Re: [asa] YEC sub-group & fiction

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Tue Jan 27 2009 - 15:13:53 EST

Hi Merv,

I've come across the point of view described below only once in the last 20 years that I can recall. Specifically, the chap concerned argued that the parable of the prodigal son must have had a historical foundation because "God doesn't lie". This encounter was on the internet and not in person. My guess is that it's pretty rare even amongst the most conservative of Christians.

By way of response, I don't think one can disprove the claim that fiction is "a lie" but what I think one can try to do is demonstrate that there are different "modes" of literary communication each of which should be evaluated on their own terms (note that fiction is most likely to be seen as false if one evaluates it on the same terms that one would measure literary forms such as history).

I think I might proceed in the following manner:

(1) Appeal to the rather trivial point that Scripture has a huge number of passages which are not simple propositional statements and which therefore cannot even be evaluated as "true" or "false" - questions and commandments, for instance, are two such. So, too, blessings: "The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!" (Ps 128:5,6).

(2) Extend this by appeal to the Psalms to show that poetry can be "true" whilst not consisting of propositional statements which can be evaluated as "true" or "false" without some "translation" (e.g. "man would swallow me up" Ps 56:1; or "pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment" Ps 73:6).

(3) Point out that fiction is (like poetry) simply another "mode" of literature which needs to be "translated" before one can assess it's truth value. Fiction uses literary constructs which may be "true" at one level whilst being "false" at another. And this principle is OBVIOUSLY (I hope!) at work in the Psalms - to what extent, for instance, is the following "true"; "smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it" (Psalm 18:8)

Even the most rank Biblical literalist will, I think, agree that there is more to Scripture than simply a series of "true" propositions - that even Scripture uses literary forms which require some unpacking before one can identify the point being made and assess its validity. Even Scripture, in other words, can be "true" at one level, but "false" at another. And this most certainly does not make God a liar.

Hopefully this will be enough to make the point that the "truth" or otherwise of fiction should be assessed on its own terms. It might even be helpful to describe fictional writings as a form of extended metaphor of the sort seen in the Psalms. Suggesting that fiction merely takes such literary devices to the extreme MIGHT help your acquaintance grasp the point that there are a great many modes of literature and that fiction (like poetry) ought to be assessed on its own terms. Certainly it can't be dismissed as "a lie" simply because it's statements do not accord directly with observed fact.

Hope it helps somewhat,


Merv Bitikofer wrote:
> I've recently become aware, within my school setting, of somebody who
> pretty much rejects all fiction writings as lies. And come to think of
> it, I have a very conservative home-schooling relative who, at the
> moment, I can't remember her daughters reading any fiction works either
> --and now I wonder if she feels the same way. (Maybe they read
> Pilgrim's Progress --I'll have to check.) They read lots of history
> and biographies & such. Is there a large community within YEC that
> feels this way? When my colleague asked the first person about
> parables in the Bible, she immediately was inflamed with the suggestion
> that any parable wouldn't be historical. "My God does not lie!" My
> friend wasn't sure what she would do with Nathan telling David fiction a
> story about a rich man, poor man, and his sheep --or probably other
> places where fiction was used to make a point as well. How would you
> respond? (I didn't speak with her directly about it --and don't intend
> to, but just want to know how widespread this sentiment is.)
> --Merv
> (realizing, if I hadn't before, that the YEC camp is hardly a unified
> monolith either.)
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Received on Tue Jan 27 15:14:27 2009

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