Literature

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Should we read literature? I've heard many times we should avoid shows or games or music that glorify sin. I was struck reading Shakespeare recently just how many sexual innuendos fill the pages, how many scenes of great violence are put onto the stage, how much the characters ignore the reality of God. Does classic literature get a pass, or should we avoid it too? Interested to hear the thoughts. Practically everyone praises Shakespeare, even among believers. He's just the first that came to mind among many of the authors that make up what we call literature. Thoughts? Biblical responses?
 

GoldenEagle

Well-Known Member
I’ve been reading some classics the last 12 months such as by Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters. They are like fine art compared to some more modern novels. I think they can be educational in a number of ways. I think it’s one of those things we need to be prayerful about and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Like some tv programmes/documentaries - sometimes I just know not to watch something even though I might be interested. If I felt that check whilst reading a classic I would stop and choose another.
 

Batfan7

Well-Known Member
What a great question! I tend to think cultural media can be important if it is super pervasive in influence. Like, with Shakespeare, the themes, turns of phrase, and characters are important to know because there are so many other things that point back to them and you can miss half the conversation if you don't know these things. Just imagine how lost you'd be if you had no clue what the overall story or some quotes from Romeo and Juliet we're. Having said that, I totally agree that discernment and discretion are key. After all, many of my coworkers watch Game of Thrones and I won't touch that with a pole.

I, personally, love books and tend to think thing like fantasy and sci-fi will stick around into eternity, but I know many other Christians who would disagree and find such work evil. So I think this is a "not all things are sin, but they may not be profitable" and it's going to depend totally on your personal situation. I feel like I could read Harry Potter and not be sinning, but for someone else, it would be sinning. So talk to God and examined your in heart. If it bothers you or you feel God is telling you to leave this alone, then definitely drop it and if not, enjoy!
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Admittedly I asked this question as a book lover. It's a very personal one for me, being an English major. I just like to check myself and make sure my beliefs line up with what the bible says, even if it's hard sometimes to change them.

I have to admit, I always feel a little sad when I hear it is up to the individual what counts as sin in a certain area. Part of me really just wishes there was a do/don't that I know I could follow to live a life pleasing to God out of gratitude for my salvation, but I guess all the rules may devolve into legalism like was the case with the pharisees' interpretation of the law. I understand that it's wonderful to have freedom in Christ, but at the same time sometimes I wish I could just turn off my own decision making and let my life just be run fully by Christ. Self gets in the way so much.

Fully on topic, I remember reading about Daniel and his friends. The bible says God being with them caused them to be gifted in literature, which I don't often see people talking about.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17

I can't exactly understand visions and dreams, but I often wonder if my understanding of literature should be considered in the same vein: a gift from God meant for his service.

But then I get back to the question of what literature is even appropriate. Like batfan said, it certainly wouldn't be good to read the game of thrones series. I started those a few years back and made it to about halfway through the first book before I couldn't even read any more of them. But something like the Chronicles of Narnia or LotR I don't feel any of the same feeling of wrongness. I wonder. I wish it weren't so hard to know what's alright
 

GoldenEagle

Well-Known Member
Admittedly I asked this question as a book lover. It's a very personal one for me, being an English major. I just like to check myself and make sure my beliefs line up with what the bible says, even if it's hard sometimes to change them.

I have to admit, I always feel a little sad when I hear it is up to the individual what counts as sin in a certain area. Part of me really just wishes there was a do/don't that I know I could follow to live a life pleasing to God out of gratitude for my salvation, but I guess all the rules may devolve into legalism like was the case with the pharisees' interpretation of the law. I understand that it's wonderful to have freedom in Christ, but at the same time sometimes I wish I could just turn off my own decision making and let my life just be run fully by Christ. Self gets in the way so much.

Fully on topic, I remember reading about Daniel and his friends. The bible says God being with them caused them to be gifted in literature, which I don't often see people talking about.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17

I can't exactly understand visions and dreams, but I often wonder if my understanding of literature should be considered in the same vein: a gift from God meant for his service.

But then I get back to the question of what literature is even appropriate. Like batfan said, it certainly wouldn't be good to read the game of thrones series. I started those a few years back and made it to about halfway through the first book before I couldn't even read any more of them. But something like the Chronicles of Narnia or LotR I don't feel any of the same feeling of wrongness. I wonder. I wish it weren't so hard to know what's alright
I know what you mean about wishing to turn off our decision making processes and having everything automatically decided by Christ - it would certainly make things feel simpler!! But as I see it, it’s faith which is pleasing to God - which I also think means reading a book with confidence if you don’t sense clear conviction over it. And over time, His nature develops in us and that is pleasing to God. In my experience, the things God has dealt most strongly in my life over, haven’t been the fairly surface things which I or other Christians necessarily might point at in my life as needing immediate correction, but deeper attitudes. And they take time to change - but God knows exactly the trials necessary to get to them! You really don’t need to worry about ‘getting it right or wrong’ imo. It’s the heart and the issues which flow from it God is after, and over time, as they change, your actions will follow.

I think you make a very good point regarding Daniel 1:17 - I’ve not heard it in that context before but entirely agree with you. I think it is a gifting (and one I sincerely covet - I would give my eye teeth to be truly learned in literature, language and writing). I don’t believe it’s an accident you are an English major. In your shoes I would pursue literature, obviously asking for guidance and leading which I know you’d do anyway. Who knows where it will lead or how God may use it? We are not given the whole picture at the beginning. I believe, sanctified by God, it will be a blessing to Him and His people.
 

ByGod'sGrace

Well-Known Member
As someone who got her B.A. and M.A. in Literature, I find this question very fascinating. I, too, wonder about this...and I know we will continue to create and write and read in eternity. For me, I tend to gravitate towards the classics (Bronte, Austin, Hardy, Dickens), but I think because back then, people used language to reflect something deeper in the soul. A story told with meaning and intent was a gift to the reader - by reading, you can, in turn, reflect upon your own journey. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I have reread it during certain times of my life and have gotten something different out of it each time (the same with "Far from the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy). I think when reading, it is definitely important to be aware of what the book is making you feel or think....I cannot read any modern novels or murder mysteries, etc. There is so much "out there" that is modern and makes you feel plain icky when reading it....I think anything that makes you feel that prick in your conscience should be avoided. People keep telling me that I need to read the Game of Thrones, but no thanks. I can barely stand pg-13 violence...I don't want to read the worst of human depravity. I'd rather be elevated by art, not pulled down.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
As someone who got her B.A. and M.A. in Literature, I find this question very fascinating. I, too, wonder about this...and I know we will continue to create and write and read in eternity. For me, I tend to gravitate towards the classics (Bronte, Austin, Hardy, Dickens), but I think because back then, people used language to reflect something deeper in the soul. A story told with meaning and intent was a gift to the reader - by reading, you can, in turn, reflect upon your own journey. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I have reread it during certain times of my life and have gotten something different out of it each time (the same with "Far from the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy). I think when reading, it is definitely important to be aware of what the book is making you feel or think....I cannot read any modern novels or murder mysteries, etc. There is so much "out there" that is modern and makes you feel plain icky when reading it....I think anything that makes you feel that prick in your conscience should be avoided. People keep telling me that I need to read the Game of Thrones, but no thanks. I can barely stand pg-13 violence...I don't want to read the worst of human depravity. I'd rather be elevated by art, not pulled down.
When I think of the kind of art that just delves into the depths of depravity, there's a kind of attraction to it to understand what the mindsets are down there, maybe as curiosity, maybe a sort of envy. For the general populace I think, although I'm certainly hounded by curiosity at times. Double edged sword, that. Some of the short stories I've written I feel like are probing not necessarily depravity but things like loneliness or wasteful imagination. I wonder if those are profitable...

When I think of the really dark stuff though, i think of Solomon in ecclesiastes. I sometimes like to pretend I'm wise, but even I have to admit i couldn't even pretend to be that wise :lol

10 Whatever exists has already been named,
and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?

Almost sounds like it's directly talking about this with the whole words comment.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
I know what you mean about wishing to turn off our decision making processes and having everything automatically decided by Christ - it would certainly make things feel simpler!! But as I see it, it’s faith which is pleasing to God - which I also think means reading a book with confidence if you don’t sense clear conviction over it. And over time, His nature develops in us and that is pleasing to God. In my experience, the things God has dealt most strongly in my life over, haven’t been the fairly surface things which I or other Christians necessarily might point at in my life as needing immediate correction, but deeper attitudes. And they take time to change - but God knows exactly the trials necessary to get to them! You really don’t need to worry about ‘getting it right or wrong’ imo. It’s the heart and the issues which flow from it God is after, and over time, as they change, your actions will follow.

I think you make a very good point regarding Daniel 1:17 - I’ve not heard it in that context before but entirely agree with you. I think it is a gifting (and one I sincerely covet - I would give my eye teeth to be truly learned in literature, language and writing). I don’t believe it’s an accident you are an English major. In your shoes I would pursue literature, obviously asking for guidance and leading which I know you’d do anyway. Who knows where it will lead or how God may use it? We are not given the whole picture at the beginning. I believe, sanctified by God, it will be a blessing to Him and His people.
Thanks for this. I've been thinking of this since I read it; it's both wise and comforting. There were a few things in there I needed to hear
 

ByGod'sGrace

Well-Known Member
When I think of the kind of art that just delves into the depths of depravity, there's a kind of attraction to it to understand what the mindsets are down there, maybe as curiosity, maybe a sort of envy. For the general populace I think, although I'm certainly hounded by curiosity at times. Double edged sword, that. Some of the short stories I've written I feel like are probing not necessarily depravity but things like loneliness or wasteful imagination. I wonder if those are profitable...

When I think of the really dark stuff though, i think of Solomon in ecclesiastes. I sometimes like to pretend I'm wise, but even I have to admit i couldn't even pretend to be that wise :lol

10 Whatever exists has already been named,
and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?

Almost sounds like it's directly talking about this with the whole words comment.
I agree...the most moving art and literature was created during times of intense emotion and loneliness. I guess art and literature can also be a lens to reflect the world, or to share something...a desire to connect with another during the darkest moments. When I read about Charlotte Bronte's life, it made the story of Jane Eyre even more heartbreaking. I always create the most during times of intense sadness or loneliness, too.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
I agree...the most moving art and literature was created during times of intense emotion and loneliness. I guess art and literature can also be a lens to reflect the world, or to share something...a desire to connect with another during the darkest moments. When I read about Charlotte Bronte's life, it made the story of Jane Eyre even more heartbreaking. I always create the most during times of intense sadness or loneliness, too.
There's also something therapeutic about writing out a feeling. I don't do it often, but I feel like I tend to work through things better through writing than just thoughts. Something about seeing your thoughts in front of you makes you consider them differently than when they're in your head
 

ByGod'sGrace

Well-Known Member
There's also something therapeutic about writing out a feeling. I don't do it often, but I feel like I tend to work through things better through writing than just thoughts. Something about seeing your thoughts in front of you makes you consider them differently than when they're in your head
Yes!! If poetry wasn't important, or the journey through emotions through writing, then Psalms wouldn't be in the Bible. I know writing is part of expression of self, but I also know personally for me that there are some things I just can't read because it hurts my heart too much....like a lot of the modern writers who are just gratuitous and the stories are plain evil.
 

Salluz

You mean we can change these titles?
Yes!! If poetry wasn't important, or the journey through emotions through writing, then Psalms wouldn't be in the Bible. I know writing is part of expression of self, but I also know personally for me that there are some things I just can't read because it hurts my heart too much....like a lot of the modern writers who are just gratuitous and the stories are plain evil.
I'm reminded of this quote by CS Lewis

"I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."

I know people might have differing opinions on the pipe part of it, but the quote makes me want to take my meditation on God from my mind and put it to paper, even if I don't share it

In terms of some writing being just too dark, I agree. It can be found in paintings, music, sculpture, you name it. People can think up some pretty disturbing things in these depraved hearts of ours. Many of those things are much better left not polluting other hearts
 
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