Growing in Faith Through Biblical Fiction

Growing In Faith FlattenI’ve known about the Bible for as long as I can remember. As a cradle Catholic, the Church and all its traditions have always played an important part of my life. I am baptized and confirmed, attended catechism classes through high school, and attend Mass weekly. I love church, I love my God, and I love my faith.

But, I did not always love the Bible. Strange, right? For someone as dedicated to their faith and as devoted to God as I am, I did not always have the connection to the Bible that today I hold so dear. While I cannot fathom going through a day without reading my Bible now, for many years the book that is essential to Christians simply sat atop my parents’ bookshelf collecting dust. Our family Bible was more decoration than anything else—and that was how I treated it until I learned the true value of God’s word.

The words I did value, however, were held within my fiction novels. From the Harry Potter and Nancy Drew series to Sweet Valley High and many more, I devoured books the same way other children went after Pokemon cards and Legos. That love of books and writing inspired me to become an English major in college, during which time I fell in love with editing, as well. I also found a tight circle of friends who followed their faith as deeply as I did mine. With these girls I established a lifestyle that not only valued not only attending church but living out life solely and fully for God—in every way possible, including reading books from the CBA.

While shopping at Wal Mart one wintry day, I took my initial peek at Christian fiction. After quickly reading through much of contemporary novels offered at the big box store, Barnes and Noble called my name for something more—Christian historical fiction. History, aside from English, continually remained one of my favorite subjects and genres, but never before had I read anything remotely Biblical. I was intimidated by what I thought would be dry novels preaching the faith in an evangelical manner. Catechism classes, if not taught by teachers who understand how children need to be approached with the Bible, can scare children away from the Bible through stern admonishments and challenging pedagogical aspects. Much of what I knew of God’s word was simply memorized prayer and the fundamental basics of Catholicism. Honestly, I did not know what to expect from Biblical fiction. Would the authors find ways to teach Biblical lessons within a historical time frame? How much material could the Bible really provide authors to work with? Aren’t these stories difficult for everyone to understand like they are for me? Soon I would find out…

Much to my hesitation, at the recommendation of another shopper in the Christian fiction section of the bookstore I chose Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The Wild West and Gold Rush eras never captured my attention in fiction; however, never before had someone some adamantly recommended a book to me, either. I fell hard—hard, and fast, and quickly became obsessed with any Biblical fiction I could get my hands on. Redeeming Love, a retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, offered me chance to know my faith firsthand through a true-to-life account of our Biblical ancestors. Soon after I read novels by Lynn Austin, Brock and Bodie Thone, and Tessa Ashfar; any author I could find who used the Bible as the blue-print for their novel caught my attention.

Five years after Reedeming Love I continue to read Biblical fiction, with novels by Rivers, Austin, and Ashfar remaining as my favorites. These women authors have written such stunning accounts of Biblical stories that I do not even read the back cover blurbs before buying their novels. Retellings of Bible stories from these authors that have impacted me on my spiritual journey include those of Ruth and Boaz, Gomer and Hosea, Tamar, Zachariah, Jonathan, Ezra, David, and Rahab. Lynn Austin, whose current releases center around her Restoration Chronicles, has a third novel in the series releasing at the end of 2015 that I cannot wait to read. On This Foundation, the story of Nehemiah, centers around an exploration of faith during times of oppression.

Biblical fiction is special because it stems directly from God’s word. Whether an author chooses to retell a story from the Bible or fictionalize a new work based upon a well-known account from it, Biblical fiction always draws people closer to God because faith is at the center of every one of those novels. I love Biblical fiction because these books have given me an opportunity to explore my faith through two aspects of my life that I am passionate about: living a Godly life and literature. Before I discovered Christian fiction—let alone Biblical fiction—I never imagined I could grow stronger in my faith through books. These books have brought the Bible to life by teaching the stories in an approachable way that shows how our Biblical ancestors both struggled and through incredible circumstances, as well as lived lives with the same expectations, trials, and joys that we experience today. Biblical fiction also brings readers closer to their faith through demonstrating our ancestors’ faith in ways we can imitate in our own lives. The lessons Biblical fiction portrays through our ancestors’ stories makes living out our faith much easier to understand and accept than Bible reading alone is able to provide.

Years ago I could not have imagined choosing to read any book—fiction or otherwise—based upon the Bible. Now I do not go a day without reading some kind of Christian fiction—Biblical being favorite genre of mine—and the Bible. Biblical fiction has made a significant impact on my life by drawing me closer to God through an avenue that I feel personally connected to—He has used my love of stories to make His word more approachable, and for that I am truly grateful and humbled. To all of those authors who write Biblical fiction, thank you from all of your readers for your novels.

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