Peter Leithart explains what Christians gain from reading fiction and poetry:
For Christians, the question at a certain level answers itself. We read because we are people of the book, the people of Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Matthew, Paul, and John. We read because in reading we encounter the God who is Word. Christians extend this argument easily to “edifying” reading. If we must read the Bible, then we also, it seems, have all good reason to read theology, church history, lives of the saints, devotional guides, Bunyan, always Bunyan. No one raises a protest when a Christian sits down with a serious tome (and, frankly, are tomes ever frivolous?).
It’s sometimes a different story when the question “Why read?” means “Why should we read poetry, or fiction, or drama, or screenplays?” Ask that question, and you may get, at best, a blank stare, and at worst a harangue on the dangers of imagination. The more orthodox your interlocutor, the more likely you’ll get the harangue rather than the stare.
Few Christians are self-conscious Platonists, but we are often instinctive Platonists, suspicious of imagination, fearful that fiction will distract them from the serious business of Christian living, worried about getting caught up in fictions that are no more than images of images. With so many things to pray for, so many unbelievers to evangelize, so much of the Bible still obscure and almost unintelligible – how can a Christian justify spending time with the likes of Dickens and Dostoevsky, not to mention Nabakov or Updike?
My defense of reading here and in a second essay is this: We read fiction and poetry for “pictures” and to make new “friends.”
(Via: Justin Taylor)