What is the purpose of a story? I understand that stories can have different functions (didactic, entertainment, satire, etc.), but why do we tell stories in the first place? Why do we tell stories that teach morality, that make us laugh, that criticize our politicians? An easy (and rather unsatisfactory) answer would be something like, “Well, that’s just part of human nature.” But then the secular world will run into some stormy weather with a statement like that one. Because if the secular world proposes that humans are no more than animals, and that humans do not have a soul (that’s the key of the materialistic worldview), then why would telling stories be a part of our nature? Seriously, think about it. Animals do not tell stories. In fact, story-telling implies that humans are capable of thinking in the abstract (that is, thought which is not stimulated by the senses), and that necessarily implies a reach above the material. So, when it comes to story-telling, the secular world has a bit of a problem.
However, Christians have not only an answer to the above question, but have encouragement or call to tell stories. First, let’s talk about the answer. So, for the Christian, the purpose of telling stories is to glorify God. Yes, it really is that simple, and that complex. For glorifying God means, in part, making much of Him, exalting His name, etc. The beauty of literature is that it allows Christians to do so in a great variety of ways: allegory, a fairy tale, and even horror stories can glorify God. My answer comes from 1 Cor. 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s part of our freedom in Christ (see Gal. 5): we are able to glorify God in whatever we do. Obviously, certain things we don’t do, because they don’t glorify God (like getting drunk, lying, being sexual impure, etc.). So, when we tell stories, our purpose must be to glorify God.
Not only do Christians have a purpose for telling stories, but they also have a call to do so. The greatest story ever told is the story of Jesus and how He saved His people; God is a story-teller, and He has commanded His people to share that story. The most fundamental and powerful way of doing so is through preaching, but Christians can also tell the gospel story in other means. Music, painting, videography, etc. are all tools in the arsenal of the believer to explore and proclaim the gospel of the glory of God. And for the Christian, story-telling is one of these tools.
This is the first place to which we have to go when thinking about the theory of literature as Christians. We have to understand why we tell stories and our call to do so. This, of course, does not mean that every believer has to be an author, just as the call to preach does not mean that every Christian ought to be a pastor. Rather, it means that whatever talents you have, you have a call to also be a story-teller, one who tells the story of how Jesus saved His people. And God created us as creative beings (that’s part of what it means to be made in the image of God), so be creative with your stories!