Some may question the value and validity of biblical fiction. “We have Scripture,” they might say. “What more do we need?”
This is true—I don’t disagree that we could live with Scripture (and the Spirit) as our only guides—but, equally true is that we can have Scripture without really having God. We can read without understanding. We can understand without being inspired and empowered by what we read. We can learn about God without entering into relationship. Our minds can become numb in the retelling of familiar stories seemingly devoid of emotion and relevance to our lives…
Until an author brings some biblical character to life, sparking our imaginations to how we’re all really the same—all trapped in the same desperate condition. All sinful. In need of a Savior. Then suddenly, the far-off characters so easily condemned for their foolish actions are revealed for who they really are: obscured versions of ourselves—so that we, like David, suddenly grasp the author’s intent: “That person you despise… You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)
In being plunged within a character’s point of view, seeing our own struggles reflected back, we can no longer play judge and jury. Instead, in sympathy, we feel, once again, the utter heartache of our sinful condition. We observe God’s faithful provision as we long for the saving grace only He can give.
I ask you: Does it matter that the details are fictional if the story draws us closer to the heart of God?
The truth is, whether we’re reading the Bible or Bible-inspired fiction, whatever emotional impact we reap comes from God. His Spirit is the One Who moves us to tears when worshipping, reading Scripture, or even indulging in a novel. I also believe some personalities are more responsive to creative arts. And God uses what we need.
Here’s the power of good fiction: It facilitates emotion. Expands our nebulous thoughts. Paints scenarios of possibility to be pondered. While commentaries present multiple options (Dinah might’ve been raped—or possibly not), fiction presents only one, which we hope is both plausible and self-consistent, as well as aligning with the Word of God. Fiction isn’t meant as a Bible substitute but can serve as a unique kind of commentary on what might’ve been. However, we shouldn’t be careless or indiscriminate. Instead, just as we test prophecies, sermons, and our own interpretations of Scripture—we have a responsibility to discern if any given novel is beneficial (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
My point in all this is not to denigrate the Bible, but merely to point out that God isn’t restricted in His methods. (He once spoke through a donkey!) Furthermore, Scripture can only save and edify through the power of God’s Spirit, Who isn’t above using fiction (my testimony—coming soon—a case in point). Finally, consider the difference between a narrative, objective account of facts (like a history book) and an immersive story, rich with emotional impact (like historical fiction).
The Bible tells us what happened. Fiction shows us how it might’ve looked and felt. And the Holy Spirit moves our hearts.
With that, I’ll conclude with a corresponding biblical/fictional contrast:
Eve in the Bible (Genesis 2:21-23, ESV)
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Eve in Fiction (Havah by Tosca Lee)
How about you? Are you a fan of biblical fiction? Or are you drawn more toward devotions and inspirational self-help? Besides the Bible, is there any book you can recommend? Or, if you prefer to stick to the Good Book, what’s one Scripture or practice that’s drawn you closer to the heart of God?
To learn more about this series, visit my page, “Biblical Fiction in 2019.”