Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wherein I Explain My Reading Habits

A young Christian lady with whom I am friends recently commented on Christian fiction. (This is a different lady than the one I am mentoring). She was not talking about books such as the Janette Oke series where fictional characters live in certain historic periods and whose faith is an integral part of the story. No, she was talking about Christian authors who take a person from the Bible and "flesh out" the life and character, stretching a few verses into an entire book of many chapters and many "adventures" These authors then stretch a series of characters to create an entire series of books.

Then there are "Christian" fiction such as the Left Behind series. When the first book in the series came out it seemed that all my friends were well acquainted with them. And so I borrowed the first volume from the church library. I made it through two chapters before I put it down, never to pick it up again.

The Left Behind series has since grown to sixteen volumes of fiction. And I emphasize the word "fiction". I am glad I have not read them. I do not want my Biblical knowledge messed up with the things of these books. First, I do not agree with the authors' eschatology (the study of the end times). And if I do not agree with their eschatology how can I affirm all else that they write? And why in the world would I look to them for answers that I can find in the Bible? And if I am willing to spend the time to read sixteen volumes, why not take that time to read and study the Bible itself? Do you know how much time it takes to read sixteen volumes?

In the 1970s I read two-thirds of the way through Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth. I did not agree with his eschatology, either, and when I got to that part in his book, I put it down, never to pick it up again. It's interesting to note that Lindsey predicted the end of the world would occur sometime in the 1980s. Well, guess what! It didn't. To my way of thinking that ends any prophetic authority on Lindsey's part. Why should I listen to him forty years later in regards to the end times when he loused it up the first time? Doesn't that put him in the category, surely close to the category, of having made a false prophecy? (If you like the guy, well, then I guess you like the guy.)

I once tried reading a Christian fiction book based on Rahab of the Old Testament. Rahab is mentioned in a few short verses and then her name appears again in the New. Because I was interested in Rahab and in the fact that she is honored by being named in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, I thought I would enjoy the book. But again, I couldn't get past the first chapter or two. There was so much more "added" detail...superfluous things that were simply conjectures on the part of the author. I did not want my mind messed up with additional details that were just...well...just fiction.

My point is this...if you want to read more about the heroes/villains of the Bible, why not go to the Bible itself? Many people read through the Bible every year. Last year I availed myself of a chronological reading and really enjoyed it. (You do know, don't you, that the Bible is not printed in strict chronological order!?)

Or how about using a down-loadable program such as e-Sword to search names and phrases and which offers several commentaries as well!

I really like my NASB reference Bible because it helps me cross reference to other verses that help explain a particular verse or phrase.

I also like the ESV Study Bible and the ESV Classic Reference Bible, and the Reformation Study Bible.

I don't mind if you enjoy reading Christian fiction...I'm just outlining some of the reasons that I do not.

P.S. History channel offers programs on Bible subjects...I just want to say I do not consider them "history" nor do I see them as accurate in their convoluted surmisings of the things of the Bible. Just my humble opinion.

P.P.S. Lying in bed early this morning I'm thinking you probably think I read nothing but the Bible! Not true!

Books just finished:
Perelandra, 1944, C.S. Lewis (liked)
North to Freedom, Anne Holms (supposed to be inspiring but I found it a bit unreal)
On the Beach, 1957, Nevil Shute (Terrifying but interesting)
Large stack of gardening, cooking, decorating magazines purchased for 10 cents apiece at my neighbor's yard sale. (I cut out a lot of recipes and deco ideas.)

Currently reading:
Kevin DeYoung's The Good News We almost Forgot.
A nifty 1888 hardback (original) I found somewhere at another yard sale, Short History of the Modern Church in Europe by John F. Hurst, D.D.
And Mayo Clinic: Guide to Women's Cancers (for obvious reasons)

And blogs...I read a lot of your blogs.



Pilgrim Mommy said...

I agree with you, Whitestone. Fictional works like these come a little too close to tampering with scripture for my liking. My pet peeve is the invention of a romantic story line that is not in the text. Isn't the Biblical account enough? The Author certainly didn't leave anything out.

Gregg said...

Great post today! Not that you don't post great everyday, but this is one of your greatest!

You are so right, we do a tremendous disservice with fiction. I agree with PM about the fact that they "tamper with Scripture."

There are some good books in addtion to Scripture, but fiction is just that. Why add, subtract, or change the Scriptural Text for commercialization.

Today's post is a sermon all need to hear: you go girl!

Caroline said...

I read what I like.. .including a lot of blogs. I have funny reasons for not liking some books. For example, when I was young I hated reading books written in the first person and I have no idea why but I would not touch them. I always scan a book before selecting it to make sure I like the writing style - regardless of the topic. I dislike science fiction and fantasy - I never quite get it. I am hopeless addicted to trashy novels (but not smutty ones) and read as many as I can get my hands on. But we are all entitled to our own opinions...

Debra said...

I agree.
I always thought that the Left Behind series authors should come out with a Left Behind bookcase. I did read most of them, but don't agree with their opinions either. And I stay away from the fiction because I'd rather read the real thing from Him.
Great post.

Kelly said...

I love to read and that includes Christian Fiction. I'll admit I've read some of the kind you're referring to, but I've also read a lot that are in that category because they don't have profanity and the characters speak of God, their faith, etc. Books that don't necessarily "preach", but rather "inspire". Hmmm... maybe that's just called "Inspirational Fiction"!

Have you read the other two in C.S. Lewis' sci-fi trilogy? (Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength) It's been some years since I read them, but I remember I liked all three.

As for Hal Lindsey's book... you have to question someone's eschatology when they give a specific timeframe for the end of the world considering that goes directly against scripture!

Anonymous said...

Whitestone, Great post! I read a couple of fictionalized Bible character books years ago - Lydia and I forgot the other.. I remember having mixed feelings. The dean of our Bible college used to joke about using our "sanctified imaginations" - Well, to a point it's good to ponder the life and times of the people. But I'm with you. Why not study the Scriptures, and use a good Bible atlas and dictionary to help fill in the historic/cultural details. Why blur the lines of what has written - feels dangerous to me.

I loved Perelandra.
Allegory/fantasy is different, I think. Did you also read "Out of the Silent Planet" and will you be reading "That Hideous Strength"? It's been years for me; another round is on my "must read again" list!

What a blessing to find your blog!

S. Etole said...

Lots of nodding in agreement here ...

Carmen said...

I don't read a lot of christian fiction either. I have read some of the Left Behind series, and just kind of got bored with it. Too speculative. I've also read the Joel Rosenberg books, but preferred Epicenter, which was non-fiction. I still prefer reading the Bible to all of that, and you're right, we have to be careful not to confuse ourselves with all the other stuff. Anyhow, this was a really good post!! Thanks for sharing!

Cat Rocketship said...

Came in to say Hi! and I LOVE On the Beach. Dad recommended it to me back in high school. I have a penchant for books and movies about apocalypses - interesting given the Left Behind discussion. :)

On the Beach is also a terrific movie, starring Gregory Peck. Quiet, methodical, moving.

And also - apparently reading multiple books at once runs in the family.

Relyn said...

I tend to agree with you and don't read those books myself. However, my mom and many other women I greatly admire for their faith and wisdom read them and find them convicting and helpful in illuminating scripture. I'm thinking largely of Francine Rivers' books. I think as long as you are reading scripture, too, and careful what books you read - there is no harm. More importantly, I love your focus on being in the word. That is paramount.

Interesting topic to tackle here. Kudos.

Boonsong said...

This is an interesting post. Thanks for this.

Best regards, Boonsong

Lindsay Peters said...

Thanks for your words of wisdom. Your opinion is slowly changing mine. The things I read have to be monitored more carefully, as I am all too easily influenced by what I read. I'm currently trying to get into a new genre, and I'm reading biographies about missionaries. I'm really enjoying it so far. Anyway, thank you for what you said. I really do appreciate it. :D