Standing in for Al Mohler on his radio show, Russell Moore interviews musician and author Andrew Peterson about the place of story in a child’s life. Moore and Peterson argue that the mass media has crippled today’s children in their ability to understand story. Peterson is author of a series of books called the Wingfeather Saga, and a fan of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. He runs a blog called the Rabbit Room.
I’m always interesting in discussions that examine the life of the imagination and the use of stories to enrich our minds. Moore and Peterson talk about the value and importance of story, and draw out some very good points. Peterson suggest that too much of “Christian Fiction” lacks “teeth”, presenting children with a view of the world that is unrealistic and superficial.
While there is much that is helpful here, I do take issue with one point. Moore and Peterson present an unfortunate (and I suspect unintentional) caricature of family devotions as being “stuffy” without the added joy of reading stories together as a family. Both Moore and Peterson read books like the Chronicles of Narnia to their children: Moore alongside of family Bible reading, and Peterson perhaps, though unclear.
Moore believes the value of reading stories helps family devotional time be “light” rather than “stuffy.” Peterson takes comfort in the fact that a Bible college professor never did family devotions with his children, under the pretense that Jesus was always in their home in all they did, and the stories they read as a family (not necessarily from Scripture) display spiritual truths about Jesus. This I do take issue with.
The unfortunate, and I’m sure unintended, impression one comes away with is that reading stories is something we need to work at more, while having family Bible reading is something we need to do less of. Open the Bible for your kids and you run the danger of being stuffy. Open C. S. Lewis or Andrew Peterson for your kids and you will be light and fun and present truth about Jesus they will remember.
The point they were circling, is that propositional truth is harder to remember than truth embedded in story. This is a funny concept that is growing in popularity today. The problem with it is that while ‘yes’ truth can be more powerfully presented through story, it is limited in power by the imagination and skill of both story teller and audience. Far too often stories are so amateurishly told that the “truth” it is intended to display is lost. Forgettable stories present truth in forgettable fashion. On the other hand, unforgettable propositions presented in unforgettable propositional fashion will be far more effective than a forgettable story. Let’s be careful not to elevate story to the most powerful form of communicating eternal truth.