versa.
  21. Due to sin and other limitations, we can’t perfectly make culture with stories, but we should try.
  22. Due to sin and other limitations, we must work to enjoy culture/stories in ways that glorify God.
  23. God gets glory from story creators who don’t know Him, but Christians can glorify Him by intention.
  24. Stories don’t just honor God by repeating truths, but by showing us joy and delight in good things.
  25. Stories don’t just honor God by making us feel joyous or delighted, but by illustrating the truth.

Continued Thursday, Oct. 12 in part 2: What’s wrong with Christian-made stories?

  1. Read more from this earlier series, Why Christian Fantasy?
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.

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