Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Fiction is a powerful thing; it moves the soul and spirit by displaying the hopes and fears of humanity in a way that we can imagine in our mind and hope for in our hearts. Recently, I have been brought back to the idea of looking at the gospel through fiction, specifically through fairy tales and my musing has brought me to this, what it means to have the faith of a child. Fiction, specifically fairy tales, should be able to remind us of the gospel and of our hope as Christians.
Fiction, at its core, relates values to those that hear or read it. You can see this by comparing the Lord of the Rings trilogy to something like Breaking Bad. In Lord of the Rings we find an epic battle between a very defied good and a very defined evil with good triumphing over evil. It is an epic born of its time and of a person thoroughly steeped with a Christian worldview which says that evil and good are sure things, and that good will triumph over evil. In comparison today, with an increasing degree of relativism, we find Breaking Bad (another example would be Game of Thrones) where good isn’t sure because in the protagonist we find a shifting good and shifting evil, and though a seemingly objective good wins in the end, the path to that good is filled with far more grey and the (ostensible) hero is never fully redeemed. In short, these examples show the difference in values between today’s Western society and the historical view of Christianity. Fiction shows values.
What then do fairy tales reveal? Fairy tales reveal the hopes we have for as children. What is it that fairy tales often consist of if not perfect romances, happy families, and good triumphing over bad; they are symbols of hope. Often they have a descent into deep darkness, whether it is the death of snow white or little red riding hood being eaten by the wolf, followed by the emergence of a triumphal light. Fairy tales are, at their core, the story of darkness being vanquished by light. Is this not what we mean when we call children innocent, that they have not been tainted by what we might call “realism,” that they have not assimilated this idea that this world is not conducive to the idea that good will always win, that perfection is not possible, and that what we hope for as children will not come to be?
What then is the gospel? The gospel is the story of how all that we hope for as children becomes fulfilled in Christ. Where we wanted a perfect romance, we find at the end of the beginning (for this current world is merely a beginning), the marriage supper of the lamb where the bride of Christ is married to the prince that redeemed her.
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready;
to her it has been granted to be clothed
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
— Revelation 19.6-9
Where we wanted a perfect family, we find a perfect family in the Church, brothers and sisters in Christ with God as our father.
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
— Colossians 1.1-2
And where there was once evil, in Christ there will be good, for good will always triumph over evil.
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
— Revelation 21.3-5
The gospel is the story of how all we hope for as Children will be fulfilled in Christ. It is, as J.I. Packer said in his book Knowing God, “We are all loved just as fully as Jesus is loved. It is like a fairy story — the reigning monarch adopts waifs and strays to make princes of them — but, praise God, it is not a fairy story: it is hard and solid fact, founded upon the bedrock of free and sovereign grace.” The gospel is the grandest fairy tale, it is the grandest because it is real, and it is a fairy tale because it shows how the fullness of our hopes become made real in Christ. Fairy tales point us toward the gospel by reminding us of our hope, and the fulfillment of all our hopes in Christ.
The Gospel is the greatest news that we have. It is the story of how the pauper is made into a prince, and how by union with Christ we find new life. This is the faith of a child, a faith that looks towards the fulfillment of all hopes and is not marred by any sense of realism. Rather, it is a faith with the highest sort of idealism because the gospel is not too grand to be true. Rather it is grand just because it is true. In the gospel we find not brokenness but completeness, not loneliness but adoption, not poverty but true wealth, and not evil but good.