I’ve been a blogger since Dec 2010 and many of my posts have disappeared into the past – lost in the archives – never showing up in my stats. However, there are certain posts that continue to be viewed. I’m again re-blogging one of these past posts that apparently still interests people or is “found” for one reason or another. Slightly edited from the original.
The dangers of Christian fiction?
Christian fiction dangerous? There is nothing wrong with Christian fiction per se. My concern is with how too many Christians (particularly women) feed on a steady diet of Christian fiction. One should strive for a “balanced diet” with reading. Just like eating too much candy, cookies, and junk food will make you unhealthy physically, reading primarily Christian fiction can lead to an unhealthy spiritual state.
Please don’t mis-understand; I am NOT saying Christian fiction is junk. But compared to the amount of time spent reading Christian fiction, how much time is spent reading the Bible or quality non-fiction Christian books? My concern is not so much the fiction itself, but the lack of balance that I have observed.
Some who primarily read Christian fiction end up basing their theological beliefs on it (unknowingly I think), which can be problematic. Christian fiction often has spiritual truth in it, but it is fictionalized none-the-less. The spiritual truths can end up distorted or not quite accurate as it is intertwined with a fiction story. The reader has the potential of coming away from the story with inaccurate beliefs. This has happened with The Shack. (But that would be another post entirely.)
Frank Peretti, in his many fiction books on spiritual warfare and the unseen spiritual world, is another example. The Bible does not tell us much about the unseen spiritual world. Basic facts are there, and some things are hinted at, but there is much we are not told. While Peretti’s books contain spiritual truths, much embellishment or liberty is taken as he writes of the spiritual realm. Some believers are unable to differentiate between the fictional and non-fictional aspects of his stories.
I’ve observed believers reference fictional aspects of the spiritual realm from a Frank Peretti novel as though it was truth from the Bible. In one case where I attempted (graciously I thought) to point out that there was no clear biblical teaching on the matter, I was treated as though I was a borderline heretic. The response was to quote more Peretti to me!
Hmmm. A fiction book trumps the Bible? I think Peretti himself would not approve of his books being used this way. I don’t want to sound overly critical, but there is a lack of discernment and biblical knowledge in some situations.
Which leads back to the beginning paragraph of my post. If a balanced selection of reading was taking place, I think there would be more discernment. If more time is spent studying the Bible and reading quality Christian non-fiction, you are more likely to enjoy the fiction without confusing the fictional and non-fictional aspects.
We all need to kick back and enjoy a novel sometimes! Christian fiction can encourage us, and help us get more enthusiastic about some aspects of the Christian faith. Years ago I read a historical Christian fiction book on Priscilla and Aquila, and it got me excited about the book of Acts in the New Testament. I then read through Acts with an interest that I had previously lacked.
Yet, let’s remember that we should not be basing our beliefs on fiction stories, and we need to be careful and cautious that we are not inadvertently doing so.
Reading the Left Behind series does not make you an expert on the end times.
One should not rely on reading The Shack for a proper understanding of the Trinity.
Nor Frank Peretti for understanding the unseen spiritual realm.
Novels can’t be a substitute for the Bible. Nor for other quality non-fiction books on Christian beliefs. “Lite” of fluffy non-fiction can pose the same problems.
On that note, reading stories about “trips” to heaven and back should not be your primary source for understanding heaven. Consider what the Bible itself teaches about Heaven. (Randy Alcorn presents a biblical view of heaven in his book.)
We shouldn’t be reading only for the sake of entertainment or comfort, but also to challenge ourselves to grow in wisdom and knowledge of our faith.
If you are looking for a book to help you better read and understand the Bible, I recommend: Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks. A contemporary classic on Christian beliefs which I recommend is: Knowing God by JI Packer.