As a Christian writing speculative fiction, I see this topic comes up quite a bit. Similar to the question of if Christian authors should label themselves as such, this topic causes quite the stir.
I’m going to explore the options I see presented and then give my thoughts on them at the end. To be clear, I’m not seeking to convince anyone I’m right, but I will advocate for what I believe. I hope you will be encouraged if you have wrestled with these things as well.
It’s Just a Story
When I see the topic brought up within Christian circles, there tend to be two major camps:
1) Team “It’s Just a Story,”
2) Team “Theologically Accurate,”
I fall in the third camp, which is “How about Both?” but we’ll get to that later on. For now, we’re addressing the first one.
Team “It’s Just a Story” makes the argument that stories should be stories and there doesn’t need to be any Gospel element to it. That if you force it into the narrative, it will come across poorly and thus contribute to the copious amounts of B-rated Christian media out there.
I agree with this. Forcing something into a story shouldn’t happen because, in the end, it won’t work properly. The story will fall short.
Another take on it is that the story will become preachy or judgemental, thus turning people away. Who wants to read hellfire and brimstone, right?
Looking at it at face value, how could there possibly be a problem with simply telling a story? After all, a good story with Christian morals can lead people to Jesus… right?
Theology in Storytelling
About this time, Team “Theologically Accurate” shows up on the scene, advocating for the importance of correct theology in stories. They speak of the importance of having it so false teaching does not deceive people.
However, they can get a little overzealous and put down Fantasy, Science Fiction, and other genres because “Elves are eternal, so how could they possibly have a salvation system in place? Besides, Jesus died for man, not Elves…”
Yes, I have seen these types of arguments.
Now in some respect, they aren’t all wrong, just like Team “It’s Just a Story” isn’t all wrong. They just seem to prefer the extremes rather than the middle ground, where both ideas live quite happily together.
The Middle Ground
When it comes to writing, I’ve had perspective shift over the last couple of years. I used to be hardcore Team “It’s Just a Story” when I was younger. I wanted to tell good stories, and I didn’t want anyone telling me it wasn’t theologically accurate.
So what changed?
Well, I did. My faith really matured in 2020 as I worked on The City of Snow & Stars, labeling it Christian Fantasy, and labeling myself as a Christian Author. I found myself wanting to write good Christian Fiction that my fellow brothers and sisters could enjoy. But more than that, I wanted it to be grounded in truth.
Not my truth, but God’s truth. I found myself weaving Biblical teaching into my book because it mattered. I even snuck a couple of verse references in there. Do you know how many people have found it? None I’m aware of.
“So, what’s your point?”
Believe it or not, the Bible is FULL of amazing stories, history, and poetry. It shows God’s judgment of sin, His holiness, mercy, grace, and love. It shows man’s depravity and our need for a Saviour. Our need for Truth.
Why Sound Doctrine Matters in Storytelling
The world is full of evil and lies. Sin grows by the day and even Christians are being led astray from Truth (Jesus) because of false teachers preying on their biblical illiteracy.
Many Christians simply don’t know what the Bible says because they haven’t read it.
But those same Christians will read other books. Your books.
What if you conveyed Biblical truth in your story, and sound doctrine, in a way that captivates them and spurs them to get into the Word?
What if you interweave these truths through characters, plots, and arcs?
What if, by living out your faith, you encourage someone else struggling with theirs?
What if, rather than God being portrayed as only a God of Love, but also Just, Merciful, and Wrathful?
What if we showed His Holiness and contrasted it with humanity’s sinful nature?
What if we stopped watering down the Gospel and shared it like it was important?
Does this mean it needs to smack readers over the head? No, that defeats the entire purpose! A good storyteller knows how to interweave truth in a story, and there is no better example than Jesus. He told parables, short stories, with hard-hitting truths that some wanted to kill Him for. Sometimes not everyone understood what He was saying, but He said it anyway.
Here’s the question I would pose to saying “It’s just a story”:
Was it ever “just a story” when Jesus told them?
Stories are meant to entertain, entrance, captivate, and teach. They can help us escape dark times or cast illumination to brighten them. They help us make sense of the world and explore concepts we never thought about before.
The importance of Biblical truth in an age full of lies couldn’t be more important, and your story may be the light someone needs in their life.
Share the Gospel in a way that makes sense to the story.
I hope this has given you some food for thought and encouraged you if you have been unsure what to do with your own stories. In all things, take it to God and let Him show you what to do.
Blessings to you,
S. D. Howard