Intersection Column | Is a Novel Just for Escapism—Or Something More?

0 comments Posted on November 8, 2021

by Bryan Litfin

Why do you read fiction? “Because I love a good story,” you might say. Or, “I like to go off to another world and get caught up in a great adventure.” Fair enough. I totally get that. Every little kid starts reading stories for reasons much like that.

But is mere escapism enough to justify fiction? In other words, should we only read novels because our lives are boring, and we want to exit temporarily from the monotony? The characters in novels do things we’d never do in real life. They take crazier risks. They face worse dangers than what most of us normally encounter. They overcome bigger obstacles and accomplish greater feats. The stakes are higher in a novel, the locations more exotic, the people larger-than-life. So, we enter their story-world for a while to live out their adventures in our imaginations.

There’s nothing wrong with escaping into an entertaining parallel universe. Storytelling has been about imagining great sagas ever since humans first started swapping tales around the campfire. But what else might a novel be about? Could it also teach you something fundamental about the human experience?

In my historical novel, Every Knee Shall Bow (Book 2 of the Constantine’s Empire trilogy), I hope to do more than just help you escape a humdrum life. Yes, there’s a lot of fun in such escapism . . . but I have other aspirations as well. I’d like you to encounter some of the great themes of our common existence as human beings. I do this by examining some of the vital issues that faced the people of the Roman Empire.

Now don’t get me wrong. This story is an adventure first and foremost. It isn’t my secret attempt to teach you factoids about ancient history. Though I was a professor of that subject for many years, I promise that you won’t feel like a student listening to one of my lectures. Every Knee Shall Bow is entertainment in the truest sense—exciting, vivid, and full of dangerous escapades that push the characters to their limits.

The Constantine’s Empire trilogy is set in a pivotal era of history. It is the fourth century AD, about 300 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. By that time, the tiny church that Jesus founded had grown from an underground house movement to something bigger and more structured. Along the way, the Roman Empire wasn’t always in favor of the new religion. We’ve all heard stories about those ancient Christians being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. That sort of persecution did indeed happen. Yet around the time of Emperor Constantine, things began to change. Constantine was the first emperor to favor the Christian church. He even converted to Christianity himself. Suddenly, things were looking up for those early believers.

But deep religious change didn’t come easily. There was a mighty conflict as Jupiter and the old gods let go of their empire so that Jesus could take it instead. As history pivoted from pagan Rome to Christian Rome, great wars were fought, and ancient structures came crumbling down.

What would take their place? Every Knee Shall Bow tells the story of two everyday people—a warrior who joins the Roman army and a senator’s Christian daughter—who find themselves caught up in the great events that marked their days. It’s a fascinating tale. I think you’ll like it!

What might you learn beyond the entertainment value? What you take away from this book is up to you. As an author, I tried to explore themes of how human beings relate to God, as well as how an entire society relates to institutional religion. People are spiritual by nature. Even atheists have their own kind of spirituality. A historical novel that’s set in a different religious context than our own can open new ways of thinking. That’s the great thing about fiction! Sure, it can be a nice escape from our everyday lives. But often—when all the right pieces come together—a novel can even be a catalyst to producing a new vision of human life. I’d like to think that Every Knee Shall Bow could accomplish that in readers just like you.

About the Author

Bryan Litfin is the author of The Conqueror and the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He also worked as a writer and editor for Moody Publishers. Bryan is now Head of Strategy and Advancement at Clapham School, a classical Christian school. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at www.BryanLitfin.com.

About the Book

The year is AD 316. For the first time in history, the Roman emperor supports the church. Bishop Sylvester sends Flavia from her convent to seek Emperor Constantine’s permission to build great churches and determine the canon of Scripture. But the enemies of God are on the move. Joined by Rex, Flavia’s beloved protector who has fought his way out of exile, the two friends cross the empire by land and sea on an epic quest to free the Roman people from the tyranny of the ancient gods.

Did You Know?

In 1896, a Texas employee of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad came up with a publicity stunt to build more interest in traveling by rail. Since the railroad was replacing older engines for a newer, more powerful engine, his idea was for the new locomotive to run at top speed toward another train. The event turned into a major disaster.

  • At least six people died and many more were injured.
  • The man who arranged the stunt was named William Crush.
  • The site of the crash is now known as Crush, Texas.

A lot of ideas pop into our minds. Not all of them are brilliant or even good. Before we act on one, we need to make sure it’s something God wants us to do.

Lena Nelson DooleyA Heart’s Forever Home

Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“I like seeing my friends represented on the shelves. Whether it be people I’ve personally met, people I know about and may be friends with on social media, or writers I feel like I know because of how much I’ve read from them and about them, it’s so cool to see their names on a book.”

Kevin Thompson30 Days Hath Reveng

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