Literature: What’s a Christian to do?

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Do we as Christians really need to read non-Christian literature? Can’t we just stick to the Bible and maybe a few Christian books? Wouldn’t it be better for us? Rather than to pollute ourselves with stories about adultery, witchcraft, and treachery?

Well if you say yes to that last question then you might as well burn the Bible along with all those filthy worldly fictional stories. The Bible is littered with some of the grimiest stories; stories that would have Stephen King beat. A pulp fiction novel would have to compete against the types of gritty stories found in the Old Testament.

What’s the Point?

So, we can see the logic of a Christian sheltering himself from non-Christian fiction doesn’t add up. But what’s the point anyway? Well, we as Christians believe we have meaning in life. Guess what? Much of classical and modern literature explores meaning and purpose in life. So, we have common ground in this arena. In Literature Through the Eyes of Faith: Christian College Coalition Series, by Susan V. Gallagher and Roger Lundin, they purport this concept:

“As a result, although some things are obviously of greater importance than others, everything in our experience has significance, and our attempt to discern that significance — as well as we can — is part of our calling as God’s servants.”

Literature can proclaim truth. Yes, God’s Word is the ultimate truth that we use to evaluate everything in this world. But if we have a good understanding of His Word it’ll be easier for us to discern what is truth and what is not in works of literature. How can literature show truth? Through characters, actions, dialogue, and story. We can also see truth in the beauty of well-written verse and craftsmanship, which points to the beauty of the creator craftsman and wordsmith. We can better understand ourselves, others, and our world when we read literature.

“The fact is that we never get away from stories. In and out of literature, stories tell us who are and what we might become.”Gallagher and Lundin

Why Read Literature?

This is why we read literature; even when the work is not written by a Christian author or doesn’t contain a direct Christian message. Sometimes it’s good to not try to look for a Christian message in a text and to just enjoy it for what it is. According to Gallagher and Lundin, “The ability to write and read literature is a gift from God.”  So, delight in it!

Gallagher and Lundin continue by saying, “Although as a result of sin our capacity for enjoyment is much diminished and often wrongly directed, delight is still an important part of God’s plan for us.”  In fact, Jesus came in part, to recapture that ability to feel true joy. So, we as Christians should enjoy literature and other works of art and culture as much as, if not more, than non-Christians.

We should be experts at developing art and culture as well; it’s part of being a steward. This was one of the jobs God entrusted to Adam and Eve, but they ruined it. Let us, as Christians, work hard towards redeeming art and culture on Earth now, until the day Christ fully redeems everything back to perfection. The Lord stopped and enjoyed his creation on the seventh day; he declared it was good. So, can’t we do the same?

“In acknowledging the skill of an author or the beauty of a work of literature, we praise the great Creator of the heavens and the earth. Delight in a well-crafted work of literature is a response to God.”Gallagher and Lundin

How Should We Read?

Gallagher and Lundin don’t stop at these points in their book, but go on to examine how we should read and evaluate works of literature, as Christians. They ask, ‘What happens when we read?’ and discuss the conflict of interpretations. Topics such as: the literary canon and classics are addressed, as well as modern literature, works that are for thinking and works for sheer entertainment, the question of morality, literary forms, and genres.

By reading Literature Through the Eyes of Faith you will not only grow in your understanding of literature, but grow in your understanding of God.

“The profusion of literary texts in our world represent the variety of ways, both good and flawed, that human beings have attempted to develop God’s creation and to participate in his world, whether conscious of his hand or ignorant of the true King.”Gallagher and Lundin

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