Question (3 of 5): Is relaying a fictional story the same as lying?
Answer: fiction and lies are not necessarily the same thing.
It’s tempting to see them the same way, and many people have made this mistake.
However, this viewpoint has two major flaws: it assumes fiction only takes our mind off God, and it misunderstands what lies are.
I’ll deal with the first flaw right now.
If fiction can only take our minds away from God, then it can’t illuminate us and lead to God’s truth.
There is, however strong Biblical evidence that fiction can illustrate God’s truth.
In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan tells King David a fictional story about a rich man stealing another man’s sheep. The story illustrated how David had stolen something valuable from one of his soldiers: the soldier’s wife, Bathsheba.
Jesus’ parables in the New Testament follow the same principle: a fiction story can show us truths, lessons we haven’t considered. Longer narratives (novels, plays, films) use this principle many times over by having multiple themes and ideas in a single story.
One reason this is true is that sometimes you need to show truth by telling a story for people to get it.
Brian Godawa describes this approach very well in his essay “Storytelling and Persuasion,” collected in the book Apologetics for a New Generation.
Essentially, he says that there are some ideas that you can communicate best as propositions (outright statements like “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”).
But there are other ideas that you can communicate best by telling a story about them.
This is why Jesus taught through parables; there’s something you get from hearing those stories that you would never get by hearing the story’s moral as a simple statement.
Stay tuned for Part 4b. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts about this?
Let me know in the comments