I had always felt life first as a story and if there is a story there is a storyteller.
– G.K. Chesterson
Last year I realized I needed to read more fiction. I would guess I read more books annually about ministry, theology, and faith than most, but I do it at the exclusion of reading anything else. Until this past year I probably averaged one novel per year or two.
All great stories in some way reflect the One Great Story. Great authors, be them believers or no, understand how to plumb the depths of that Story. Some contrast the Story. Others compliment it. Most are a combination of both. Sometimes the stories they write give answers. Sometimes they don’t. But in the end, good stories can remind us of truths we take for granted. Alan Moore, in his V for Vendetta, writes, “Artists use lies to tell the truth.” This echoes Pablo Picasso’s sentiments: “We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.” This is why good art, be it a movie, song, or book, has the ability to illustrate a truth in ways others things cannot. Ways to feel it, think about it, or chew on it for a spell. Simply put, great fiction serves non-fiction.
No wonder Jesus used stories throughout his teaching ministry. No wonder pastors tell stories when they preach. I really think that both my faith and ministry would be deepened by grabbing authors located in the fiction section of the bookstore instead of only the faith section (some of whom can ruin your faith – but that’s another post). Consequently, I read more fiction this year than last (which was one of my 2012 goals) and hope to read more in 2013.
There are some who would refuse to read secular works because they are secular. But refusing art merely because it’s created by non-Christians is to reject the doctrine of common grace which teaches that God’s goodness has fallen in a great measure to all his creation, stained by sin as they are. His rain falls upon both the just and unjust (Mt. 5:45) and his goodness has not escaped our ability to think, achieve, or create. That means while unredeemed people can create horrible things, but they can also create beautiful things. This is also true of those who trust Christ. They too can create wonderful or woeful things. That’s why the path forward is to use biblical discernment that engages and enjoys art! The alternative is to create “christian” cultural ghettos where creativity devolves into poorly mimicking the surrounding secular culture ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Talk about woeful.
Give me good stories. Give me good books. Give me good fiction. So in reading and enjoying them they might help me better understand and appreciate that I’ve been invited by Jesus into the One Great Story.