July 9, 2008
As a young pastor, I can't clearly say why I don't read many fictional novels. I tell myself it's because I'm still trying to read the classic "Christian" books and I have to catch up with my predecessors before I embark on new books (and yes I realize how faulty this is). But now that I think about it, I believe the main 2 reasons I don't read any fictional books is: 1) I don't find reading interesting. I know it's good for you to read, but the only books I find interesting enough to read are books that relate to me more (i.e. nonfictional, helpful books). The 2nd reason would be time. I don't want to make time to read a fictional book when I could be reading something that's going to help me directly become a better pastor/husband/father/etc instead. Maybe those reasons are a bit shallow, so I'm going to make a conscience effort to read one fictional book a year now. <br><br>On a side note, I am currently reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren. It's a fictional novel that has really opened up my eyes.
Babette's Feast by Isak Dineson
I don't know if it is really a fair question. Simply because there are few novels on a Pastor's bookshelf at church doesn't mean they are not reading fiction. My bookshelf at church is my tool box. while my bookshelf at home is where the novels are. If you opened a mechanic's tool box and didn't see any toys in it you wouldn't judge them. You'd probably think they took thier job seriously. You would judge the quality of work by the quality of his tools. If, on the other hand, you opened his tool box and found it full of Lego ( a great building toy, but a toy none the less) you may wonder about the kind of mechanic you were dealing with. My book shelf/tool box is full of tools not toys. My shelf at home is full of toys. It's not that I am equating novels as toys but there are similarities. Both provide diversion and both are a less than conscience way of learning or experimenting with different forms of reality. What novels would I suggest? It's too easy to get smug and suggest we should all be reading the great books, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lord of the Rings or Don Quixote but just read something besides the latest in church trend books. I recommend Orson Scott Card's Enders' Game series or anything by Harry Turtledove, the master of alternate fiction. Right now I am reading "Marvel Zombies" Don't forget the great zombie verse, 1Ti 5:6 "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives."<br>
OK, I'm not a Pastor, just someone who has spent 40 years sitting in the pews of evangelical churches. I'm going to make a very opinionated generalization here. I apologize in advance. But I think most evangelical, fundamentalist Pastors have at best a High School Liberal Arts education. Bible schools and seminaries are narrowly focused on the mechanics of Professional Christianity. English literature, poetry, film studies, art history, dance, theater arts are a foreign subject or even at times, subjects for mockery, derision and withering scorn. I don't know how many times I've heard pastors offer comic asides about being dragged off to ballet, poetry readings or the symphony by their wives. We are made in the image of the Creator God. Creative storytelling, creative expression, the arts are intrinsic to our nature. The first recorded instance of someone being filled with the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of creating sculpture, illustration and fabric art. The Bible is full of rich poetry, amazing storytelling (Job) and theater. Yet most of the allusions and anecdotes I hear from the pulpit concern the PAC 10 college football, golf or the NBA. Not Eugene Ionesco's Metamorphosis, John Updike's Rabbit, William Blake, Gabriel Marcia Lorca, Claude Monet or Dostyevsky. I love my brothers, the professional pastors, but boy it seems they live in a narrow world.
I often "judge" people by the books on their bookshelves as well. It would seem that you can tell a lot from them, though many of the books on my shelves are gifts - books which I wouldn't have bought on my own, but that I don't want to throw away. <br><br>One practical reason why you might not see a lot of Fiction on a typical pastor's bookshelf is because many pastor's have their book collections in two different places - their church office, and their home. I keep most of my non fiction and reference books in the church office, but keep my fiction collection at home. I suppose somebody judging me from my fiction collection at home might see me as a reader in search of entertainment. If you were to look only at my church office books - you'd think the opposite. <br><br>Favorite Fiction: Ted Decker's Circle Trilogy, C.S. Lewis' Narnia, C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy (highly underrated), Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness and The Oath) and George R.R. Martin (not Christian - at all - but a brilliantly descriptive writer). <br><br>Much of Lewis's work (Jill and the Lion, for instance), lends itself to good illustrative use. <br><br>Favorite Non Fiction: Apologetics (Lee Strobel, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Darrell Bock,. Timothy Paul Jones) - as well as Leonard Ravenhill, Wayne Grudem, Michael Brown (Fire School), John Piper, Rick Joyner, Jim Cymbala, and Dan Kimball.
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy - fantastic read packed full of philosophical thought about religion and a good insight into the mind of the intelligent atheist.
Oops. My bad. Federico GarcÃa Lorca. Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. I was thinking of Rhinocerous. That's what happens when I rant.
Hi Andy!<br><br>I just very randomly stumbled upon this post. I'd tell you the story, but it's not appropriate here. (don't worry, it didn't involve porn)<br><br>What is appropriate here are works of fiction. I love the post because I am more and more convinced that my life should be filled with more "fiction for formation" as O'Brien says. If one of the major genres in BIblical literature is Narrative, then why aren't I reading more narratives? If we don't understand the power of narrative to tell truth, we will surely miss the truth in the Bible. to quote Dan Migliore: "Narrative is an apt vehicle for describing character because it can effectively convey the persistent patterns that define a particular person't identity. At the same time, good narrative appropriately depicts personal action in all its freedom, unpredictability, and promissory character. It is therefore understandable that narrative plays an exceedingly important role in the biblical witness to the identity and purpose of God."<br><br>Suffice it to say, I will check out your recommendations and some of O'Brien's as well, especially since my latest read was Chaim Potok's "My Name is Asher Lev." What a powerful book! All sorts of insights into family dynamics when "truth" is at stake. I am now heading into "The Gift of Asher Lev" and "The Chosen".<br><br>My number one fictional recommendation would be Tolkien's "The Hobbit". The LOTR Trilogy is great, but the Hobbit is quite simply the Christian journey in narrative form.
Left Behind by Jerry Jenkins & Tim LaHaye<br>The Singer Trilogy by Calvin Miller
I'm a pastor and a reader. In fact (whispers), I even write short stories for fun. I agree that for many of us, the life of the mind is woefully fragmented. Personally, I can't think of anything more practical than reading good fiction and good poetry. If you serve a congregation, what is the best way to gain insight into the people you serve? By conducting scientific surveys, questionnaires, and objective analysis? Or by listening to their stories? When you sit at the potlucks and listen, when you chat with the old-timers over coffee, when you go to their sickbeds or visit them in their homes, you learn how to be their pastor by hearing them tell about their past, talk about their grandkids, complain about their last trip to the doctor's office.<br><br>If you want to grow as a pastor (or as a human), you had better learn how to listen to people's stories. The great novels and poetry of Western civilization, whether written by Christians or not, is valuable because it is instructive. And by "great," I don't necessarily mean old or flowery or even well-known.<br><br>And honestly, good cinema fits in here quite easily. Modern film functions in our society much like folklore of the past. For lessons of a father's love for a child, read Ron Hanson's moving "Atticus." Or watch Pixar's "Finding Nemo."<br><br>One thing that troubles me about some of the books listed in these comments is that so much of it is so-called Christian fiction. Don't underestimate the value of man's natural knowledge of God. There are mountains of insight to be discovered in the talented works of those who confess Christ and those who do not. It's time to mine those mountains.
I may be a bit of an unusual pastor, as my background is actually in visual, film and dramatic arts, not solely in theology or divinity. Fictional works, for me, are one of the easiest ways to bridge that gap between the descriptive elements of the world, and the theological meanings hidden under the surface. (Film and music try this as well, but I find that books can be a bit more blunt in their actual delivery, as is the book I list below)<br><br>One of my favorites for this reason is George MacDonald. Especially his "Curate of Glaston" series. Mr. MacDonald was a great influence on the works of C.S. Lewis, which is obvious if you ever read the two together, but I especially love the way that MacDonald points out the foibles of society in a way that makes you think as well as laugh.<br>And who can't help but a love a book that begins by describing the heroine as a woman who is actually uncomfortable because (and I quote) "thinking, especially to one who tries it for the first time, is seldom a comfortable operation"
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