In my opinion, one of the most dangerous trends in fiction today is the admixture of truth and fiction. Mixing truth with fiction renders the truth fictitious and the fiction believable as truth. The line between the two blurs and in the end we believe a lie. If we had a society that valued and knew history, we might not need to be so concerned. After all, people would distinguish fiction from history. Unfortunately, as a result of decades of historical deconstructionists debunking and fictionalizing history in prestigious public and private Colleges and Universities, we have an “educated” population that is historically challenged. They are also theologically ignorant since faculty and administrators who exchanged the truth for a lie pushed theology into the cloakroom or placed modernist deconstructionists at the helm of their schools of divinity. The excellent scholarship in private Evangelical seminaries and Universities has been marginalized. Voices of those crying out in the wilderness are no longer listened to, while fiction grows increasingly twitterized (tweets have no accountability and can make any claim their creators choose).
The success of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is one example. Brown irresponsibly transforms Jesus, Mary, and his mother, Mary (all real people in history), into his “fictional” characters, making them historically unrecognizable to satisfy his own creative purposes. The ignorant person–who knows little or nothing about historiography or the historical documents of the New Testament–will think that they now understand and know something of the great historic cover-up at work behind religion. Historically it’s all smoke and mirrors. Truth lost in fancy. But . . . It’s OK because “after all, it’s only fiction.” Because it’s fiction is no reason to allow authors to irresponsibly libel real people who lived nobly, righteously and had excellent reputations.
Unfortunately, The Shack, though commending itself by its desire to offer healing and unique perspective, must be included as another example. God, the Father, morphing into whatever people can best accept in order to win their ear or heart, is simply not who God is. Yet the author has presented the real God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit (real persons in history) as Aunt Jemimah, Surfer Joe, and the gardener, respectively. This portrayal seems innocent enough and may have been done with the best of pre-evangelistic motives. Unfortunately, those who have little or no biblical understanding of the unchanging nature of God the Father or the eternal uniqueness of the Son of God now have a distorted view that flies in the face of the careful revelation of God’s character and person in Christ. Now God and Jesus appear to each person in whatever form makes them feel most comfortable. A far cry from what is revealed in Scripture and in Christ himself. This portrayal may have disastrous consequences without intentional follow-up among the novel’s readership. Though I would have no way of knowing for sure, I doubt that such follow-up was the plan of the author and publisher.
Fiction presents truth, but is not true. Fiction portrays truth. Fiction is not the problem. The best fiction and art are simply ways of more clearly seeing truth through metaphor, simile, and signs. When readers understood this, fiction served us well. However, when fiction turns the corner and attempts to itself become truth, we slip into the great lie. This is a spirit, not a worldview or trend in literature or publishing. This spirit has ulterior motives that those who traffic with it will learn in disastrous ways (if only C.S. Lewis were alive today).
Mankind has always had a way of exchanging the truth for a lie. Abandoning the truth projected ancient cultures into darkness (Rom. 1.18-32). This same error has brought Western culture, in particular, to the precipice. No wonder we are considered to be the great Satan. We stand at the brink of the horrendous lie that will ultimately consume our age. We are partnering with the wrong spirit.
Evangelicals dare not be smug about this either. The “Left Behind” series makes the same mistake. Portraying a fictive worldview as biblical when in reality, the fantastic end times portrayal is only one possible view of several end times scenarios–and that one least likely and a late-comer (nineteenth century) on the scene. Departed from apostolic teaching at several key points, it passes itself off as biblical historic Christianity. Though we have much in common with its proponents (the centrality of Christ, his death and resurrection, and the authority of Scripture) the errors stand as a glaring divide between their sincere but misguided interpretation of the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” and the actual meaning of that last book of the Bible. The biblical warning–that those who add to or take away from that prophecy will pay a huge price, answering directly to Christ–should have inspired caution and humility. Jesus himself spoke that word of caution, for a reason. As it is, with a series of novels, books about the novels, a slew of websites, and products galore, the temptation was too much and the damage may already be done.
God himself is the author of truth. Truth is his main concern. He will stand over and protect it. He will not restore it to us until we have wandered so far from it that we cry out to Him.
God’s enemy, the Adversary, is a liar. He opposes God’s truth by every means available. He benefits most when the line between history and fiction is blurred. He would gladly do away with truth. We know therefore that this trend must be carefully and cautiously discerned. Who best to do that?
One could honestly argue that all great literature mixed truth with fiction. Dante populated hell with real people who existed at that time in Italy. They seem fictional to us because the names are unfamiliar to the modern reader. But to Dante and his audience, he had assigned actual local people and families to the horrific subterranean chambers of Hades.
I believe I know how we got here, but I’m convinced that unless the people of God discern and intercede, this trend will not be reversed. In any case, authors and publishers have a responsibility that goes beyond the writing and marketing of their books for profit. They have a responsibility before God to reverse the trend, by thoughtful writing and publishing of fiction that portrays truth. They must discern and uphold truth. They have a responsibility to their readers to offer them what is real . . . And true. They can present reality through well-conceived, imaginative, and well-written fiction; but, not rewrite history or mix fiction with fact so that we no longer know what is true.