John Piper reminds us fiction junkies that it’s OK to read stories, even children’s stories. Quoting C. S. Lewis:
I was therefore writing “for children” only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention. I may of course have been deceived, but the principle at least saves one from being patronizing. I never wrote down to anyone; and whether the opinion condemns or acquits my own work, it certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then.
And here is one from Douglas Wilson:
In C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we are given a good example of a boy who has been brought up poorly. Eustace Scrubb had stumbled into a dragon’s lair, but he did not know what kind of place it was. “Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”
It is a standing rebuke for us that there are many Christians who have an open sympathy for the ‘true’ books which Eustace read–full of true facts about governments and drains and exports–and who are suspicious of great works of imagination, like the Narnia stories, or The Lord of the Rings, or Treasure Island, because they are ‘fictional,’ and therefore suspected of lying. The Bible requires us to be truthful above all things, they tell us, and so we should not tell our sons about dragon-fighting. Our sons need to be strong on drains and weak on dragons. The irony here is that the Bible, the source of all truth, says a lot about dragons and giants, and very little about drains and exports….
The Bible cannot be read rightly without creating a deep impulse to tell stories which carry the scriptural truth about the kind of war we are in down through the ages.
Wilson, Douglas. Future Men, 2001, 101.
Of course we must have balanced diets (though note that fiction has been excluded in the list below):
This is really dangerous, and the way to counteract it is to prescribe balanced reading for yourself. What I mean is this. Read theology, as I say, but always balance it, not only with Church history but with biographies and the more devotional type of reading. Let me explain why this is so important. Your are preparing yourself, remember, and the danger for the intellectual type of man, if he is only reading theology or philosophy, is to become puffed up. He persuades himself that he has a perfect system; there is no problem, there is no difficulty.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Preaching & Preachers. Zondervan, 1972. p. 178
And finally, on a more technical level, and with application to Biblical Hermeneutics, Paul Ricoeur:
It is in the age when our language has become more precise, more univocal, more technical, in a word, more suited to those integral formalizations which are called precisely symbolic logic, it is in this very age of discourse that we want to recharge our language, that we want to start again from the fullness of language. That also is a gift of our ‘modernity,’ for we moderns are the heirs of philology, of exegesis, of the phenomenology of religion, of the psychoanalysis of language. The same epoch holds in reserve both the possibility of emptying language by radically formalizing it and the possibility of filling it anew by reminding itself of the fullest meanings…. Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again.
Ricoeur, P. The Symbolism of Evil. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. p. 380
Where should you get started? There are a whole host of recommendations I would love to offer (perhaps people can post their recommendations in the comments), but Justin Taylor recently recommended Gilead, which I picked up today at our local library.
Here are some of the books mentioned in this post.