ELSEWHERE: Doctrine Wonks Must Read Fiction

What I’ve struggled for years to say, crime-novel author J. Mark Bertrand easily proclaims at The Gospel Coalition: that doctrine nerds (this includes us “young, restless Reformed” types) should occasionally forego nonfiction in favor of reading a novel. “Fiction will give you an appreciation of both storytelling and also the depth of human beings that might actually help you pass down your theology to people who aren’t going to sign up for a lifetime of reading Puritan reprints,” Bertrand remarks. “I can always tell, listening to a sermon, whether I’m hearing from a fiction reader or not.” More at TGC.

About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.

  • Stuart Blessman


  • Alice

    His books sound interesting since his main character never converts, he aims to have realistic evil, not white-washing or melodrama, and the messages are more complicated than basic Christian cliches.

    I agree it is good for Christians to read more fiction (mainstream fiction in particular), but I do think the Christians who are constantly paranoid about all kinds of worse-case scenarios probably should not read dystopian or end-times lit because it will probably just make them worse. Maybe they would be better off reading fiction that reminds them this life isn’t all doom and gloom.

    I think fiction helps break down “all or nothing” thinking, because it reminds us that most people are complex, even if they don’t seem so on the outside, and that there often aren’t easy answers to problems.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Maybe they would be better off reading fiction that reminds them this life isn’t all doom and gloom.

    So, no “Hunger Games” or “Left Behind” novels for the doom-and-gloomers, just as those who believe made-up Latin spells in “Harry Potter” may recall their memories of involvement with the occult, and thus might personally avoid that particular series (until they know better). I agree. Truth-and-beauty-honoring fantasy (including “children’s” fantasy) might be a better choice!