in praise of reading fiction

Thanks to Jonathan Dodson for pointing out a great article by Mary DeMuth on Why Should Christ-Followers read fiction.

1. Our view of the world beyond our door widens.

2. We learn empathy as you walk in a character’s different-sized shoes.

3. God uses stories to heal.

4. Fiction unmasks us.

Similarly, fiction serves to probe beneath our masks, helping us perceive, reveal, and understand our secrets. “Everyone has secrets,” says novelist Susan May Warren. “… They can watch characters struggle, then experience the truth that sets them free.”

5. God’s redemptive story permeates.

 While some may argue that the only proper novel is one written by someone with a decidedly Christo-centric worldview, I would counter that God’s great redemption weaves it way through many stories, which is why C. S. Lewis cautioned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” God’s stories are everywhere.

6. Novels allow for paradox, causing us to ask the kinds of questions that help us search for God.

Some might argue fiction should always tout an obviously-redemptive message in order to impact the world for Christ. Barbara Nicolosi, the executive director of Act One, adds nuance to that notion, expanding the purpose of art to posing and allowing for questions that spark a spiritual journey. She writes, “Too many Christians think we are supposed to use the arts to give people the answers. We’re not. We’re supposed to use the arts to lead them into a question … Once they have a new question, they will be on a search—consciously or subconsciously. . . The arts can definitely send people delving.”

7. Reading novels critically helps us navigate the Scriptures better.

8. Reading a novel connects us to the Creator

Participating in the creative process of a fellow Christ-follower helps us better understand our Creator. Novelist Tosca Lee affirms, “I think we do great honor to God when we indulge in creativity or appreciate the work of another creative—a great act of worship considering that we are made in the image of the most creative Being in the Universe … I think we forget that God is not ascetic in nature, but the author of gorgeous details, panache and aesthetics that sometimes serve no other purpose than to reflect the extravagant character of the creator.” 

9. Reading a novel builds community.

 Meredith Efken believes “fiction is another form of art that helps us explore what it means to be human and helps express emotions and experiences in a way that connects us together.”

10. Reading stories brings us face to face with Jesus, the grand storyteller.

Some novels have destroyed lives, wreaked havoc. But there are novels that have instigated revolutions, restored hope, enacted life-giving legislation. We understand the landscape of redemption between the covers of a well-told story. And for those of us who have been transformed by The Greatest Story, the power of novels comes as no surprise.

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