Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?


               Presented below is a brief essay that I wrote on the subject of fiction literature.  
              A lot more could be said and written on this subject, and I would be happy to 
              discuss this further.

    Should we read fantastical and fictitious stories? I believe the answer is a resounding 'yes'. For although some have said we should not read fantasy and fiction because it creates something which is not real, what those who have said that fail to see however, is that good, God-honouring fiction* does not create new truth. The well known author G. K. Chesterton once said, "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
    For example, let us briefly look at The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Speaking of the Ring, which has been given to Frodo to destroy, Tolkien writes: "'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'" In this quote, Tolkien, using the time-honoured way of speaking real-world truth through fictional characters, thus gives great depth to the story, and subtly brings out the doctrine of God's sovereignty in the affairs of men as well.
    You see, reading a story, fiction or not, is not just enjoyment. Whether we realize it or not, the author seeks to influence the readers minds. In the old myths, through middle age fables, down to recent fantasy literature, the real truth revealed through the created world, and in the hearts of authors, is exposed to those who read it. If we read with a discerning mind and a wise heart, we cannot but help read wonderful fictional and fantastical literature, gaining wisdom and insight, and courage and hope in so doing.  May all such reading be to the honour of our King.


Written and Posted by William A Moore

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*By 'God-honouring' I mean any fiction or fantasy, fable or myth, written by Christians or not, that teaches Biblical morality in a specific or general way.

6 comments:

  1. Hmm, that's really good William! Especially G.K Chesterton's quote. The content of fiction takes second stage to what's really important: the message that's conveyed, be it overtly or subtly.

    Paul

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  2. Here's my question. How does this tidbit from Token teach you more about God's sovereignty, or teach it more efficiently, than reading a theology or history book in which real people had to deal with what God really did?

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    1. Great question, John.
      I am not trying to say that we should read Tolkien _instead_ of theology or history (I myself need to read more of both subjects); my intended meaning is that there is no excuse that reading good fiction is a waste of time, for when there is truth that we can learn while reading such literature as Tolkien, we should not ignore it.
      Does that make sense?

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    2. That makes sense, but I'm not convinced that it is a good use of time. Why spend hours immersing myself in Tolkien's fictional world to gain a few tidbits about sovereignty when I could learn more in a shorter time reading A. W. Pink's Sovereignty of God?

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    3. I'm not saying to use Tolkien as our theology book. I'm saying that when we read his literature it's not just for entertainment because there are things in it that we can be reminded of that encourage us in our developing understanding of theology. I don't want anyone to read it to the exclusion of other books, but when we do, there is much that can be gained from it.

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  3. Great points William. I've wondered the same things. But then I remind myself that Christ used "fictional stories" in order to portray certain aspects of God's character (in the form of Parables, i.e., the Prodigal Son, the Lost Coin, etc). If we keep our focus God-honouring (I like your definition), I think fictional stories are a great way to communicate.

    God bless!

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