Monday, December 15, 2014

I'd Rather Read "Game of Thrones" than "Left Behind"


A well-loved family member once told me that I shouldn’t be looking for doctrine* in fiction books, even Christian ones. “If you want doctrine, read the Bible,” she said. At first glance, that sounds like a solid statement. Why should we trust anything but Scripture to teach us our beliefs? If we want a good story, we should read a well-written fiction book, but if we want to know what to believe, we should read the Bible.

If only it were that simple.

Unfortunately, sometimes books give us more than just a good story. Every book ever written has underlying concepts and values, and whether we’re looking for them or not, we’re absorbing them. No matter our age, we learn from what we read. Becoming adults, we develop filters that let us determine whether we will incorporate the values we read into our own lives, but when it comes to doctrine, sometimes things slip past those filters.

Christians for the past 2000 years have believed in the inerrancy of Scripture—the Bible is absolutely true. When we read books that quote the Bible, then, it can be difficult to tell when those books are misinterpreting Scripture and distorting doctrine. Much of Christian literature distorts doctrine by taking Scripture out of context. This is the reason I read very few fiction books in the “Christian” genre.

I’m not going to address all the theological problems with the Left Behind books. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to address the theological problems at all. If you’ve read my Statement of Faith (or the About Me section), you know that I am a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and as such, my understanding of the books is in line with theirs. If you would like to know what the LCMS teaches about Left Behind, you can go to the page LCMS Doctrine FAQ on Left Behind.

You may not think that pure doctrine matters very much. Let’s look at an example that demonstrates why that’s wrong.

Some Christians believe that God created life on earth through evolution (a scientific theory known as theistic evolution). They believe that the six days of creation are not a literal six days, but rather a representation of the time it took to create life. This makes a lot of sense from a scientific standpoint, but theologically (doctrinally) it creates a conundrum that requires us to deny this theory of theistic evolution or deny two of the basic tenets of our faith, original sin and the inerrancy of Scripture.

If theistic evolution is true, creatures had to die before Adam and Eve evolved. If death existed before Adam and Eve, death existed before sin came into the world. If death existed before sin came into the world, sin did not cause death. If sin did not cause death, original sin does not exist. If original sin does not exist, Romans 6:23 is wrong in saying “the wages of sin is death”. If Romans 6:23 is wrong about the wages of sin, Scripture has error. Clearly, the doctrine of a six-day creation, which many Christians call a nonessential, actually affects doctrines essential to salvation, such as original sin. A little false teaching in so-called “nonessentials” leads to a lot of false teaching in “essentials”.

My claim in the title, that “I’d rather read Game of Thrones than Left Behind,” holds true. I’d rather read something that teaches no doctrine than something that teaches a little false doctrine. I’d rather eat an delicious, nutrient-lacking pizza than eat a delicious, nutrient-filled prime rib dinner that has a little rat poison in it. Sure, my body could flush out the rat poison, but the rat poison could just as easily kill me. In the same way, my discernment could flush out the false doctrine in some so-called Christian fiction, but that false doctrine could just as easily destroy my faith.

No matter how enjoyable Christian fiction might be, if it’s not doctrinally solid, I don’t want to read it. Secular fiction might not be building me up spiritually, but it’s not tearing me down like the rat poison of false doctrine found in some** Christian fiction.


*Defined as ”a belief or set of beliefs held and taught by a church, political party, or other group.” For the purpose of this article, the “doctrine” referred to is that of the universal Christian Church. For more information on my personal beliefs and doctrine, please see my Statement of Faith.

**It should be noted that some Christian fiction can be found which has solid doctrine in it. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are wonderful and enjoyable, and I have not found any doctrinal problems in them to date. If you’re looking for something targeted more toward adults, Dr. Paul L. Maier has written two exciting novels I enjoyed, titled Skeleton in God’s Closet and More than a Skeleton. I highly recommend them—doctrinally solid, engaging, and challenging. (I just discovered he has written three other fiction books in addition to the two I have read, as well as six non-fiction and seven children’s books. See Dr. Maier’swebsite for more information.)

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