In his sermon last Sunday, my pastor (Dale Burke) jarred my thinking once again in regards to the purpose of fiction. No, he wasn’t talking about fiction per se. But he did point to the fact that in a culture of unbelief, a Christian is responsible to point generation next to God, for it is in losing sight of who God is that all society breaks down (see Romans 1:18-32).
The implication might seem to be that every adult should therefore focus on teaching children about God. Well, I agree to a point. I just don’t think our responsibility stops with kids. As Pastor Dale pointed out in his message, the important first step is for each of us to have authentic faith ourselves. It seems fairly obvious that we can’t pass on what we first don’t possess.
What I saw growing up was a lot of people passing on the trappings of what they no longer believed. I saw people still going to church after they no longer believed in the God that church claimed to worship. I sat in Sunday school classes and listened to adults explain away the miracles of the Bible, including the virgin birth and the resurrection.
There are churches today who would embrace that same thinking. They no longer believe the Bible, no longer believe in the God of the Bible, and yet they cling to some vestment of morality that originated in the Bible.
God is love, they say, so that’s what they’ll believe. And Jesus came to a chorus of angels declaring peace on earth, so they’ll believe God is for peace. Somewhere in this line of theology is the idea that we are to be like God, so we are also to be about love and peace. The end.
And this is what many people call Christianity. It fits so nicely with our culture of unbelief because it never challenges the main tenants: God, if he exists, is whatever you want him to be (to challenge this idea would be to sacrifice peace). Truth is evolving (to claim it is unchanging would create schisms). Right and wrong is relative (to say another’s behavior is wrong would not be loving). Since life is a result of chance, it is of little value. (To hold to the preciousness of human life is unloving—to a woman who wishes to escape an unwanted pregnancy, to the unwanted child because a poor life is worse than no life, to animals because their lives are as valuable as humans).
So what does any of this have to do with fiction? Simply that fiction is the going form of communication in our culture. Maybe it has always been so. At any rate, we who know God as Father because Jesus Christ slipped from Heaven into the skin of a Jewish baby and ultimately crashed through the sin barrier that had us roped off—we are responsible for telling the truth about God. Yes, He is love, but not love in isolation from His justice and mercy and grace and goodness and jealousy and humility and omniscience and infinity and steadfastness and creativity and immutability and …
Yes, God is for peace, but lasting peace that comes only from right relationship with Him. And He is also for truth and goodness and joy and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control and …
All this to say, maybe, just maybe, Christian fiction should, above all else, tell the truth about God. In story.