There’s a place for reading fun, engaging, light works. If you enjoy a mystery novel or a science fiction thriller, have at it. I’ve found that most people who tell me that fiction is a waste of time are folks who seem to hold to a kind of sola cerebra vision of the Christian life that just doesn’t square with the Bible. The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination. . . . moral instruction is not simply about knowing factually what’s right and wrong (though that’s part of it); it’s about learning to feel affection toward certain virtues and revulsion toward others.
Fiction can sometimes . . . awaken parts of us that we have calloused over, due to ignorance or laziness or inattention or sin.
Just as dangerous as [books that are] darkness-reveling, I think, are novels that are darkness-avoiding. Flannery O’Connor’s writing is quite dark, but it is so because she believes in the Devil, and in the Fall, and in humanity as it is. . . . The Christian gospel isn’t “clean” and “safe” and “family-friendly.” It comes to its narrative climax at a bloody Place of the Skull and in a borrowed grave.
But, finally, good fiction isn’t a “waste of time” for the same reason good music and good art aren’t wastes of time. They are rooted in an endlessly creative God who has chosen to be imaged by human beings who create. Culture isn’t irrelevant. It’s part of what God commanded us to do in the beginning, and that he declares to be good. When you enjoy truth and beauty, when you are blessed by gifts God has given to a human being, you are enjoying a universe that, though fallen, God delights in as “very good.”For those who still aren't convinced about the value of reading (fiction and literature in particular) for the Christian life, I'll leave you with this: If God didn't think reading was important, if he didn't see any value in literature, if he didn't want his people to be shaped by great storytelling , then why did he write a book?
- Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke
- God as Author: A Biblical Approach to Narrative by Gene Fant
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