Don’t you absolutely hate it when a person lies about you in some way? No doubt over the course of your life you have felt the rising rage and indignation against such vile misrepresentation by another. Lies, even small ones, can be so devastating to your reputation that you become emotionally and physically shaken. In fact, such an assassination of your character is so devious and criminal in nature that you can easily view it as an attack from the very pit of hell and even Satan himself, can you not?
How much more egregious, then, is it when someone spreads falsehoods about God even when He has clearly revealed Himself to the world through inspired Scripture? Certainly God has given us the truth about Himself in the Bible which we have no claim to change. As John MacArthur rightly states:
“Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the self-expression of God…. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.”
Jesus certainly didn’t mince words on this matter. Concerning the attack on His truth during His earthly ministry, he plainly called out Satan as “a liar and the father of lies.” And when the Jewish rulers publicly denounced Christ’s testimony as the Son of God and spewed the untruth that He was demon-possessed, Jesus called these men “children of the devil” (John 8:42-44), not only because they emulated their “father” Satan, but because they were led by diabolic instigation to reject Christ and squelch His testimony, even to the point of murdering Him.
So the question for the professing Christian is, how do you thus handle the received truth of God? Do you rest in the Bible alone or do you sometimes find yourself more interested in the creative works of men that cast God’s character in an alternative, but intoxicating light? Truly, a fluctuating commitment to the inspired word of God and the plain, undiluted truth found therein, may place you in harm’s way within the camp of the enemy.
This kind of introspection is not an inconsequential enterprise. Jesus condemned the Pharisees to the most inflammatory degree for their dishonesty, so this is truly a serious matter. The Pharisees’ disregard of the truth made them, at that very moment, the spawns of Satan. According to Matthew Poole, “By imitation, (the Pharisees) were (the devil’s) true children, using all arts imaginable to destroy him whom God had sent into the world for man’s salvation.” And as John Trapp so eloquently described the innate devilishness of the Jewish leaders, “(Satan) has set his limbs in you, so that you are as like him as if spit out of his mouth.”
In similar manner, intelligent but misguided men throughout history have become purveyors of Satan’s lies by imitation. They, too, have used “all arts imaginable” that, knowingly or not, distort or muzzle the truth of Jesus Christ by their artistic fabrications. By untethering themselves from the pure word of God, they wrought their own creative narratives that lay somewhere between the spectrum of truth and falsehood in order to manufacture emotion and sensuality over the unchanging reality revealed in God’s word.
Such satanic mimicry started with the seeds of counterfeit pagan mythology during Old Testament days and flowered into the creation of the Gnostic gospels which sought to muddy the apostolic testimony after Christ’s death and resurrection. Later on, new fables of men emerged to redefine God’s holy word: everything from The Book of Mormon to A Course In Miracles to The Da Vinci Code.
Of course, the most dangerous of the lot are the works of professing Christians who have dared to use their compelling artistry to clothe the ancient pagan lies with silvery prose like the very “spit” out of Satan’s mouth. And yes, this includes even the most beloved and bestselling literature in today’s Christendom: The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord Of The Rings, The Shack and Jesus Calling, to name only a few.
In response, one may ask: What’s the problem with these imaginary accounts, fantasy tales or mythical allegories about Jesus that might help us comprehend the deeper truths of the Gospel? Obviously they aren’t meant to replace the Bible, but they can surely help illuminate biblical themes in our minds, one might argue. “A ‘redeemed imagination’ is a potent and perfectly acceptable instrument for my rediscovery of God!”
But is creating fiction about Jesus our sacred duty as believers? Are we not charged to rightly handle God’s word and trust that it, alone, is sharper than a two-edged sword to disseminate reality? Does it not contain all that is necessary for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness? (II Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12).
To leave the confines of Scripture to imagine God anew is to return to the condition of fallen man:
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:21-23).
When judged in the light of this inspired assessment of man’s imagination, these works of literature (or film) that are popular in Christian circles today not only fall short of biblical rigor, but sometimes create a false Christ that readers will eagerly follow through a page-turning adventure rife with spiritual pitfalls. Who, pray tell, would want to make our transcendent, holy God a four-footed animal?
The bottom line is, fantasy stories and fictional tales “about” Jesus are NOT Jesus, and they almost always distract us from the biblical Jesus; or worse, they distort who Jesus is and lead us astray from His Truth. Even if such creative endeavors only pitch one degree to the left or right, the trajectory of that narrative will separate more and more from the target of truth as it travels away from the point of human origin. Metaphorically speaking, this is simple physics, and more importantly, it is what the Bible specifically calls out as an error of which to beware.
Paul clearly warned us in his epistles of the distinct possibility that “by Satan’s craftiness (i.e. creativity or artistry), your minds will be led astray from the SIMPLICITY and PURITY of devotion to Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3-4). Why? Because “the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish,” is the very thing which strives to hinder the reception of the “love of the TRUTH so as to be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:9-10).
In his book Old Paths, J.C. Ryle echoed Paul’s admonitions on this matter:
“The Bible alone gives us true views of God. By nature man knows nothing clearly or fully about Him. All his conceptions of Him are low, grovelling, and debased. What could be more degraded than the gods of the Canaanites and Egyptians, of Babylon, of Greece, and of Rome? What can be more vile than the gods of the Hindus and other heathen in our own time?”
Our charge as Christians, therefore, is to protect God’s inspired revelation at all cost against the “false wonders” of human creativity, even if they appear as an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). As Christian author Chip Brogden correctly points out: “The bottom line is that there are many things that are ABOUT Jesus, but are NOT Jesus… When the things about Christ become more important than Christ Himself then we need to revisit who we are and what we are doing.” (The Church In The Wilderness, p. 49)
Are you cherishing the “things” about Jesus more than the person of Jesus and the God-breathed testimony of who He really is? Have you selfishly indulged in the worldly glow of manufactured spirituality and vigorously defended and justified your love of human works in print and film because it gave you a more compelling “revelation” of Christ, even at the expense of the Gospel found in the full glory of Scripture?
Remember that liars have their portion in the lake of fire, and there could be dire consequences for one’s bold allegiance to imaginary stories that bear false witness about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. And while you may well argue that your personal faith is strong enough to indulge in spurious entertainment that strays from truth and into an unbiblical syncretism with paganism and esoteric philosophy, what will be your defense when your passionate public promotion of such confusing tales damages your Christian witness and perhaps leads a lost soul further down the road to hell?
How could that ever be acceptable?
For more information, please read the follow-up essay, Beware False Christs Arising In Literature, which will highlight and examine a few of the most popular and beloved “Christian” books of fiction. The article will attempt to explain how such works actually lie about our Lord and Savior, and undermine His Gospel testimony.