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March 1995 Table of Contents

 
 

What Inspiration Says About Fiction
By John Grosboll

What Inspiration Says About Fiction
    1. Five Adverse Results of Reading Fiction
    2. "By fostering love for mere amusement, the reading of fiction creates a distaste for life’s practical duties. Through its exciting, intoxicating power it is not infrequently a cause of both mental and physical disease. Many a miserable, neglected home, many a lifelong invalid, many an inmate of the insane asylum, has become such through the habit of novel reading." Ministry of Healing, 446.

    3. Counsel Regarding Inspirational or High-Class Fiction
    4. "Dear Brother E: I have just read the Review and Herald and have seen your article giving a list of good books for our youth. I was much surprised to read your recommendation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Robinson Crusoe, and such books. You are in danger of becoming somewhat careless in your writing. It would be well to give thought and careful study to whatever is to be immortalized in print. I am really alarmed to see that your spiritual eyesight is not more clear in the matter of selecting and recommending reading for our youth. I know that the recommendation in our papers of such infatuating books as Uncle Tom’s Cabin will in many minds justify the reading of other books which are nothing but fiction. . . . This recommendation will make taxing work for those who are laboring to persuade the youth to discard fictitious reading. I have repeatedly seen the evil of reading such books as you recommend, and have an article all prepared, cautioning our youth in this very matter." Testimonies, vol. 5, 516.

    5. How Does Fiction Affect the Mind and a Person’s Bible Study Habits?
    6. "Light and truth are within the reach of all, and those who have the knowledge of the truth are to be as light in darkness; but if they do not set their minds to searching God’s Word, Satan will find chaff to fill their minds, leaving no room for the growth of the precious seed of truth. Amid the perils of these latter days, every individual member of the church should understand the reasons of his hope and faith, which are not difficult of comprehension if the mind is only kept free from the perverting and paralyzing influence of modern romance and fiction. There is work for the brain to do if we would grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then let us labor most earnestly to impress and urge upon our children the necessity of understanding the reasons of our faith. We are surrounded with temptations so disguised that they allure while they taint and corrupt the soul. Satan varies his enticements to suit different minds; and he takes advantage of every circumstance to make his plans for a soul’s destruction successful." Review and Herald, November 9, 1886.

    7. If a Person has Already Developed a Habit of Reading Fiction, What Should He Do?
    8. "No effort should be spared to establish a right habit of study. If the mind wanders, bring it back. If the intellectual and moral taste has been perverted by the over-wrought and exciting tales of fiction, so that you are disinclined to apply yourself to the diligent study of God’s Word, then you have a battle to fight with yourself to overcome this depraved habit. A love for fictitious reading should be broken up at once. Rigid rules should be enforced to hold the mind in a proper channel. The pernicious practice of story-reading is one of the means employed by Satan to destroy souls. The mind that is occupied with exciting stories loses all relish for solid reading that would improve the memory and strengthen the intellect." Ibid., October 9, 1883.

    9. Even if There Were no Other Harmful Effect From Reading Fiction, What Serious Disadvantage Results from its Use?
    10. "Besides these there is a multitude of fiction writers, luring to pleasant dreams in palaces of ease. These writers may not be open to the charge of immorality, yet their work is no less fraught with evil. It is robbing thousands upon thousands of the time and energy and self-discipline demanded by the stern problems of life." Education, 227.

    11. What About High Class Fiction Written to Teach Moral and Spiritual Truth?
    12. "There are works of fiction that were written for the purpose of teaching truth or exposing some great evil. Some of these works have accomplished good. Yet they have also wrought untold harm. They contain statements and highly wrought pen pictures that excite the imagination and give rise to a train of thought which is full of danger, especially to the youth. The scenes described are lived over and over again in their thoughts. Such reading unfits the mind for usefulness and disqualifies if for spiritual exercise. It destroys interest in the Bible. Heavenly things find little place in the thoughts. As the mind dwells upon the scenes of impurity portrayed, passion is aroused, and the end is sin.

      "Even fiction which contains no suggestion of impurity, and which may be intended to teach excellent principles, is harmful. It encourages the habit of hasty and superficial reading merely for the story. Thus it tends to destroy the power of connected and vigorous thought; it unfits the soul to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny. . . .

      "It is often urged that in order to win the youth from sensational or worthless literature, we should supply them with a better class of fiction. This is like trying to cure the drunkard by giving him, in the place of whiskey or brandy, the milder intoxicants such as wine, beer, or cider. The use of these would continually foster the appetite for stronger stimulants. The only safety for the inebriate, and the only safeguard for the temperate man, is total abstinence. For the lover of fiction the same rule holds true. Total abstinence is his only safety." Ministry of Healing, 445, 446.

    13. How is a Taste for Fiction Often Developed Unintentionally?
    14. "I am troubled to see in Sabbath-keeping families periodicals and newspapers containing continued stories that leave no impress of good upon the minds of the children and youth. I have watched those whose taste for fiction has been thus cultivated. They have had the privilege of listening to the truth, of becoming acquainted with the reasons of our faith; but they have grown to maturer years destitute of true piety and practical godliness. These dear youth need so much to put into their character-building the very best material—the love and fear of God and a knowledge of Christ." Review and Herald, November 9, 1886.

    15. Why is it Easier to Develop a Desire for Fiction than for Good Reading?
    16. "The similarity between an uncultivated field and an untrained mind is striking. Children and youth already have in their minds and hearts corrupt seed, ready to spring up and bear its perverting harvest; and the greatest care and watchfulness are needed in cultivating and storing the mind with precious seeds of Bible truth. The children should be educated to reject trashy, exciting tales, and turn to sensible reading that will train their minds to be interested in Bible story, history, and arguments. If their imagination becomes excited by feeding it upon highly-wrought fictitious stories, they will have no desire to search the Scriptures or obtain a knowledge of truth to impart to others. Truth is what our youth should read and study, not fiction—truth to be practiced every day, that truth which Christ prayed might sanctify His disciples." Ibid.

    17. What, Then, Is Our Only Safe Course?
    18. "No efforts should be spared to establish right habits of study. If the mind wanders, bring it back. If the intellectual and moral tastes have been perverted by overwrought and exciting tales of fiction, so that there is a disinclination to apply the mind, there is a battle to be fought to overcome this habit. A love for fictitious reading should be overcome at once. Rigid rules should be enforced to hold the mind in the proper channel." Ibid., January 30, 1915.

    19. Writing About the Experience of Ellen White and Himself, What Did James White Say About Fiction?
    20. "The Christian world is cursed with religious fiction. This is especially exhibited in Sunday school books which are early thrown into the laps of children as their first series for instruction. Next, as they reach riper years, come those volumes in which learned doctors of divinity philosophize upon the mysteries of the ‘hidden life.’ Their efforts to make it appear that ‘entire consecration’ is a second great work to succeed justification has added to the general bewilderment." Signs of the Times, February 3, 1876.

    21. What Should We Study Instead of Fiction?

"The oftener and more diligently the Scriptures are read, the more beautiful they will appear, and the less relish will one have for light reading. The daily study of the Scriptures will have a sanctifying influence upon the life." Ibid., February 19, 1880.

"The glory of God is displayed in His handiwork. Here are mysteries that the mind will become strong in searching out. Minds that have been amused and abused by reading fiction may in nature have an open book, and read truth in the works of God around them. All may find themes for study in the simple leaf of the forest tree, the spires of grass covering the earth with their green velvet carpet, the plants and flowers, the stately trees of the forest, the lofty mountains, the granite rocks, the restless ocean, the precious gems of light studding the heavens to make the night beautiful, the exhaustless riches of the sunlight, the solemn glories of the moon, the winter’s cold, the summer’s heat, the changing recurring seasons, in perfect order and harmony, controlled by infinite power; here are subjects which all for deep thought, for the stretch of the imagination." Testimonies, vol. 4, 581.

12. What Should We Be Doing With Our Time Instead of Reading Fiction?

"Cheap works of fiction do not profit. They impart no real knowledge; they inspire no great and good purpose; they kindle in the heart no earnest desires for purity; they excite no soul hunger for righteousness. On the contrary, they take time which should be given to the practical duties of life and to the service of God,—time which should be devoted to prayer, to visiting the sick, caring for the needy, and educating yourself for a useful life. When you commence reading a storybook, how frequently the imagination is so excited that you are betrayed into sin. You disobey your parents, and bring confusion into the domestic circle by neglecting the simple duties developing upon you. And worse than this, prayer is forgotten, and the Bible is read with indifference or entirely neglected." Youth’s Instructor, September 10, 1884.

    1. How Is Our Reading Related to Character Perfection?
    2. "Why should we not perfect a Christlike character? Why should we not manifest His indwelling by corresponding works? The Master’s vineyard comprises the whole world. There is a large field for our efforts. We should study the Word of God, not in a stupid, sleepy, indifferent way, but with zeal and earnestness, longing for a knowledge of the truth. We should keep the mind pure by avoiding the reading of novels. He who allows himself to become infatuated with fiction, will have no genuine interest in the study of the Word of God; for the mind becomes diseased by contact with evil imaginations." Ibid., February 20, 1896.

    3. What Do Our Reading Habits Reveal About our Religious Experience?
    4. "The nature of one’s religious experience is revealed by the character of the books he chooses to read in his leisure moments. In order to have a healthy tone of mind and sound religious principles, the youth must live in communion with God through His Word. Pointing out the way of salvation through Christ, the Bible is our guide to a higher, better life. It contains the most interesting and the most instructive history and biography that were ever written. Those whose imagination has not become perverted by the reading of fiction will find the Bible the most interesting of books." Ibid.

    5. What Does Ellen White Say About the Use of Fiction in School?
    6. "The Protestants have accepted the spurious sabbath, the child of the papacy, and have exalted it above God’s holy, sanctified day; and our institutions of learning have been established for the express purpose of counteracting the influence of those who do not follow the Word of God. These are sufficient reasons to show the necessity of having educational institutions of our own; for we must teach truth rather than fiction and falsehood. The school is to supplement the home training, and both at home and at school, simplicity of dress, diet, and amusement must be maintained. An atmosphere must be created that will not be deleterious to the moral nature. Line upon line, precept upon precept, our children and households must be educated to keep the way of the Lord, to stand firmly for truth and righteousness. We must maintain a position against every species of sophistry that bewilders in this degenerate age, when error is glossed over, and so mingled with truth that it is almost impossible for those who are not familiar with the distinctions that the Scripture make between the traditions of men and the Word of God, for them to distinguish truth from error. It has been plainly stated that in this age ‘some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.’" Review and Herald, January 9, 1894.

    7. What Did Ellen White Say about Fiction in Seventh-day Adventist Publications?
    8. "Our power and efficiency as Seventh-day Adventists is largely dependent on the literature which comes from our presses. An indiscriminate class of articles should not be published in our periodicals. Cheap, worthless stories should find no place in them. There are articles of romance and fiction which contain no seeds that will bear good fruit. I would say to our editors, Be careful in the selection of the matter which is to go to the world. Show the greatest caution and discernment. Be careful that the Review and Herald and the Signs of the Times are kept free from worthless matter. Precious matter from what has already been printed can be found for our papers." Selection of Articles for Our Papers, 2.

    9. What Specific Counsel about Salvation did Ellen White give to a Man with a Problem with Fiction?
    10. "You have not stored your mind with the precious things of God’s Word, and unless you repent, you will surely be deceived by Satan’s manifold devices. You have left the precious word of life for a dish of fables, and you are perverting your God-given powers; you are intoxicated with that which is false and deceptive. You have indulged in a kind of reading that gives you not a knowledge of God or of the truth. ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.’ We want to understand every jot and tittle of God’s will as revealed in His Word; but you are filling your mind with rubbish, with trifling things. Time is passing, and you are not gaining an experience for the future, immortal life. The class of reading you enjoy destroys your appetite for solid reading that would improve the mind and strengthen the intellect. This much reading of unprofitable literature is a snare to your soul. You are like a man intoxicated with strong drink. Your mind is not clear upon any subject which concerns your eternal interest. You are unready for that which is coming upon the earth, unfitted to act your part in the great whole. You place yourself in the way of temptation; and when you stand upon Satan’s ground, you are inviting his assaults. . . . Your faith is adulterated, and your only safety is to determine that you will not fill your mind with fiction. You have not wisdom to discriminate, and the indulgence of your love for reading spoils you for your business." Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 261, 262.

    11. Regarding a Troublesome Employee Who’s Experience Has Been Used Repeatedly in an Effort to Discredit the Spirit of Prophecy. Ellen White said:
    12. "I was troubled about Fannie for a long time. I could not see that she had any real interest in the work. She had the most precious matter of practical godliness presented before her. She was handling subjects every day that if she fed upon them would give her spiritual food and Christian experience. But I received not the evidence that she caught the precious ideas, but rushed through them mechanically, passively, without taking them in and appropriating them to herself. The precious things became common. Poor soul, she feeds upon fiction more than upon the truth." Manuscript Release, 926.

    13. Regarding a Girl in Europe Who Ran Away From Home, Ellen White said:
    14. "One of the difficulties to be faced at headquarters centered on a young lady named Alace, daughter of a dedicated press worker. Alace had run away from home. Ellen White explained that ‘this is the fruit of . . . flirtations and courtships.’ This is no doubt considered a little chapter in romance resulting from the reading of ‘fiction and romance,’ she said. Young people who read their Bibles did not ‘do these things.’" Ellen White in Europe, 271, 272.

    15. How Has the Devil Used Fiction to Increase Difficulties in Evangelism?

"Literature and cheap fiction of every order is circulated like the leaves of autumn; and the minds of thousands are so taken up with irreligious, cheap trash that there is no place in the mind for solid reading. The Word of God and all that would elevate man from his degradation is passed by with indifference." Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, 263.

"Satan is now stirring up the minds of men to furnish to the world literature which is of a cheap, superficial order, but which fascinates the mind, and fastens it in a network of Satan’s contrivance. After reading these books, the mind lives in an unreal world, and the life, so far as usefulness is concerned, is as barren as a fruitless tree. The brain is intoxicated, making it impossible for the eternal realities, which are essential for the present and the future, to be pressed home. A mind educated to feed upon trash is unable to see in the Word of God the beauty that is there. Love for Jesus and inclination to righteousness are lost; for the mind is built up from that upon which it feeds. By feeding the mind upon exciting stories of fiction, man is bringing to the foundation ‘wood, jay, stubble.’ He loses all taste for the divine Guide Gook, and cares not to study the character he must form in order to dwell with the redeemed host, and inhabit the mansions which Christ has gone to prepare." Special Testimonies on Education, 156, 157.

March 1995 Table of Contents

 

       
 

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