Finding Truth in Fiction
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Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Well, today our question is one that I was really excited about because I think it's one that there might be a lot of confusion about, so I'm super excited to dive deep into it. So the question says, how do we train kids in the truth when it comes to shows and popular mythical characters such as Pokemon? And so I love this question because for those of you who have followed Foundation Worldview for any amount of time, you know that one thing that we are passionate about is equipping kids to understand what is true. And now we have kind of taken the very lofty philosophical definition of truth is that which corresponds with reality and broken it down for kids.
In all of our materials, we encourage you to get the kids in your care thinking of truth as by saying truth is what is real. That truth is what is real. And now this is a good definition for truth because truth is what lines up with reality. It's what is real. However, in this world that we live in where we just kind of have this dichotomy of science is fact, and anything else is just opinion or fiction, sometimes we might buy into too rigid of a definition of truth, and we might think, "Okay, anything that's nonfiction, anything that's scientific, okay, that's truth, and then anything else is just a lie."
Now, when we're thinking about truth and we're thinking about entertainment, we're thinking about characters like Pokemon, or whether it's another cartoon character, or a mythical figure like Santa Claus, we might think like, "Oh, okay. So we just need to let our kids know they're not real." Now, I do agree that it's important that our kids know Pokemon are not real. I think for even young kids, it's important in Christian homes that they understand that Santa isn't real, so that we're not lying to them. We can still have fun with the myth of Santa Claus, but to understand that he's not real.
But one thing that I think we need to be really careful in doing is understanding for ourselves and then helping our children understand that fiction can actually point us towards the truth. That we can recognize that fictional characters do not actually exist, but we can look at those fictional characters and the situations in which they're placed and discern whether or not that fiction is pointing us towards truth. I mean, just a great biblical example of this is Jesus' parables. Jesus, he continually taught in parables.
And now, were those parables actually true? Had the events in those parables actually taken place with those characters that he shared with people? No, those parables were stories. They were fiction stories, but the goal was to point people towards the truth. And that's exactly what his parables did at that time, and what they continue to do now. We can even see this in just modern literature. One of my favorite series for kids is The Wing Feather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Now, The Wing Feather Saga, it's a really fun series. It's very well written, and it just really deeply points to truth. The way Andrew Peterson has written about the inner struggles that characters have with just wrestling with this darkness inside of them, the way that he's developed family relationships, the way that he highlights virtue, all of these things in The Wing Feather saga point, the reader towards truth.
For those of you who are familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis has done the same thing. He's taken this mythical land of Narnia and these fictitious characters and used them to point to the truth about reality. I was actually just thinking of this yesterday, that yesterday I was just walking through a situation that I would've preferred not to have walked through, and I was praying through it. And what came to mind was actually a scene from C.S. Lewis's book, The Horse and His Boy. And it's towards the end of the book where Shasta, the main character he realizes, because as Lynn tells him this, that all the times that he was chased by a lion throughout the book, and when he thought he was being attacked by a lion and he was scared, it was really Aslan chasing him and forcing him into these situations that Aslan knew were best for him. And so Shasta is a fictitious character. Aslan, even though he's supposed to point to Jesus, is a fictitious character. Narnia is a fictitious land, yet Aslan, Shasta and Narnia yesterday, pointed me towards truth.
I think also even of the non-Christian book, The City of Ember. In one of our previous book clubs, we highlighted the novel, The City of Ember, and the author is not a Christian, but in that book, she does a great job of just portraying the themes of light versus darkness, and showing that darkness is not just out there, darkness is within. And so even though the author doesn't understand the root of why that darkness is within us, she does a great job of highlighting it. So I think that's one thing that we have to make sure that we have settled in our own minds as we're guiding these children that God has placed in our care, that just because something is fictitious and the characters and situations might not be real, those characters and situations can still be pointing us to the truth. They can still be pointing us to what is real.
So the first thing that I would encourage us to do with the kids that God has placed in our care is just to learn how to distinguish fiction from non-fiction. An easy way to do this is just pull out two kids' books, one that's fiction, one that's not fiction, and just read through them and talk about, "Okay, what are the characteristics of fiction? How can we tell when a book is fantasy or when a book is historical fiction? And then what are the characteristics of a book that is nonfiction? Okay, what's the difference between a history book and a historical fiction book? What's the difference between a biography and a novel?" And then in both of those types of literature, both in fiction and in nonfiction, we need to train our children to evaluate the claims that are made in that work.
If we're talking about nonfiction, whether it's a science textbook, a history book, a biography, any type of nonfiction text, we need to train our kids to ask, "Okay, did this really happen? Is this an accurate portrayal of the truth?" Then anytime a claim is made in a non-fiction book, we need to train them to ask, "Okay, is this what's claimed to be a fact, is it supported by sufficient evidence?" Now, if you're not sure how to do that, I would highly recommend that you check out Foundation Worldview's Careful Thinking Curriculum, because we have a whole unit in that curriculum just on how do we make sure that a claim is supported by sufficient evidence? And then we should also be training our kids to ask, "Does this claim line up with scripture? What is claimed in this book, or whatever we're reading or interacting with, does this line up with the truth that God has revealed in his Word?"
Then when we're talking about fiction, we need to train ourselves and our children to evaluate if the storyline is pointing us towards or away from the truth. Because one of the great things about fiction, I know that many of you watching love to read fiction, and I do as well because fiction is just one of the best ways for us to relax, because it just takes us to another world, just transports us to another place and really engages our mind and our hearts. And as we're getting to know characters in fiction stories, just by the way that the author has narrated that story where we get attached to them emotionally and we start to see things through their eyes, we start to think their thoughts, we start to feel what they're feeling.
And so we need to ask ourselves, "Okay, what the author has evoked in me, these feelings, these thoughts, these desires, is this something that actually lines up with the truth? Does it point me towards the truth, or does it point me away from it?" Because it's really easy for us to just get swept up in narrative and in the relationship that we develop with these fictitious characters and suddenly start to empathize with them, even if we shouldn't.
So we need to ask ourselves, and we need to train our children to ask themselves, "What does this fictional character or situation point to in the real world? What is going on here in this fictitious world that's actually trying to teach me something in the real world that does exist? Then, is this character or situation manipulating my emotions? What I'm feeling for this character or what I'm feeling in this situation, does this line up with what is revealed in scripture? Does this line up with how God would have me feel about this situation? Or, is this author presenting his or her own worldview and using this character just to twist how I'm feeling?"
Now, this is where using literature like the Chronicles of Narnia or The Wing Feather Saga can be a great thing to do with our kids because as different truths are revealed in these books, we can then talk with our kids, "Okay, what we just saw in this character, what does that point us to? Does that point us to truth that's presented in scripture, or does it point us to just the opposite?" And those are really, really great ways to get our kids thinking through how fiction can point us to truth.
Then there are other times where we can use fiction to show how it does not point to truth. Several months ago, I did a webinar on a book series that's categorized as Christian fiction for kids, The Dream Traveler's Quest by Ted Decker. And in that series, Ted Decker uses scripture quoted out of context, and then your emotions towards these certain characters to push a worldview that is not at all Christian, in fact, it's pantheistic, just believing that God is in all and is all. So we need to use examples like that to show our kids, "Okay, what is the author wanting me to feel and think in this situation? Does this align with scripture?" So if you're wanting to use that series of books, highly recommend you check out that webinar, The Dream Traveler's Quest, spotting the false ideas, so that you know how to go through a series like that with your kids.
Then another thing to think through when we do find fiction that is pointing to truth, is it actually well written? Does the fiction just naturally point to the truth, or is it kind of shoehorned in there, like everything has to include some direct allegory or parallels description? Now, allegories and parallels aren't a bad thing. However, an author that's really skilled at his or her craft will just weave in a biblical worldview without ever having to directly say that. That was one of the things that kind of shocked me when I went through The Wing Feather Saga for the first time. I was like, "Wow, Andrew Peterson doesn't mention Jesus' name. He doesn't quote any scripture," but through and through this story that he's weaving and these characters, they are just exuding a biblical worldview. And that's what we want for our kids, because I know when I was young, I read a lot of kids' Christian fiction, and I loved it. I really did. But as I grew up and started reading more and then looked back at those books, I realized they were so terribly written and the scripture was forced in there.
Now, I'm not saying that I'm sad that I read that, but I don't think that that really helped me develop a really good taste for what is true and good and beautiful, and that's what we want to do. We want to make sure that we are just developing in our kids this taste for quality literature, and so that they're able to use that to to discern is this biblical or is this not?
Another example that I love to give people that I think is a great activity to do is actually looking at different mythical characters and comparing them with God, because God is not a mythical character, but a lot of times mythical figures are supposed gods or goddesses. And so looking at how does the God of the Bible compare and contrast with these different supposed gods? So a great way to do this is the Percy Jackson series. That's usually for kids more like fourth to seventh grade. But if you can go through the Percy Jackson series with your kids and have them just kind of note the Greek gods and goddesses that are presented, and then what characteristics do these gods and goddesses have? And then go through scripture and look at, okay, what are the characteristics of God that are presented in scripture? Okay, how is God, Yahweh like this Greek god or not like him?
By comparing and contrasting, soon it just becomes crystal clear how amazing the one true God actually is, that He does not reflect humans, but humans were made to reflect Him. And so just working on these things with the kids in our care can really start great conversations any time they're reading a book, or watching a show, or watching a movie, because that's really what we want. We want to have these great conversations with our kids so that they are carefully evaluating every idea they encounter. So this is what I would just really encourage you to do, just yes, truth is what is real. If something is real, okay, then it points us to what is true. But then to look at, okay, if we're looking at fiction, if we're looking at something that we know doesn't exist in the real world, what is this fiction pointing us towards in the real world? Is it pointing us towards the truth, or is it pointing us away from the truth?
Well, that's a wrap for today. But as we leave this time together, my prayer as always for you is that God would bless you as you continue to intentionally disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.
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