A few people have asked me to clarify what I mean about a theology of fiction. Below I will give an example. I also want to be clear that I do not mean to suggest we “develop” “a” theology. Rather, we can recognize how the revelation of Scripture, the Incarnation of Christ, and the means of grace simply seep out of anything that bears testimony to truth.
Let’s take the classic example of boy meets girl. From a cursory glance, it may not appear theological. However, maybe this story, too, is moved by God’s creative word so that boy and girl come together. On the other hand, even if that boy is a pastor, if he just happens to help a girl get through something . . . well, actually, that can be vocational, inspirational, bearing burdens, etc.
Arguably a vast majority of stories reflects on important theological stuff: human existence, love, helping others, the fallen state of ourselves or the world. Still, depending how the story is told, it could be apparent or buried deep.
Part of my point may be that theology isn’t just a school subject or the realm of pastors. Theology, that is, study of the Word, is ubiquitous, precisely because God’s Creative Word is at work all around us. Add the Holy Spirit and wonder to just about anything and there are things to be studied in the Word! Right?
In light of a particular set of stories I recently read, it struck me how sometimes people can love characters more than the real people God has placed into their lives. How sad! But what an example of sin and our twisted natures. Even when we want to love, we rebel against God and often those He gives us to love. Then there is our limited views and practices of loves, falling into what is easiest rather than what has been revealed.
On the good side, at least fiction can move people to remember love and maybe stir it up a little. It may reveal in part our weaknesses, but isn’t that also a good thing? Moreover, the power of words is a fascinating thing. Though people revolt against God’s Word—at times visibly and viscerally—sometimes fiction can introduce truths in a way people find more acceptable. Hence sermon illustrations, right?
So, while I am not saying fiction is automatically good, nor am I saying God has a preference to work through fiction, fiction does at times bear testimony to truth. Fiction can address humanity and its need for God. It can address our weaknesses, our wounds from sin, and those salves which have helped us. It can also carry us off to different worlds with the goal to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2), no pun intended.
In other news related to a theology of fiction, I’ve started a private Facebook group in the hopes that those interested in writing essays on the topic, Toward a Theology of Fiction, will discuss as they’d like and not all write on the same topic with identical essay titles. 🙂 It has been quiet so far, but maybe that is how things work in this world. Still, we bear testimony to truth!