The first time I heard someone repeat the idea that fiction is nothing more than telling lies, I thought they were joking. I mean, would it be lying if I told you, I have made up some people who don’t really exist, and here’s what I’ve imagined these pretend people did in their pretend worlds.
Whatever else you might think about the story I proceed to tell you, you would not be accurate to claim I was lying. Fiction, by its definition, announces that what appears between the pages is made up. Imagined. Nothing but pretend.
And yet, I’ve made the assertion that a Christian writer can, and perhaps should, show God within the pages of fiction. Say what?
This apparent contradiction can only be resolved by understanding that truth is not dependent upon reality. Truth is True, whether I believe it or not; whether it is popular or not; whether a person discovers it within the pages of history or within the pages of fantasy.
Truth is not dependent upon the circumstances that surround it. Believing in Truth or not believing in Truth doesn’t weaken it or make it less truthful. Showing it in the lives of imagined characters does not make it less truthful.
Consequently, it is abundantly possible to show God in fiction. But as I see it, the Christian novelist needs to be more concerned with conveying truth about God than about realism in connection with God.
Let me use C. S. Lewis and his Narnia series as the prime example. While the Bible does call the Messiah the Lion of Judah, never does Jesus take the form of a lion and walk through the streets of Jerusalem.
But Lewis depicted Christ throughout his series as a lion. Was he being irreverent? Just the opposite. By departing from reality, Lewis was able to shed the light of truth about Jesus’s position as King and Sovereign.
Perhaps Lewis had an advantage—he was writing fantasy, after all. 😀 But I wonder if more couldn’t be done even in contemporary fiction with the use of types and symbols. While not contemporary, J. R. R. Tolkien showed God in The Lord of the Rings, not by including God in his cast of characters but by giving qualities or roles of God to those in the story.
Granted, some people claim The Lord of the Rings isn’t actually Christian fiction. But because fiction is a communication vehicle with one person giving information and another someone receiving it, there will inevitably be some errant interchanges. Some readers will miss Truth Tolkien intended, some will see it in places and ways he never envisioned.
Be that as it may, the writer’s role is to tell the truth as best he can, and for the Christian, it’s hard to deliver Truth and leave God out.