I have always wondered why when I ask people to tell me what the most important or formative books they have read in their lives, nine times out of ten a person says it was a fictional story. For instance, when Goodreads users what are the most influential books they have read, fiction is all over the place.
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human is a fantastic book and it is the first source that I have encountered that addresses why fiction is more influential on people than non-fiction.
Here is a short summary of one of the arguments to the power of fiction:
"Green and Brock’s research shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Fiction readers who reported a high level of absorption tended to have their beliefs changed in a more “story-consistent” way than those who were less absorbed. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories—inaccuracies, infelicities—than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film); these readers were unable to detect the false notes in the first place."
The author goes on to say:
"And in this there is an important lesson about the molding power of story. When we read non fiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to leave us defenseless."
The Church teaches that the Bible is Truth that you can shape your life around. Which gives the impression that the Bible should be read as first and foremost a historical document that is trying to convince the reader.
The Bible, on the whole, is a collection of writings that are not trying to convince people's minds but trying to shape people's hearts. And the more we read the Bible like it is all non fiction the more we read "with our shields" up to the point that we are cynical and discount the Bible in what it is really trying to do.
No one reads Frankenstein with their cynical shields up. Rather, we read and it shapes our hearts to consider the ethical dilemmas Shelley is trying to raise.
The Bible is a great collection of books. Many of these books are fiction and others are "based on a true story" sort of non fiction. But either way, can we get back to a point where the Church teaches Christians to read the Bible as non fiction and not be threatened by the Bible losing credibility or authority?
Put it another way, can the Church get away from trying to convince people's minds and get back to Jesus' desire to shape our hearts*?
*Ever wonder why Jesus used fictitious parables rather than non fiction tales?