Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Whatever is True" Part I

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Our first standard for fiction guidelines is to think about whatever is true. But how can fiction be “true”? It’s not factual. It’s not real. By its very definition, fiction is a fabrication, making up most of the people, places, and events found within its frame. It is, you might say, founded on “untruth.”

But the word true means more than facts. It refers to things “conforming to reality.” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary)

So does fiction conform to reality?

Some types of fiction are a clear yes. Contemporary novels conform to present reality. Historical novels conform to the facts of history. Many storyworlds of other genres—thrillers, romances, even some time travel novels—conform to facts because their settings are Biblical, historical, or contemporary.

What about the fiction that are set in worlds that don’t conform to these constraints—alternate reality, fantasy, some science-fiction?

On the other hand, must what is “true” be confined to what has been documented (history)? Or are the only “real” things what can be measured, analyzed, and observed by the five senses (science)?

After all, the Bible makes it clear that much goes on beyond a physical realm—just read Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation or do a study of angels, demons, and the spirit/soul. So who's to say that the fantastical might not reflect reality more than we know?

But more than that, the Bible also has statements of reality that don’t belong to history or science. For example, in Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned.” That is not a scientific fact. Nor is it historical fact, although history can be used to verify it. It is a statement about life that transcends time, people, and place—as a quick survey of history and the world around us will show. Therefore, since these moral truths transcend boundaries, it is possible for fiction to create a realm nothing like our own and still conform to reality.

So can fiction be "true"? I'd say most definitely yes, no matter what the genre.

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds,
Chawna Schroeder

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