July 2006


Dr. Robert Godfrey of Westminster Seminary, California, has recently published an article in Evanglium concerning Christians and fiction. Dr. Godfrey gives some historical reasons against reading fiction, and with the help of Lewis, a literature scholar, gives reasons for the reading of fiction. I have a difficult time reading fiction because it often is a waste of reading time- but I do read some, for the sake of a balanced reading diet. One who reads only systematics and dogmatics has difficulty relating the Christian life to all areas (in my humble opinion).

Here are the pros and cons that Dr. Godfrey mentions:

Reasons not to read fiction:
1. Reading fiction is a waste of time.
2. Fiction is fundamentally dishonest.
3. Fiction is too often morally corrupting.

Reasons for the reading of fiction:
1. Reading literature is enjoyable.
2. Fiction is a way to experience many things that we would not otherwise experience.
3. Fictions helps us to grow as human beings in the understandings of others.
4. Fiction will help us to read the Bible better by learning to read well.

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The idea of ‘sweetness’ is an idea that the Puritans promoted heavily. They thought that the Christian life should be one that is enjoyed to the fullest. They also thought that this was the highest purpose to human existence, as well. Remember that the main purpose of life was glorify and enjoy God forever. Sweet!

“Every thing that a man leans upon but God, will be a dart that will certainly pierce his heart through and through. He who leans only upon Christ, lives the highest, choicest, safest, and sweetest life.”
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Listen to the knocking and arousing voice of the Lord Jesus and reflect upon the words of the bride: “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” She, not being worthy of arising says, “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him…My soul failed when he spake” (Song of Sol. 5:2, 4, 6) [IV: 273]

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It seems to me that calling the Sabbath a delight has been highly disregarded in our day and age. Christians have put their own ‘needs’ above those holy duties that God has graciously given to his people. May the Lord turn us back to Him as we call the Sabbath a delight!

Of all of the commandments of a decalogue, the Sabbath is the most controversial in current evangelical Christianity. Would you say that you do not usually put other gods before God? Would you say that you usually do not murder? Would you say that you usually are faithful towards your spouse? Would you say that you usually do not worship with idols? Why do we usually keep the Sabbath day?

Isaiah 58:13-14 If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Hebrews 4:9-11 There remaineth therefore a Sabbath to the people of God. For he that is entered into his Sabbath, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that Sabbath, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Sins of omission [on the Sabbath day] are exceedingly prejudicial; because, though they have a tendency to harden the heart and stupify the conscience, yet they are, of all others, least regarded. As to the omission of holy duties on the Sabbath day, it is slighting and casting away of a great prize, put into our hands. Hence, in such a case, it will be said, ‘Wherefore is there a prize put into the hands of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart for it?’ It may be observed also that the omission of holy duties on the Sabbath day is generally attended with the neglect of secret duties, and is an inlet to all manner of sins, and to a total apostasy from God.
~Thomas Ridgeley

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
-Matthew 18.6-7

What sobering words from Jesus Christ. Think of the care with which he takes care of his children, and especially those little ones. We all need to be sobered by these words and watch our actions as we attempt to live lives in conformity to Christ and his law. Christ is a gracious saviour, but he is also a judge to those that offend his children.

Here are the words of Bishop JC Ryle on this verse:

It is a great sin to put a stumbling block in the way of believers. We put offences or stumbling-blocks in the way of men’s souls whenever we do anything to keep them back from Christ, or to turn them out of the way of salvation, or to disgust them with true religion. We may do it by what we say or how we live, and this a great sin. It is awful to think of the amount of harm that can be done by one inconsistent professor of religion. He gives a handle to the infidel. He supplies the worldly man with an excuse for remaining undecided. He checks the enquirer after salvation. He discourages the saints. He is, in short, a sermon on behalf of the devil.

The cause of patience is not to be found in man himself…. The Lord grants the godly faith and gives them a lively view that He inflicts this affliction upon them with His Fatherly hand. He secretly sustains them by strengthening the inner man. In their affliction he comforts them much according to the soul and permits them to taste His grace. He causes them to perceive the lightness, advantage, and transitory nature of affliction. He shows them how advantageous and glorious the outcome will be. This causes them to be quiet and encouraged. They are then willing to suffer, and tribulation will then work patience, and that experience, and that hope which maketh not ashamed (III: 417-418).

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