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Are fictional writings a form of untruth?

We respond to a comment that fiction writing is ‘untruth’.

by

Published: 3 November 2020 (GMT+10)
Christian-fiction-books

In our article Is otherworldly science fiction biblical?, I responded to a question on whether it was appropriate for Christians to write science fiction stories about alien life on other worlds. In short, I pointed out that:

  • Not all science fiction is bad. Some just promotes concepts of the future and certain proposed advanced technologies. But most science fiction today has themes about intelligent and sentient life forms populating the rest of the universe (see Evolution and the Science of Fiction).
  • That these modern concepts of extraterrestrial life are based upon evolution occurring elsewhere in the universe. And the foundation of this is the big bang which provides an estimated evolutionary age for the universe of c.13.7 billion years.
  • Because this particular form of science fiction has its origin in mainstream evolutionary science, it promotes not just fictional ideas but worldview concepts that are antibiblical and displace the Creator God from the origins story.
  • That ideas of intelligent life elsewhere are anti-Gospel for a number of reasons as demonstrated in our position statement at Did God Create Life on Other Planets? (Note: if you decide to comment on this last point, please ensure you read the linked article first).
  • The ideas about advanced ETs can lead people directly into areas of spiritual deception and activity as amply demonstrated in the book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the evolution connection. And also testified to during interviews with many former ‘alien abductees’ in the movie Alien Intrusion: Unmasking a Deception.
  • Therefore, while all fiction is not bad, Christians should not promote imaginary concepts that can lead people astray into anti-God ideas. Romans 15:1 reminds us that “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

The Is otherworldly science fiction biblical? article received a lot of comments including this one from Michael S. who wrote:

“By definition, fiction is UNTRUTH. Jesus Christ is TRUTH. Surely our preference should be toward Him. The more we know Him and love him, the more we will turn away from UNTRUTH. The two cannot happily exist together.” (Emphases in original).

One might wonder why CMI would respond to whether writing fiction stories is some type of sin, perhaps. After all, CMI is a ministry that attempts to uphold biblical truth.

The first thing that came to mind is that Jesus spoke in parables. Were all these parables actual events or was Jesus using stories to teach us? Most commentators throughout history believe that the parables are stories or analogies. And surely no Christian would think that Jesus was using sinful or ungodly methods to teach people. Even a righteous ‘end’ should never justify ungodly means. Jesus was using these stories as a convenient and also simple way to teach and to convey truth. Jesus used at least 30 distinct parable stories, including ten in Matthew 13 alone. They are:

  1. The Sower and the Soils (Matthew 13:1-9)
  2. The Reason for Parables (Matthew 13:10-17)
  3. The Explanation of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23)
  4. The Tares (Matthew 13:24-30)
  5. The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)
  6. The Leaven (Matthew 13:33)
  7. The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
  8. The Costly Pearl (Matthew 13:45-46)
  9. The Dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50)
  10. The Householder (Matthew 13:52)

We are all familiar with the concept of parables so there is no need to exhaustively go through them. Indeed, these simplified explanations have been used on young and old alike for generations. But let’s very briefly look at two which are often cited as a pair just as an example. The parables of the Hidden Treasure and The Costly Pearl.

The Hidden Treasure (Matt. 13:44). Jesus said:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

The Costly Pearl (Matt. 13:45–46). Jesus said:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Of course, sermons have been written on single parables, but this is not our aim here. A simple analogy is that a man, who obviously has possessions of his own, finds something of far greater worth—the Gospel. His earthly wares pale into comparison with the unspeakable joys and riches of where the Gospel that he found will lead him, which is to eternal life in Heaven.

Jesus was also asked why he spoke in parables. In Matt. 13: 10–17 we read:

“Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

The parables of Jesus are quite brilliant. For those who want to hear and understand, the truth was quite evident. They might even reveal greater mysteries of the Kingdom to those on the ‘inside’, and to conceal the truth to some on the ‘outside’ Why was this?

One Bible website has a nice simple explanation. “Unwillingness on the part of the people to receive Jesus’ message of the kingdom was the reason that He taught in parables. The truths of the kingdom of God were heard by them but not understood. It was not because God was hiding the truth from them-it was because they did not want to hear.”

Does the Bible contain fiction?

creation-science-club

Now, skeptics might claim here that CMI is saying that the Bible contains fiction and therefore untruths. If Jesus was using fictional stories then the comment that Michael S. made that ”fiction is UNTRUTH” is going to be problematic for our inerrant view of Scripture. CMI’s Russell Grigg explained in Should Genesis be taken literally? that “the Bible obviously contains … parables—as in many of the sayings of Jesus, such as the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3–23), which Jesus Himself clearly states to be a parable and about which He gives meanings for the various items, such as the seed and the soil.”

Summary

We believe that Scripture should always be used as a frame of reference for understanding our world. In short, for discernment. Note in the two parables I wrote about Jesus indicates they are stories by also using terms such as “is like a treasure” or “is like a man”. The fact that the Creator Himself is using fictional stories to teach and convey biblical and spiritual truths, can be our guide also. This is why I cautioned against writing science fiction stories that convey ideas that are opposite to or against biblical truths. As my colleague Lita Cosner (our New Testament specialist) mentioned to me “A fictional story that everyone knows is fictional is not a lie.” Jesus always let us know when He was going to tell us a story to convey the truths of the Kingdom.

Incidentally, we carry fiction only in the form of children’s books and videos such as our Creation Science Club  novels which are designed to show the flaws of evolution and the truth of biblical creation. Or the book One Big Family (coauthored with my wife), where we attempt to dispel the notion of ‘races’ from a biblical perspective.

Helpful Resources

Alien Intrusion
by Gary Bates
US $16.00
Soft Cover
Creation Science Club
by John and Lisa Fox
US $35.00
Soft Cover
One Big Family
by Gary and Frances Bates
US $12.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Terry D P.
The one piece of “science fiction” which we should all avoid like the plague/pandemic is Darwin’s “Origin of Species”, because it contradicts God’s account of creation expressed in the Bible. Whose word would you trust, God’s Word in the Bible or Darwin’s word in “Origin of Species”?
Nicholas S.
We show our grandchildren a computer graphic animated story series theme based initially on a fictional future. Solve their current day circumstance problems by going back in time into an open Bible via a time tunnel, into Biblical stories. Interact with characters and stories of the Bible, to learn from positive Biblical outcomes, then apply to present day problems. God’s remedy in present lives. Learn from God’s wisdom and apply it to everyday decision making, to follow God’s will in their lives. The Bible, God’s Love Letters to us, as applicable yesterday as it is today Evolution: (abstract) theory fiction life visiting from the universe, is trying to undermine the profound gravity of Jesus' Salvation work on the cross, His death then Resurrection, defeating death, which is the fulfilment of our Salvation.Energy: All expended and potentially yet to expend civil and defence nuclear energy to accelerate a one tonne spacecraft to light speed; same to decelerate at destination; same to accelerate for flight home; same to decelerate at home i.e. 4 times world nuclear energy crammed into a one tonne (only) spacecraft. Accelerate to speed of light: According to Albert Einstein, illustrated with an exponential graph, the closer an accelerating object approaches the speed of light, the exponentially greater is its mass. At the speed of light: mass is infinite. Unsurvivable

Time and distance: Nearest spiral arm galaxy is 2,500,000 light years.

Evolution abstract: trying to turn ufos fictional, into abstract pseudo ‘factual’.

Focus: On fulfilling the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20. Our time on this earth is short, Psalm 39:4-5, personally support and personally give the Gospel of Salvation to as many as possible. From us, knowing Creation to Salvation to Revelation.
Gary Bates
Have you checked our site for what we have written about these subjects? For example, please read More space travel problems: g-forces.
Wendy R.
My husband and I came across an idea many years ago which we've always found to be true: "The best stories are a reflection of THE story". In other words, any (fictional) story that is in line with God's own story in the Bible resonates deep within us and tends to enrich and uplift and, in most cases, teaches us truths in quite subtle ways. The advertising world has made most of us aware of the power of subliminal messages, so why deliberately fill our minds with messages which are contrary to God's truth by reading stories based on untruth and outright error?
Yuki T.
The Anime and Manga medium is possibly the greatest medium when it comes to this because it includes every possible genre and subgenre, it presents things with the most beautiful and stylish appearance, there is something for everyone regardless of age or occupation (although in eternity we do not have ages anyway so it is the same), it goes beyond mere cliche fiction and entartainment and into much more meaningful aspects of life since the concept of anime is part of almost every industry and aspect of mankind and also goes to a personal level, while most of the time it keeps strong Biblical themes within the multitudinous anime franchises. There is especially a consistent emphasis in anime about divine creation that has a purpose (everything is created by a supreme being and has a purpose to fullfill), salvation (people are a special creation that have free will and their sins require judgement so they need some way to be saved) and the afterlife (the largest amount of anime franchises have a significant emphasis on the afterlife in heaven and hell within the spirit world while those who do not mention much in the lore, assume the afterlife by default)

Lastly, this is speculative but i think it is fair to go as far as to say that anime is essentialy an attribute of the Image of God and part of the general revelation of God to mankind because even though the Gospel reached late over there, anime presents everything in the most meaningful and pleasing way, most of the anime worlds have been created from the desire for eternity and beauty that God has placed within the souls of all people and it this is also why anime has so beautiful aesthetics and heartwarming feelings, the various anime worlds are what people hope for how life will look like with Jesus in eternity.
Gary Bates
Respectfully, you've made a huge generalization about anime and manga animations by claiming that they contain biblical themes. No doubt you are a fan of the genre but I cannot see how in any shape or form they are representative of biblical stories and what heaven and the afterlife might be like. In fact, I think trying to draw analogies between an animation genre and biblical truths is quite bizarre. Whilst there might be the occasional one that ventures into spiritual themes, your comment is rather like saying all movies contain biblical themes, just because a handful of them do.

David C.
Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is on my must reads. One of the main underlying currents in Philip's novels, as far as I can tell, is the fact that he loves asking the question: 'What is real? What is fake?' and Genesis does have a lot of this. Yes, obviously Creationists totally, totally, totally... disagree but if you have a Genesis storyline in the beginning with Eve formed from a man's vertebrate anatomy and a serpent, that has slipped back up the great chain of being order, allowed into what we are led to believe is perfect paradise, then we fringe around a possible story without reality, or to put it another way science fiction. The dilemma is that the narrator of Genesis understood that eliminating science is important, because God can do anything but it doesn't quite work if the brief was to script something that proved that science was created by God and the future of mankind was about understanding science, which we do very well. Eg, areas of science once perceived as Satan's work in areas such as virulence, the capacity to cause disease, varies markedly among viruses, so which area is Satan in charge of? Fiction can teach you about the real world, as Genesis attempts, provide escapism and can bring history to life, which Genesis confusingly attempts to but remains like Goya's 'fight with cudgels' – two men stuck in a quagmire of mud fighting between fiction and science. Read more sci/fiction! JG Ballard the drowned world is possibly the post great flood.
Gary Bates
Your disparaging comments about the Creation account in Genesis are due to your naturalistic assumptions about how the universe came to be. If God is the One who created the universe, then He is not limited by the laws of the time/space universe He created. He is a supernatural being, and another way of thinking about this term is that He is 'above' nature. Miracles are not a violation of natural law, they are an addition to it. And, in fact, one could use operational science to determine when a miracle has taken place. Creationists do not reject science, as you have implied. To say such a thing means you are not well read about what Creationists believe. There is a difference between operational science and alleged one-off evolutionary events that occurred in the past, and that no one has ever seen or been albe to repeat. Please read this article which defines what science actually is. And this article might help you understand the concept of an external supernatural Creator.
Richard H.
I don't know if this has been mentioned or not, but I wonder if Michael S. considers christians as actors, portraying unreal people, as sinning when they portray these people? The people being portrayed are not real, so is that also untruth and therefore unbiblical to him? Such thinking as his strikes me as absurd and short-sighted.
David G.
I've read a fair amount of science fiction. Apart from Philip Dick's work, I conclude that they are basically cowboys and Indians with different gear.
Gary Bates
I have written about the concept of good versus evil in my book Alien Intrusion. However, if these cowboys and indians you mention are sentient aliens living on other planets, but not created by God, then they must have evolved. That promotes an unbiblical concept.
James V.
The parables of the Lord Jesus never involved anything fictional. They were always based on reality, what occurs in the real world that any man can see and observe (even apart from the question of whether He had a particular event in mind); and He used those realities to teach spiritual truths that no man can see or observe apart from being taught of God.
Gary Bates
The Lord Jesus Himself used words such as 'is like' which indicates it did not actually occur. This was mentioned in the article. The whole essence of this article is whether any fiction at all is a form of lying. Your assumption is that Jesus could not say anything that was fictional or not real. However, he was using stories to convey spiritual truths. Moreover, if you re-read the article, i mentioned where the disciples actually asked Him why He was speaking in parables, because they recognized the parables as stories.
Matthew C.
I have enjoyed science-fiction since I was a kid (a long time ago!}. I don’t care for the books/movies/comics when they preach evolution as a fact. I also write stories and finished a science-fiction novel That takes place on another planet but there are no aliens or even any life forms other than humans. I debated whether God could have perhaps created animals on other planets but decided to stay clear of that and just dwell on human reactions in hostile environments.
Gary Bates
Many Christians wonder why the universe is so big (but of course it is only big to us). Please read Did God Create Life on Other Planets? Would the concept of simple life forms or animals (not humans) be a problem? Try reading Is the Bible Falsifiable?
Dawn K.
Thank you for the article. As a new Christian, this was an issue I struggled with and my artistic output suffered for many years. But the arts often bypass the thinking mind and speak directly to the heart. Fiction in many forms is gobbled up by people. Should we continue to turn this powerful form of communication solely over to satanic influence? I say “No!” Thank you for inspiring me and reminding me how important a role Christians can play in counterbalancing the ungodly influences in our culture.
Neal P.
NO MAN IN EDEN written by H.L. Myra in 1969 was a fascinating Christian science fiction book that I enjoyed. This was at the beginning of our space travel. It was exciting to read. I was "deep" enough in Christian theology to remain firm in what is TRUTH and what was written in the book for curious wonderment. It made me wonder what we are going to do for all of eternity. And, though fiction, it gave me the confidence that we are NOT going to be attending endless church services! Out of that came my desire to compose the score for the SYMPHONY OF THE STARS! Our creative genius will be restored! And for all of eternity we will be active in bringing pleasure to God, for that was the purpose of our creation: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." Rev 4:11.
Gary Bates
For what the heavenlies are going to be like, and what we will be doing there, I recommend reading The New Earth.
Philip P.
Great article . I have certainly learned from it. Thank you
Sam H.
I absolutely love fiction...mysteries, westerns, science fiction, fantasy. Going into a fictional story, I know it is all fake...just entertainment. I enjoy being immersed into a different world and seeing what problems exist there. In my opinion, I like that fiction stories use evolutionary concepts. Why? Evolution is science fiction already. Every time fiction is written using evolutionary concepts, it just shows to me how easy evolution fits into a fictional story. Evolution is just scientific storytelling...but now lets add characters into it that interact with each other. On the other hand, I do not like the idea of "biblical" science fiction. If it is fiction, then it is not biblical...fiction cannot save you from your sins. If a fiction draws you away from God...stop reading it. If fiction draws you closer to God...by all means keep reading it.
Christopher J R.
When I was younger I had terrifying dreams that I could not escape. Often they would take a form in which I was a third person not involved in the unravelling story but forced to observe until safely awake again. Some nights I would stay awake to avoid the nightmares.

When the Lord Jesus found me and carried me back to the fold the content of the dreams became worse. Sharing this with a caring Christian lady, her advise was to write.

Within the first week of beginning to write, with the express purpose of telling a story which would appeal to nonbelievers, but ultimately bring their attention and eyes to the Lord, the nightmares stopped.

There is something in the creativity of fiction, even science fiction that echoes us being made in God's image, we are made to be creative.

The definition of fiction is something made up, the purpose is to entertain. I agree it is sad when people can't distinguish between what is real and what is fiction, I had a colleague once claim something was true because Batman did it, but this is surely a failure of our secular education systems rather than rebellion against Biblical truth, our world is after all quite post Christian, which points to God's power when people are saved.

Granted, some authors without realising due to worldly doctorines, promote evolution, some may even wilfully do so, but we cannot broad brush all fiction nor all Sci-fi.

As a Christian fiction writer I am conscious not to lead my readers into untrue beliefs but to perhaps take the assumed and turn it around to glorify God.

Keep up the good work CMI, your articles on Science fact are truly inspiring.
David W.
What is appropriate reading material is an area where Christians will have freedom to disagree. The key is to make sure you have a solid Biblical worldview so that you can be discerning. This not only applies to fiction, but all books. Probably 50% (I believe I am being generous here) of the theological books on the shelf at the average "Christian" bookstore in the US are heretical. However, many become best sellers because Christians are not properly grounded in God's Word. I would argue that reading even bad science fiction is better than reading 50% of the theological works sold today. At least with fiction, you know up front what you are reading is fiction.
One thing all Christians should do is read the Bible, the WHOLE Bible, and preferably using some systematic plan. This plan can be as simple as stating at Genesis 1:1 and reading to Revelation 22:21. I believe it is critically important to read the Bible cover to cover, not just cherry pick you favorite passages. By reading the Bible cover to cover, you get a fuller understanding of God's character and his whole plan of redemption. This is critical today when there are so many books out there (both fiction and NON-fiction) that misrepresent God's character and how he saves sinners.
Eddie C.
The funny thing is just about all good fiction borrows concepts from the Bible. The concept of good, evil, struggle, overcoming and sacrifice are ingrained in the human psyche, its the story we tell over and over again. These things speak to us at a deep level because we know there is a greater truth to them. Now not all fiction gets a pass, often mingled in are sinful desires, humanistic ideas, and false religious narrative. But, storytelling has been an integral part of how we as humans communicate to one another. Jesus used parables because we can relate to the stories with logic and emotion. Take the parable of the good Samaritan. Even the Jews who in their heart despised the Samaritans realized the truth in Jesus's tale. The Samaritan's actions were self-sacrificial and suddenly he's not a 'dog' but Jesus has made him human, and a good human at that. Something we aspire to be and are still convicted to this day because we know deep down that we should be like the good Samaritan. Was this story true? We don't know for sure, but probably not. Did it speak truth though, yes it did, and it even convicted of our short-comings. What does it truly mean to 'love your neighbor'? We know because of the good Samaritan parable.
Frank G.
There should be no doubt that everything presented in the Bible as history is just that, and not fiction. I've long wondered, though, about the book of Job. Given its particular poetic style, it doesn't seem to me as though it's written to be taken as literal history. Perhaps it's a poeticized, and thus fictionalized, account of a Job's actual experience? What do you think?
Gary Bates
I definitely think the book of Job is meant to be taken as real history. It particularly gives us an insight as to what went on in the heavenlies. Of course Job could not see this, but he made one of the most profound statements in the Bible when he proclaimed that his redeemer lives and that he would stand upon the Earth and see him with his own eyes. A brilliant insight into the fact that the Creator God would be able to resurrect his body in a restored creation.
Alf F.
I think the question is one of growth in Christ. Fictional stories which convey no ungodly concepts fall into the same category as drawings or sculptures. Unless a sculpture or image is made for the purpose of being worshipped, it is not necessarily a sinful thing. Even the Ark of the Covenant had images of angels on it, and the snake on the staff used by Moses was legit until it became an object of worship. There are parables in the Old Testament as well, and Jesus never faulted them. Even the dreams of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnessar are a form of "fiction". If an unbeliever takes the Bible to task over such an issue, we need not answer them, they do not believe. But a believer, in their path of growth to maturity, must learn to accept all Scripture in its various contexts as God-breathed. "Fiction" outside of the Bible must always ultimately be judged against Biblical standards. All of us indulge in fiction (not necessarily lying) frequently, if we think about it carefully. The Bible judges thusly: if whatever it is is not "in Christ", it will be burned up with fire. If it is "in Christ", it will endure forever. So, it is not the art or the story that counts, as much as the purpose and origin. The question is: is it dissipation, or is it edifying? Is is it done in love, or innocently? Then it is not sin. But as we grow in Christ, our lives become, with our consent and express will, more and more consumed by the things of God, until we have no more appetite for the pleasures or pastimes of the world. We then recognise that God can save a man through a phone directory, yet He does not need directories to save men. Phones are a choice, but the corpus of Scripture is settled, eternal and indispensable to us in the grand scheme of creation.
Mike C.
... but I delight in authors like Patricia St John who write fiction to teach godly principles. I suppose I discern the spirit of the book, and on that basis read it or put it back. But most of my effort now must go into reading and thinking about the bible. But, from time to time, biographical accounts, both Christian and non-Christian can be very informing and thoughtful.
Mike C.
As a young man, I used to feast on science fiction, reading 12 books a week from the local libraries. When God got hold of me and I came into the Spirit at 23, I abandoned all this feeling that it was all a substitute for spiritual truth and that my appetite should be satisfied only by truth. Since then, and I am 75, I have read no fiction, not wanting to waste my time on it. Christian friends have read CS Lewis, but I have no appetite whatsoever for his allegories, and I find Harry Potter and the like most foul.
John P.
Thanks Gary. Godly guidance and a great article as is your article "Is otherworldly science fiction biblical?" Having read lots of scifi and had heaps of books on it and fantasy I know from experience it's not. Eventually I disposed of most of my collection. Having been sexually abused at boarding school which started me off reading the stuff and being in the trenches in spiritual warfare much of my life, it did not help me. There may be some truth in fiction but it is best to take these stories as a grain of salt, as entertainment, and to dodge any with antichristian bent. Some fantasy writers, for example, mentioned witchcraft as their "hobby". The stories I read from C.S.Lewis I did not find helpful either. I've also read Tolkien and Cordwainer Smith. God provides, though, and we should never forget what an amazing God He is, as King David mentioned in one of his psalms-who is man that God should be mindful of him? God created the universe for our and His benefit and He is bigger than the universe He created yet is interested in even the little things as I've also learnt.

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