1. T'mas says:

    I enjoy a good novel. In fact, I have really anticipated all of  the new Christian speculative titles that are coming out soon (the next ones I plan to read are R. J. Larson’s Prophet and Homer Hickam’s Crater), but I can understand where critics of fiction are coming from. I have struggled with this issue. Is it right to read fiction? Is it a waste of time? I was talking to my girlfriend about it, and she reminded me that there is nothing inherently wrong with reading good, wholesome, edifying fiction (she’s an English education minor). “But,” she said,”you can’t get obsessed with it.” I think that’s the key issue–having a balance. Reading fiction is fine, if that’s not all you do. As long as you put God, the Bible, and soul-winning first, then there is nothing wrong with reading Christian fiction. I believe God enjoys it when we write and read stories that reflect positively on Him. He gaves us our imagination, so why shouldn’t we use it to magnify Him in story?

  2. Kessie says:

    Wow. This is one of those arguments that will go on forever. The objector will never change their view that fiction is a waste of time, and the defender will never stop defending it as good wholesome entertainment. Time to find a new avenue of discussion, I think.

    • I think, though, an argument exists that decisively proves fiction is no waste of time … an argument based on the very Bible that the objector believes proves that  Christians have “more important things” to do.

    • Andrew Harmon says:

      Is it possible that for one person it would be a waste of time (if they get nothing out of it), but for someone else it would be time well spent. The danger is assuming that how you feel about something, or what you draw for an activity, is the same thing that everyone else does as well. The fact is, everyone is different. 

  3. Fred Warren says:

    Doggone it, Stephen, you’re thinking again. Stop that! 🙂

    I believe both creation and recreation are wired into the human soul. We’re made in the image of God, who accomplished the work of creation and established a Sabbath for rest. Some of the objections that you’ve outlined sound like the manager who’s consumed by the fear somebody might be slacking on company time, and all the while, his obsession with productivity only serves to make everyone less productive.

    As a reader, I see stories as just one more way God can speak to me. Yes, we have the Bible (which, incidentally, is filled with stories), but given the evidence the Bible itself provides, there are many other ways besides Scripture that God communicates with us, up to and including talking donkeys.

    As a writer, and a Christian, I see stories as a form of prayer. I can spill out my wants, needs, hopes, dreams, fears, and nightmares onto the page, and God is listening to all of it. In turn, the writing process is interspersed with long periods of me listening for inspiration, ideas, answers, and guidance.

  4. Kessie says:

    One problem the objectors might have with fiction, is that inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit himself. Even the Prophets were compelled to write down their visions. They couldn’t help but preach when the Holy Spirit was upon them.
    It’s the same way with an author. When inspiration strikes, the author has no choice. And if that inspiration comes straight from the Holy Spirit, how can the objectors complain?

    • I meant to address this before. I think we’d be talking about two kinds of “inspiration,” here. While Christians certainly draw on their spiritual gifts to read or write stories, that’s not the same level of “inspiration” God used to guide the human authors of Scripture. (My guess is that you didn’t even mean to imply that, though!) People often ascribe stuff to the Holy Spirit that in fact they’ve made up. If I were a fiction critic, that’s what I would say in response — especially because many fiction critics often apply the “sufficiency of Scripture” truth, but in flawed ways that ignore imagination.

      One need not get into any kind of charismatic/continuationist vs. cessationist debate about it, though! All “sides” could agree, I think, that Scripture directly endorses enjoyment and glorification of God in all things. And fiction uniquely glorifies Him.

  5. Ok, I just read a post today that totally applies to this post:
    Here is one question addressed in this post: “I wonder if you can give a few pointers on the benefits of reading fiction. I know of quite a few people who consider it a distraction at best or a sinful waste of time at worst. What benefit is there in reading contemporary novels?”
    Really good post and explains why I write 🙂


  6. Galadriel says:

    I would fall back on Tolkien’s article and say that stories help us re-vision things as they really are. And I would also say that literature is an art that could glorify God just as the art of music or painting can.

  7. Karin Neary says:

    I’ve always felt that stories bring truth to the heart. That’s why Jesus used parables so often.
    Writing (or any art form) can be used to glorify God. When I write, my goal is to get truth across to the reader in story form. My hope and prayer is that he/she will be blessed by the story.

  8. Bainespal says:

    I want to believe that there’s something objectively real about stories, and something objectively proactive about both creating and appreciating stories and other forms of art. We have to live as real people in this world, and creating and enjoying art are two things that real people do in real life.  To forbid them would be like forbidding toddlers to crawl.

    That’s not enough of a justification for me, though.  I want to find something more important and more real in  the act of storytelling itself.  Specifically, I want to find out objectively how imaginary worlds can change our real world.  I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.

  9. Literaturelady says:

    Wow, these are good questions.  And honestly, I would have answered a story objector with a defense of what a story is not –but you’re right that that’s not enough.  So thank you for nudging me to think Biblically about this issue!
    I recently talked to Daddy about a similar matter (does the Bible permit reading fiction at all?).  Dad pointed out that in 1 Corinthians 5:9 and Colossians 4:16, Paul mentions letters that he expected the churches to read, but these letters obviously weren’t inspired Scripture.  And Ecclesiastes 12: 12 warns that there are hundreds of books out there, and studying every single one of them would be a burden.  So the Bible allows for reading works other than itself.
    Also, when Paul says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure…,” the “whatever” category applies to things outside the Bible.
    Moreover, a shining positive for reading fiction–or looking at a picture, listening to music, enjoying a well-thought out debate (like this one!), or watching a movie–would be to enjoy the creativity that God has given us and to exercise the imagination He has blessed us with.  We can glorify Him by enjoying and using these gifts.
    I’m looking forward to your next article!

  10. Literaturelady says:

    *clears throat in an annoyed way*
    Sorry about all that computer lingo above my comment.  I had drafted the comment in a Word document and then pasted it here.  The wrong way to go, methinks.
    *shamefaced smile*

  11. […] E. Stephen Burnett: I meant to address this before. I think we’d be talking about two… 11:44 am, May 10, 2012 […]

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