Question: "What does the Bible say about reading or writing fiction?"
Answer: The Bible is the Book of Truth. Several times it exhorts us to speak truth and reject lies. Where does fiction fit in? Is telling a made-up story a lie? Is it sinful to create and distribute something that is untrue? After all, 1 Timothy 1:4 tells us to avoid myths and fables.
Actually, 1 Timothy 1:4 is warning the church against getting involved in controversy over extra-biblical details. A church’s teaching ministry should be based on the Word of God, not on the ideas, philosophies, and imaginations of men. Speculation over the color of Samson’s hair is unprofitable; dogmatism on the subject is even worse. However, the Bible has no command against reading or writing fiction.
In fact, the Bible is filled with fiction. By that, we do not mean that the Bible is untrue. We mean that the Bible sometimes uses fiction to relate truth; stated otherwise, the Bible contains examples of storytelling. In 2 Samuel 12:1-4, Nathan the prophet tells David a fictional story of a man whose only lamb was stolen and killed. When the hypothetical crime incites David’s rage, Nathan reveals the story is an allegory for David's affair with Bathsheba. Other notable fictitious stories in the Bible include Jotham’s fable (Judges 9:7-15) and Ezekiel’s allegory (Ezekiel 17:1-8). The greatest storyteller is Jesus. Every one of His parables is a fictional story. Each one reveals a spiritual truth, but in form they are fiction.
The Christian culture has rightly followed Jesus' example. John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress and many of C. S. Lewis's stories are fictional allegories that reveal spiritual truths. Bunyan anticipated that his work would receive criticism because of his use of “feigned” (fictional) words. His defense was that fiction can be a vehicle of truth: “Some men, by feigned words as dark as mine, / Make truth to spangle, and its rays to shine!”
Does this mean that every fictional story a Christian writes, reads, or watches must, at its core, have a Christian message? No. A worthwhile story does not have to be overtly Christian, although there are still things to consider. Colossians 3:1-2 reminds us to set our minds on things above. Philippians 4:8 explains what those things are—the true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely. The Lord of the Rings is often used as the example of non-Christian fiction from a Christian author. J. R. R. Tolkien actually despised Christian allegory—including that of his good friend C. S. Lewis. He wrote the Middle Earth books as an allegory of war and the downside of technological advancement with no intended spiritual message. It was inevitable, however, that his beliefs saturated his story, filling the plots with such biblical values as courage, unity of purpose, and self-sacrifice.
Whether the stories are spiritual allegory, historical fiction, or simple entertainment, Christian authors still need to apply biblical guidelines. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." A few verses later, Paul admonishes, "There must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting" (Ephesians 5:4). Writers need to remember that, even if they intend their fiction as pure entertainment, all stories contain an element of teaching. And teaching is a spiritually serious endeavor (James 3:1), no matter what the medium.