Updated: Nov 1, 2019
Do novels written about men and women in the Bible damage our faith? Are they trying to replace scripture in our modern world? Is Bible Fiction offensive to God?
Confessions of a Fangirl
I love the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. I do not believe in magic, but I love the immersive world that Rowling creates for us. Like many Potter fans, I can answer trivia questions, debate subtle hints within the intricate plots, and wonder what prompted JK Rowling to write a particular person a certain way. There are entire websites set up to feed the fans of Harry Potter with new content, plus video games, theme parks, and merchandise. And of course, any true Potter-head knows their house. (I alternate between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff if you're curious.)
If classics are more your thing, you can join Jane Austen clubs where you defend Colin Firth as the “real” Mr. Darcy, never speak of the “other” Pride and Prejudice, champion your favorite heroine, and learn more about the clothes, customs, mannerisms, and households of the Georgian period. Super-fans dress up in Regency clothing and go to balls with their ever-patient, long-suffering husbands. (I have a costume tucked away myself!) The language of Jane Austen permeates a true Austen lover's daily speech. One time, when I worked in retail, a customer asked me where something was. Without pause, I replied, “I confess, I do not know.” (Blushes awkwardly)
So what is it about these books, one a modern fantasy series, and one a classic set of clever romance, that sets our imaginations on fire and makes us cry out for more and drives us to congregate with other fans to hash over every little detail? Considering the splendor of our Holy Scripture, shouldn't we have at least the same for the Bible?
We have conferences where believers gather. We have online Bible study groups, “fan” pages (blogs and faith posts), and forums. We have movies, music, merchandise, and in some ways, theme parks. (Nazareth in Israel is set up with people in costumes so you can interact with "history".) Immersive History is a start-up bringing the Bible to life in Virtual Reality! Every Christmas we do re-enactments, and die-hard fans meet weekly to discuss the latest fan-theories and go over the old ground to see what they might have missed.
So I guess you can say I am a fangirl of the Bible!
Of course, there is a big difference between our Bible fandoms and our fiction fandoms.
While there are a few who cry because they can't go to Hogwarts, most know that it is just a story. While the Regency era was real history, we know Pride and Prejudice is not something by which we guide every aspect of our lives.
The Bible is both true and can impact our personal lives and our eternity—if we let it. This type of fangirling doesn't change with trends or time. This isn't like being a Facebook follower, or an admirer, this is the ardent desire to be a part of the world and words of Jesus. It means chasing Jesus wherever He goes, trying to be like Him, letting God's likes and dislikes change our own. Of course, I'm just having fun with a modern word. In the Bible, this was called being a disciple.
Enter fan fiction. Some readers love a fiction series so much, that when the author sets down their pen, the fans pick it up and run with it. Everybody knows that this isn't canon, but they enjoy it anyway.
This is where my own definition of being a fangirl comes into play with Bible Fiction.
The very name “Bible Fiction” sets some people's teeth on edge. Go scroll any comments on Bible Fiction on Goodreads, or explore the sites of a Bible Fiction author, and you are very likely to find someone who says something like this:
“The Bible is perfect the way it is. Why are you trying to add to it? Making the Scriptures into a story takes away from the truth and waters it down. No thanks. I'm going to stick to real gospel truth and I think you should do the same!”
I get the emotion behind statements like this, but this isn't the point of Bible Fiction at all!
To come at it from a familiar angle, we sing hymns and worship songs without any concern that we're taking away from the Bible, even when the songs go beyond word-by-word scripture. The point of the hymn is worship, but it is also a very practical tool.
- for most people, it's easier to memorize a song
- it brings our heart into the scripture, the melody can serve to tie words to our emotional
lives, causing it to automatically come to our mind in times of joy or sorrow
-it can drive the singer to go search out the verse in scripture, to see the whole story
Bible Fiction is designed to function in the same way.
While there are those who can read the bare scripture and imagine the emotions, settings, descriptions, and physical senses that wrap around the story, not everyone can. Good Bible Fiction dives head first into scripture and presents all those details, yet the reader asks, “Did that really happen like that?” The reader finds themselves turning back to the Bible for the real story. Every Christian author who writes for the glory of God prays that their story will help turn the people's hearts back to God! It's not that the Bible isn't enough, this is just a different way to approach it, like listening to Christian podcasts, going to conferences, or singing worship music.
Yes, it can be abused by those who simply want the entertainment without the substance, but anything good can be used badly, even (or especially) something as powerful as the Bible. It takes balance on the part of the consumer. I watched Mel Gibson's The Passion and sobbed over my role in Jesus' death like I never have before (thanks to brilliant acting), but to watch that violence over and over would be bad for me.
Most likely, You ALREADY consume/create Bible Fiction.
Go tell a child the story of Noah and the Ark from memory. Add a couple of actions, throw in a light-hearted sidebar when the child asks you if there were puppies on the ark, and Bam! You just created Bible Fiction, your own take on a real story.
Bible Fiction is NOT new.
Our generation is probably the most literate ever. Even just a couple hundred years ago, in a world where most people could not read, the Bible was retold from memory by those who heard the story from the pulpit. You can bet your boots that each family had a slightly different version of the basic story, or emphasized a different angle of the same story to suit their audience.
My heart in writing Bible Fiction is to make the Bible feel real for me, and for you.
I would write Bible fiction just for myself, but eventually, I would fizzle out. When you've got a passion you need to share it, whether it's music, art, poetry, technology, architecture, or anything you feel God laid on your heart and in your hands. This desire to write leads me to study more, to research Bible history, and connect to other believers.
I have written two books that are considered Bible fiction. Dividing Sword explores the challenges of encountering Christ through the eyes of fictional cousins Beth, the wife of Peter, and Reuben, an ambitious Pharisee.
As the Stars is a collection of 45 Bible fiction short stories that journey through the Bible, digging into the heart of men and women like Rahab, Gideon, or Silas.
So where do you fall, does Bible Fiction build or destroy faith?
Bible Fiction lover or not, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts!