Being a fiction writer of young adult Christian suspense and action/adventure novels, I have encountered a lot of interesting comments over the years from Christians about their perspectives on the value of fiction writing, and consequently fiction writers.
Many Christians are very supportive and excited about fiction. Other Christians’ responses range from mild interested to total indifference about the value of fiction and fiction writing. Yet if asked directly most Christians will acknowledge there is value to fiction somewhere for some people. Then there are the Christians who want to first know the quantity and, if they are wise, quality of the Christian worldview and content in the fiction before deciding if it is worthwhile. (At heart I agree with that this evaluation is important and should take place, but I think it could often be done by Christians in a far more gracious manner. Since many times people tend to ask questions about Christian content in an author’s fiction as if they’ve already assumed you and your work are falling short in this regard.)(As my grandfather used to say, “Never assume.” It’s a far safer way to live life.)
Now, there is also another category of Christians, people who believe that fiction has no place in the Christian realm. They have the ideology that Christians should not read fake stories. And for some of those people who believe this, they’d also go so far as to consider a fiction writer’s work as a lie. (Of course, I disagree with this, but let’s delve into why.)
Fiction, by its very definition, is understood to be the creation and expression of imaginary events and people. We know it’s not supposed to be the actual events and/or people. Therefore, in order to fulfill truthfulness in fiction writing, a fiction writer actually needs to not be creating reality but instead writing to represent truth (reality) within or through imaginary events and people.
Example: We don’t look at an artists painting of an apple and call the artist a liar for representation an apple rather than giving us a real apple. Because we recognize that the goal of a painting is to provide us with an image of an apple not to give us an actual apple.
In the same way, Christian fiction is meant to provide, through imaginary events and people, the truth of reality not reality itself. When we pick up a book of fiction we know that what we are reading is a representation of what someone thinks could happen, might happen, or could have happened.
Fiction, in and of itself, is not a lie.A representation of something is not a lie. However, could fiction be a lie? Yes! When it misrepresents what it claims to be representing, it is a lie.
Example: An artist claims they have painted an apple, but the representation they have created is a pineapple. This is an artist who is lying.
It is not the illustration of something that makes it true or false. It is in how that something is illustrated that determines if it’s represented in a way that is true or false.
How else do I know that fiction (a story created using imaginary events and people) isn’t a lie? Because Jesus told such stories. Jesus used fiction, and Jesus did not lie!
One of Jesus’s fiction stories:
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” ~Luke 10:30-36~
From a Christian’s perspective (Christ’s perspective) fiction writing has been and is a useful and worthwhile method of communicating significant truths about ourselves, others, and God.
Challenge: Christian fiction writers, please don’t let people tell you that you are lying simply because you are writing fiction. And, please make sure what you are writing truthfully represents reality and brings honors and glory to God in doing so, because this is what Christian fiction should do. And Christians (readers and non-readers of fiction), please look at what God says and speak the truth, not yours or other people’s personal opinions.