The Function of Fiction

I was looking through an older issue of the Baptist Bible Tribune last week—I do this from time to time, as the magazine is chock full of often timeless and relevant accounts and updates regarding churches, mission fields, and other endeavors. But as I perused its pages, a rather redundant thought was again brought to the forefront of my musings. I couldn’t help but wonder whether our fellowship wouldn’t benefit from a little more fiction.

Nothing drastic, mind you. And nothing to diminish the importance of all the wonderful ministries throughout the world. After all, that is why we’re here; to evangelize the world and, through this venue and others, to share God’s victories and our testimonies with fellow believers.

Which brings me back to my ponderous question. Would the incorporation of fiction detract from the truth of God’s Word, or could it be more effectively used by His people to convey application of such truth? I admit that my premise is a little biased, but I’m determined to maintain at least some objectivity for the moment—so that both sides might be given due consideration.

There are those who, with the noblest of intentions and the purest of hearts, suggest that fiction simply distracts both the secular and the saved from the more important things which should occupy our minds. And, I must admit, I agree to a point. So much of today’s culture is inculcated by fantastical stories of truly dark attributes suddenly portrayed as not so bad after all. Misunderstood, perhaps, but eventually heroic and even beautiful. Admirable.

But why are we so quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater? Why can’t we salvage the seeds of the obvious fruit, here, and examine the reasons for why such undertakings are deemed “successful” in the first place? I think that to say that the world simply craves evil is, while in many ways true, insufficient and therefore counterproductive. After all, we wouldn’t be so quick to root for the predominantly good protagonist if evil was the prevalent hunger.

Isn’t it possible that the yearning which is fed and usually satisfied, at least to some degree if oftentimes only temporarily, has to do more with the engaging of our minds? Couldn’t it be symptomatic of the simple joy which comes of stepping outside the boundaries of our own reality, if only for a short while, for the notion of living vicariously through the stimulating characters of invention? Such experiences can be quite rewarding, after all.

Take the thought a step further. What if that sort of stepping out of our own reality and into a fictitious one could be successfully utilized to cause introspection? What if such tactics could be employed for the purpose of either reaching a seeking world, or revitalizing a saved soul?

When I write stories, my primary target audience is women of faith. Obviously I want to entertain, but that’s just a part of it. It is my goal, with every chapter and every work, to touch a life. I may not always manage this successfully, but my failings are born of finite humanness and occasional reluctance to rely on the fullness of God’s leading, and not because of any absence of possibility. For the possibility of creating for the reader an opportunity to grow closer to God through Jesus Christ by offering a fictitious application of a very real truth is a goal worth striving for, even if misses happen from time to time; to sort of till the soil of conviction for the reader. For that, I believe, is what fiction, when used responsibly, can do.

During the years of Jesus’ ministry, as He traveled with His disciples and addressed those who gathered to hear, He often employed parables for the purpose of conveying an application of a truth He was sharing. Were the parables essential to the teachings? I’ll leave that debate to those more qualified. All I can assert is that He chose to use them. He painted pictures with words and understanding is enhanced as a result. That, my friend, is fiction in its purest form.

It is by no means my intention to engage anyone in a war of words or a debate over preference. But I do respectfully suggest that it is only through constant critical discernment born of ongoing prayerful consideration that evangelism and ministry stays ahead of the threat of stagnancy. That doesn’t mean we necessarily need to latch on to the latest craze. Some have merit. Some need to die a quiet death. But would it be such a terrible thing to resurrect an old and proven idea? After all, if the Lord of our salvation considered fiction a viable resource for the accomplishment of the Father’s purpose, then maybe there’s something to the notion….

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