Novels get a bad rap from some Christians. While we ought to plumb the depths of scripture, I think it is also beneficial to cover varied terrain. By that I mean reading broadly. There is a place for lighter reading, as in works of fiction. One of the reasons why people give up on reading is because they don’t enjoy it. Perhaps if we tried a varied diet, reading would become a more appetising prospect. Of course there are a lot of books to be avoided, just as there are TV shows, movies, music, and places to be avoided. We need to exercise sanctified wisdom and pick and choose carefully.
Fiction can provide an opportunity to relax while still using the mind in a meaningful way. In order to have down-time it shouldn’t always equate to sitting in front of the TV. Humorous stories for example can be easy to read and produce much soothing laughter all the while the reader has followed a carefully crafted and intelligent plot.
Fiction can take us on a journey into the lives of other people and other places. We encounter situations with which we are not familiar or perhaps comfortable. As such we are forced to think outside the box. Many stories are intended to bring the reader to that point of, “What would you do here; how would you feel; who is right and who is wrong?” In this way a novel can actually provoke godly qualities such as a sense of justice, fair play, empathy and forgiveness.
Fiction can be a good means of learning about history, politics, law, social customs, foreign cultures, and human nature among other things. And so rather than escaping from reality we gain a good dose of it. We may emerge from an historical narrative or a political thriller a great deal more informed. In reading Dickens one does not just meet unforgettable characters it is to journey through the landscape of Victorian England.
Fiction can be used to stimulate the imagination. Genres such as fantasy and science fiction lift the mind to unknown realms. It is a good thing to visualise with the mind what we cannot see with the eyes. The Bible calls us to do it all the time! An imagination that is never stimulated eventually dies.
Completing a book is always satisfying. It can also be greatly rewarding on many levels. Do not neglect to read the Bible; do not neglect to read Christian material, but do not think that it is a waste of time to extend the borders – even into the territory of fiction. Encourage yourself to read by engaging with authors, genres, and subjects which interest you.