Monday, July 9, 2007

“Whatever is Noble”

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

“Whatever is noble”—this is our second standard for fiction. Noble. A fascinating word that conjures many images. A firefighter pulling a child from a burning building. A businessman standing up to corporate corruption. A person with a high brow, determined jaw, and eyes staring into the distance, as if seeing something no one else can see.

Somewhat surprisingly, these images might not be so far off from the concept Paul was trying to convey. The Greek word semnos is a complex word with no clear parallel in English. But Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says that semnos combines the concepts of gravity and dignity, concluding with this quote: “ ‘The word points to seriousness of purpose and to self-respect in conduct’ (Moule).”

So what does “noble” fiction look like? Can fiction be serious and dignified?

Yes, literary novels immediately coming to mind with their serious examination of the world. Does that mean genre fiction, with its intention to entertain and even make laugh, can’t be noble too?

By no means! Many works of genre fiction deal with very serious topics in a dignified manner, even if it’s in a faster-paced or more humorous way.

Think of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Can there be a more serious topic than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? And at all times C. S. Lewis maintains the greatest respect—dignity—for Aslan the Great Lion and therefore for Jesus Christ, whom he represents. Yet The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is hardly a great “literary” novel, as we commonly think of it—this story is a fantasy written to entertain children!

And the same thing goes for modern fiction, because every book centers around a theme—that is, a serious topic: The Secret Life of Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck is a humorous mom-lit with serious themes about wanting to do big things for God. The Shadow and the Night by Chris Walley is a fast-paced futuristic novel about the depth of evil and God’s grace. Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins is a high-tension suspense about the power of God. All genre fiction. All entertaining. All covering serious topics with respect.

Now those are the marks of a noble novel.

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

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