Mary DeMuth

Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.

Why Should Christ-Followers Read Fiction?

Part II

“Copyright 2009 Prison Fellowship Ministries, reprinted with permission.
This article first appeared at”

Last month we asked the question, Why should Christ followers read fiction? We looked at three ways: widening our worldview, teaching empathy, and experiencing healing. Here are the remaining seven ways:

1. Fiction unmasks us.
Similarly, fiction serves to probe beneath our masks, helping us perceive, reveal, and understand our secrets. Novelist Susan May Warren builds on this point. “Everyone has secrets. Fiction allows people to see themselves in characters, to discover healing and truth when their ‘reputation’ or shame won’t let them pick up a nonfiction book. They can watch characters struggle, then experience the truth that sets them free.”

2. God’s redemptive story weaves its way through many stories.
When I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in its stark, horrific, life-altering prose, I clearly saw redemption. It can’t help but shine on such a dark tableau. While some may argue that the only proper novel is one written by someone with a decidedly Christocentric worldview, I would counter that God’s great redemption weaves it way through many stories, which is why C. S. Lewis cautioned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” God’s stories are everywhere.

3. Novels allow for paradox, causing us to ask the kinds of questions that help us search for God.
Some might argue that fiction should always tout an ironclad message that impacts the world for Christ. Barbara Nicolosi, the executive director of Act One, adds nuance to that notion, expanding the purpose of art to posing and allowing for questions that spark a spiritual journey: “Too many Christians think we are supposed to use the arts to give people the answers. We’re not. We’re supposed to use the arts to lead them into a question. And that is just one stage in their personal journey of divine revelation. Once they have a new question, they will be on a search—consciously or subconsciously . . . The arts can definitely send people delving.”1

4. Reading novels critically helps us navigate the Scriptures better.
Reading difficult novels and learning the tools of interpretation, helps us better study the Scriptures. J. Mark Bertrand, author of Rethinking Worldview, asserts, “Because the Bible is a text, a well-read, sophisticated interpreter will have an easier time parsing difficult passages—not to mention easy ones. This is why, in seminaries and law schools, there ought to be an emphasis on reading ‘outside the discipline.’ At a time when fewer people are reading, and those who still do gravitate toward increasingly simple texts, it’s important for people committed to a notoriously unsimple one to develop skill at handling it well. Reading novels helps.” To further explore this notion, consider purchasing The Literary Study Bible,2 which uses a critical method to understand biblical texts.

5. Reading a novel connects us to the Creator.
Participating in the creative process of a fellow Christ-follower helps us better understand our Creator. Novelist Tosca Lee affirms, “I think we do great honor to God when we indulge in creativity or appreciate the work of another creative—a great act of worship, considering that we are made in the image of the most creative Being in the universe. It’s quite a legacy that we

are given to appreciate and to honor within ourselves—a legacy we often ignore living up to, despite being made in that image. I think we forget that God is not ascetic in nature, but the author of gorgeous details, panache and aesthetics that sometimes serve no other purpose than to reflect the extravagant character of the Creator.”

6. Reading a novel builds community.
First, it creates community between writer and reader. Mick Silva adds, “God designed us for community, one of the great losses of the hyper-connected 21st century. In some small way, across any space and time that might come between us, fiction rekindles that unity between writer and reader through one of the only real ways we have of knowing another’s mind and responding to it.”

Second, it widens our human community. Meredith Efken believes “fiction is another form of art that helps us explore what it means to be human and helps express emotions and experiences in a way that connects us together. Like poetry or painting, it describes the world around us in a way that makes us appreciate it more.”

7. Reading stories brings us face-to-face with Jesus, the grand storyteller.
Jesus told life-changing stories. As we explore stories, we come to appreciate His genius. Mick Silva writes, “Jesus was a master storyteller, possibly one of the greatest who ever lived, in the sense that he understood his audience and spoke to them in ways that required their heads to catch up to their hearts—and only if their hearts were capable of catching it in the first place. In this way, he showed fiction to be one of the highest forms of theological discussion and evangelism one could employ.” So if you want to improve your theological discourse and flavor your evangelism, study and read stories, not neglecting the great stories Jesus told.

Some novels have destroyed lives, wreaked havoc. But some have instigated revolutions, restored hope, initiated life-giving legislation. We understand the landscape of redemption between the covers of a well-told story. And for those of us who have been transformed by The Greatest Story, the power of novels comes as no surprise. Dare I say our spiritual lives depend on story? I will, and I do.

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Mary DeMuth