Cultivating the Christian Imagination


In the constant deluge of media consumption—whether it’s the endless TikTok scroll, binge-worthy TV series, or the latest true-crime podcast—stories are dynamic forces at work. They serve as an undercurrent, pulling at our convictions and perspectives.

As Christians, it’s essential that our imaginations are cultivated to serve as a counternarrative to foul stories, reshaping and reclaiming the world around us. But how are we supposed to achieve this?

Consider this exchange from earlier this year on social media: “What work of fiction changed your worldview the most?” someone asks, prompting another to respond, “No work of fiction should alter our worldview. As a Christian, my perspective is solely shaped by Scripture.”

This dialogue sparks an intriguing question: Does the formation of a Christian worldview rely exclusively on Scripture, or can fiction play a role?

Within the academic realm of narrative theory, a debate arises concerning the Christian imagination between Plato’s straightforward narrative mode, diegesis, and Aristotle’s imitation, mimesis. Simplified, this debate questions whether truth, insofar as it shapes a worldview, should be merely dictated, or if it is okay to illuminate it through lifelike storytelling.

I propose that embracing “narrative imitation” (mimesis) is a helpful tool for spiritual growth in the life of the Christian so long as it is guided by Scripture. In essence, there’s value in showing, not just telling (James 2:14-26). While direct teaching is indispensable—as the Scriptures display—accentuating truth within imaginative narratives enables meaningful resonance and connection. The Scriptures themselves affirm the significance of our imagination, challenging the notion of a strict, in-a-vacuum choice between Scripture or fiction for worldview-shaping. Indeed, God designed us to engage with narrative in meaningful, formative ways.

In this context, consider a few ways in which Scripture encourages the use of non-scriptural means, including fiction, to persuade our worldviews:

1) Scripture recognizes non-Scripture revelation as a means of understanding truth

Scripture teaches that general revelation is a compelling expression of God’s truth interlaced throughout creation. Romans 1:20, for one example, asserts that humanity perceives God’s invisible attributes—His eternal power and divine nature—through His handiwork. God’s character and existence can be understood from the natural world around us. This sentiment is echoed in Psalm 19:1-4, where non-human entities—the heavens, day, and night—are described as declaring God’s glory and declaring the work of His hands. Together, these passages affirm the inherent connection between God’s revelation in the created world and His imprint on human consciousness.

Thus, Scripture shows that non-scriptural (non-special) revelation shapes our view of the world because the world itself is shaping our view. God’s created world can’t help but testify of its Creator. Paul goes so far as to say this testimony is so potent that man is “without excuse.”

This doesn’t undermine Scripture, which happily gives credibility to non-special influences for shaping worldviews. Thus, there is no competition between the two spheres of God’s revelation as they display God’s glory and impress upon our worldviews. In the dance between general and special revelation, Scripture stands as the rhythm guiding our imagination, ensuring fidelity to God’s revealed truth in His created world.

2) Jesus used fiction to convey truth

Scripture itself provides examples of the use of fiction and imagination, particularly through Jesus’ teachings in parables, fictional stories that serve as powerful tools for conveying truth in a relatable and memorable manner.

For instance, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus employs a fictional narrative about a compassionate Samaritan to impart the lesson of loving our neighbor. While the events depicted in the parable did not occur historically, the story resonates deeply because it engages our imagination. We can picture the wounded man, hear his cries of pain, and empathize with the unlikely hero, the Samaritan, and desire to be more like him.

This story is an example of the worldview-shaping power of fiction when it’s glued to God’s truth. Jesus didn’t rely solely on didactic instruction, but rather harnessed the power of storytelling to captivate hearts and minds, inviting listeners into a deeper understanding of God’s kingdom and purposes. As followers of Christ, we can emulate Jesus’ example and embrace fiction as a valuable tool for framing worldviews toward the things of the Lord.

3) Supplementary nonfiction literature can shape our Christian worldviews

Scripture serves as the ultimate authority and foundation for shaping our Christian worldview, but nonfiction literature can also be valuable in aiding our understanding and application of biblical truths.

In systematic theology textbooks, for example, readers are guided through a comprehensive examination of biblical themes and principles. By engaging with such commentary—especially sections on worldview development—we deepen our understanding of how Scripture informs and shapes our perspective on various aspects of life, which itself contributes to shaping our worldviews.

Ironically, this principle is illustrated in the application of the exchange detailed at the beginning of this article, which asserts that Scripture alone should change a worldview. If that statement proved convincing to a reader, it would be self-defeating, as it effectively changed a worldview despite not being Scripture.

Similarly, this very article may prove to persuade, either positively or negatively. Either way, it could be worldview-shaping in such a context, further illustrating the self-defeating nature of a misguided understanding of God’s revealed truth and its ability to shape worldviews both in and outside of Scripture. This is why Paul, in his inspired writings, could quote from poets like Aratus and Epimenides (Acts 17:28) or summarize sentiments circulating in extra-biblical literature (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Suffice it to say, like general revelation, this process is only made possible because of the transcendent truth of Scripture. Therefore, the power of non-scriptural literature to affect a worldview does not contradict sola scriptura; rather, when true, it supplements it. This is a good thing because it displays the nature of truth itself; it is not beholden to man.

4) The Bible affirms our unique capacity for imagination

Scripture reveals that humanity is wired for imagination. Humans are made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:27), which implies that we share in God’s creative spirit, including the capacity for meaningful imagination through fiction. Just as God spoke the world into existence through His creative ability, so too are we endowed with the ability to create. Our imagination reflects the divine image stamped upon us.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” As it turns out, “workmanship” has an aesthetic gradation. In certain contexts, it emphasizes the craftsmanship of a creator, akin to the skill of a potter fashioning a jar or a writer composing poetry. This nuance has led some to interpret the term as “masterpiece” or even “work of art,” as seen in certain Old Testament passages (Ecclesiastes 4:4; Isaiah 29:16). Additionally, in classical usage, the term referred to the product of a craftsman, like the making of a crown.

Therefore, it’s plausible that Paul’s use of “workmanship” highlights God’s skillful design, implying that God’s salvific work includes an aesthetic value. This portrays humanity’s salvation as crafted by God for purposes that involve responding with creative works for God—not solely good deeds, but also good creations, including works of fiction that can be used to bend a worldview towards God.


The assertion, “No work of fiction should alter our worldview,” contradicts Scripture’s portrayal of God’s comprehensive truth and its intention and capacity to draw our hearts closer to Him. It handcuffs the Spirit’s ability to move our minds and adjust our hearts (Ez 36:26-27). Truth be told, such an understanding of sola scriptura is impoverished, robbing us of the joys inherent in being made in God’s likeness. We are not non-imaged animals living in a cosmic zoo; we possess the unique ability to create and to be spellbound by creation, a gift uniquely bestowed upon us by our Creator. Downplaying this suggests that truth is best conveyed in a detached, clinical manner—a narration devoid of the imago Dei blessing. God isn’t daunted by fiction any more than He is by an actual den of lions.

Ultimately, God’s truth is embodied in the story of Christ and in the Scriptures that tell us about Him. The true story—the gospel—serves as the prototype that all stories echo, whether consciously or not. The Christian faith invites us into a vibrant relationship with this story. It suggests that the ultimate narrative is not merely one to be told, but one to be experienced and reflected brilliantly in our lives. Every narrative we engage with has the potential to reflect the larger story of which we are a part, and fiction affords us the ability to counter false narratives and impress proper worldviews in the minds of people made in the image of God.

Christians would do well to recognize that imagination is a divine gift bestowed upon us by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer aptly states, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should soar beyond the stars.”

Editor's Note: As a part of its commitment to fostering conversation within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Review may publish editorials that espouse viewpoints that are not necessarily shared by the TBR team or other contributors. We welcome submissions for responses and rebuttals to any editorials as we seek to host meaningful conversations about the present and future of our convention.

Jared Wellman

Jared Wellman

Jared Wellman has served as a Lead Pastor in Texas since 2003. He’s holds Bachelor's and Master’s degrees from Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, and a Ph.D. from South Africa Theological Seminary. He is currently in the dissertation phase for a Ph.D. in Apologetics at Southern Seminary. He lives with his wife, Amanda, and four children in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.