You live in a real world with lots of made-up worlds. These made-up worlds are accessible through books – namely, fiction books. Actually, fiction takes on more forms than merely books. You can read short stories, peruse through fairy tales, enjoy fables, listen to audio-dramas, behold movies, attend plays, tell legends and tales, or even hear stories through music. But at its core, fiction, whatever the medium, communicates a made-up story. While the stories and often the characters and worlds of fiction are made-up, fiction stories are a very real thing in our world. As you, Christian, have the mind of Christ, it behooves you to consider how you ought to interact with the world of fiction.
I’d like us to consider three salient questions around this issue. First, we must ask, is reading fiction worth our time? Second, if it is, what sorts of fiction should we read? And finally, how often should we be reading fiction? And, well, it may take a couple articles to answer each of these questions satisfactorily!
The very simple answer is yes. But we ought to be more emphatic. YES! Christian, fairy tales and fantastical stories are worth your time. Now, before the fiction-lovers tune out, take note that there are right and wrong motivations to reading fiction. Some wrong motivations we will consider later, but for now, let us understand, biblically, why reading fiction is a profitable endeavour.
God gave us imaginations, so imagination is not a result of the curse. The world was not created to be run pragmatically and practically (i.e., to only do “what works”). The world was created for enjoyment and delight and glory to God! He created all things and called them good – that means man’s imagination was also called good. Said another way, we can acknowledge that God is creative, God gave us creativity, and God expects us to use our creativity for His glory. Our imaginations flow from of our God-given creativity.
We could add that the imagination and that wonderful quality of creativity are not only for children. We all, 9 years old or 90, have an imagination and ought to use it for God’s glory. Some may protest that they don’t have the gift of creativity, or aren’t creative people. But I would submit to you that creativity, while it may be especially gifted to some, is a quality we can foster and grow. Using creativity well is a way we can most literally act in God’s own image and after God’s own heart. Rather than excusing ourselves as lacking the creative gene, let’s work instead to grow and foster our creativity that our whole being may be better put to the Lord’s service! One of the great ways we can foster our own creativity is to read of the creative, made-up worlds and characters and stories of others. We can enjoy these worlds and thank God for the creativity He has given to His creatures.
Some of the most memorable portions of the New Testament are Christ’s parables. Have you ever asked yourself why the parables are so memorable? Why are unbelievers and believers alike familiar with these stories?
Well, that’s why. They are stories. They are fictitious stories that communicate a point! Perhaps a brief exploration of Christ’s parables would be helpful here.
What does “parable” mean? In Greek, the word means “cast alongside.” That’s quite descriptive of what parables are – stories cast alongside the real world in order to communicate a real truth.
What was the purpose of the parables? In Matthew 13, Jesus tells His disciples why He speaks in parables:
“To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matt. 13:11-13)
Jesus had a two-fold purpose in parables. First, the parables were a judgement on the crowds. They could not understand what Jesus taught, and so what little they had was taken away from them. Jesus began hiding what He was speaking to the crowds in parables.
Yet, the opposite is true for the disciples! Jesus was actually teaching and revealing truth to the disciples through parables! He says that it has been given to the disciples to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. We can understand why Jesus would have communicated in parables. They are so memorable to us; how much more to the disciples, who would have heard Christ Himself teach them! In Luke 18, we see an example of Jesus telling a parable to teach: “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” (Luke 18:1; LSB). Jesus could have told His disciples, “Pray persistently.” Instead, He chose to tell a made-up story with made-up characters which powerfully communicated a real-life truth.
If the Great Teacher used fictitious stories to teach His disciples, how much more can we, lesser teachers, use stories to build up one another in truth! How much can we learn from make-believe worlds and stories about our own world and our own lives!
Perhaps, you have found some of the reasons as to why we should read fiction a little bit ambiguous or hypothetical. Perhaps you’re looking for something more tangible. Well, in an upcoming article, we will tackle one of the most tangible, practical reasons as to why fiction is certainly “worth it.”