Truth In Fiction, Or truth In Fiction?

Among Christian writers there is this ongoing debate about what our fiction should look like. I’m convinced the differences stem from purpose. Not overall purpose. I believe writers on both sides of the fence who say they want to glorify God, mean what they say. However, some believe they do so by writing the best story possible, while others believe they do so by writing a story about His work in the lives of people.

The former writers maintain that a well-written story must be realistic and therefore show the human condition as it is, F-bombs and all. Life is messy and not everyone comes to Christ in the end. Atheists who Christians pray for still die of cancer without making a public profession of faith. Christians have unfaithful spouses and give birth to autistic children. Some get fired, and some have ungodly elders who manipulate and bully the flock they should help to shepherd.

These writers want to write truthful stories.

On the other side, however, are writers who also want to write realistic fiction, factoring in that God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ is real. Life is messy, but God can use the mess to greater purpose. People experience forgiveness and release from the stranglehold of sin. God answers prayer. He changes people inside out and that makes a difference.

These writers want to write Truthful stories.

Think with me for a second about Abraham’s nephew Lot. The truth about his life isn’t pretty. Given the choice, he picked the best land, the fertile valley near Sodom. Eventually he moved into town. When God brought judgment on the sinful place, Lot hesitated to leave. The angels finally had to pretty much drag him to safety. He argued with them about where to go, and then changed his mind when they accommodated him. Having lost his wife and isolated from the rest of civilization, he allowed his daughters to get him drunk and sleep with him. Both got pregnant, so Lot became father to his grandsons. Now that’s messy. And truthful.

But there’s also something Truthful about Lot that we learn in 2 Peter.

If [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, (2:6-9 – emphasis mine)

The bottom line of Lot’s life is that he was righteous and that he served as an example for us to know that God rescues the godly from temptation. That’s Truthful.

But here’s the pertinent point for this discussion about fiction: the author of Genesis never mentioned Lot being a righteous man or that he served as an example for others. The truth about Lot’s life just lay there among the stories of faithful Abraham and obedient Noah and scheming Jacob, letting the reader come to his own conclusion.

Until Peter came along, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the Truth about Lot’s life.

My belief is, we need both–truth and Truth. We obviously need both in Scripture or God wouldn’t have given us both. But I believe we need both in fiction, too. How great if writers working toward one or the other would see those aiming for the opposite as partners completing a picture rather than inferior or misguided.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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