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Reading The Bible Benefits Your Fiction Reading And Vice Versa

“The Bible is the definitive word on justification, but it is not the only word. If we benefit from sermons and theological articles on justification, we can benefit from literary portrayals of it. Theological exposition enables us to know the truth about justification intellectually. We experience that same truth when the doctrine of justification is embodied and incarnated in fictional images of justification. After all, the biblical images of the reclothed high priest and the tax collector who goes home justified are literary and fictional images of justification, belonging to the same genre as the stories of Shakespeare, Milton, and Hawthorne that I have surveyed.

“Within the Bible itself justification is presented in the complementary modes of theological exposition and literary images. I tell my students that it is possible to set up a profitable two-way street between the Bible and literature, with the Bible enabling me to see a lot in literature that I would otherwise miss, and literature enabling me to see and feel biblical truth better.”

Leland Ryken

HT: Justin Taylor


  1. Good question, Michael. I don’t really know. I don’t read much “Contemporary Christian” fiction, but what little I have has not demonstrated very much biblical understanding.

    Being immersed in Scripture is not the same as being immersed in pop psychology/therapeutic self-help of the “Christian” book/music industry.


    I know, it’s a broad stroke. I think it’s accurate, but am really not sure, so maybe I should qualify it with a “some.”

    But I’m sure there are plenty of examples of poor writing from true Bible students and can think of some myself.

    Good point.

    I often see the lack the other way. Bible teachers who don’t know our own language and literature well enough to be very effective with handling words, especially in diverse genres.

    Anyway, thanks for commenting. And thinking about this another way.

    Challenging. Love it!

  2. I think often in conservative circles of the church we have become suspicious of literature because it seems to imprecise. And of course many authors would not share our theological beliefs. Thus, we determine that whatever truth they might have to share, is incidental, and therefore, not valuable.

    I would argue for a different attitude altogether. One that looks for redemptive qualities in everything, including literature. One that sees the story of redemption being written all around us, by orthodox theologians and pagans alike. Here the value is in the Truth of the matter, whether articulated by a Roman Catholic (Tolkien), a Russian Orthodox (Dostoevsky), an Anglican (Lewis) or an atheist. Each indeed is particularly gifted at shedding light on a certain facet of that diamond of Truth.

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