I have multiple internet and personal Christian friends who enjoy the genre of fantasy, some of whom also write fantasy themselves. Many of the latter congregate at http://www.holyworlds.org/ , and I find this from their (old) front page very encouraging: "We want to above all advocate writing that is consistent with a Biblical worldview and which encourages us to dedicate our lives more fully to God."
It is for people like these specifically that I write this post. We agree that The Foundation is and must be Scripture, and that is a huge first step. I hope to here pose a few questions, and I pray that God will use my thoughts here to edify His children and bring us (especially me!) to a better understanding of His desire for Christian fiction.
For starters, I want to say that I believe that Christians should be the best storytellers out there. We should be the best at everything (so long as it is lawful and God-honoring). From garbage men to novelists to film composers to public speakers to astronauts, Christians should be the best of the best. Why? Because our God has authority over everything- Matthew 28:18. He made it all, He holds it all together, it's all for His Glory, He claims it- Romans 11:36.
So we should be excellent. We should be the best. However, we must be sure that what we are pursuing excellence at things which please God. And so, applying this premise to fantasy, I come armed with questions, behold!
Important definition- by fantasy, I mean the creation of worlds, alternate universes, which don't actually exist. I don't mean sci-fi, though some things carry over betwixt the two.
Also note - I am not saying that Christian fantasy is bad, necessarily. I don't know. I'm asking- I'm exploring. It doesn't really matter what I say anyway- may God lead us into His Truth.
Many proponents of Christian fantasy, from what I've seen, hold up, as the two great triumphs of said genre, J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of The Rings and C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, so these two will be the staple examples of the worldview that I'm questioning.
On to my questions!
1. Is it OK to create a fictional world in which something which God's Law/Word forbids is not forbidden?
I say no! May it never be! 2 Tim. 3:16 and Psalm 119 come readily to mind. If we deny God's Word as the foundation for morality in the worlds we "create", how can we really call it Christian fantasy?
And I say that this means that sorcerers, witches, spells and magic, when cast as being good things, do not belong in Christian fiction. Harry Potter isn't OK. He's a hero who's studying sorcery. Gandalf is a huge problem. He's a good guy and a wizard who shouts incantations at snowy mountains. This is contrary to Scripture- Deut. 18:10. How about Aslan's "deep magic"? I'll leave that one to be pondered.
Now mind that I don't mean to say that Christian fantasy, or Christian stories of any genre, shouldn't include sin. But to "create" a fantastical world in which something that God calls sin is no longer sin is to have created a place where we may run to hide from God and His Reign over our lives, is it not?
Which is, of course, folly, and unScriptural on a number of levels.
Somebody stop me if I'm missing something here.
Another note - I'm not saying that watching or reading Lord of the Rings is sin or anything like that. It is worth watching on a number of levels, for analysis as a cultural classic and as a study in excellent art especially. My issue is whether this is truly God's Best for Christian fantasy.
2. How does the fact that man is created in The Image of God play into our fantasies?
OK, question 1 I wasn't really asking. I'm pretty firm there, though I'd love to hear (Scripturally-based) rebuttals. But on this one I'm honestly wondering.
A. Is it OK to create a fictional blend between man (or woman), who has been created in The Image of God, and a beast, an animal, which has not been created in The Image of God?
What do we do with centaurs and mermaids? See note #3 with my problems as to their modesty, but I'm pondering an even deeper issue that I've never even really thought about before just recently.
We know that man is made in The Image of God (Gen. 1) which separates him from the beasts, the animals. We also know that we were created to reproduce after our own kind, as were the animals. Blending man and beast is certainly not a Scriptural pattern- is it a Godly one?
Note #3 - I have another problem with centaurs and mermaids- they are (often) naked. "But it's only the top half!" I don't see such a distinction in Scripture. And if Ariel is wearing seashells, she's still revealing a LOT. Let's be honest- sure, she's a (remarkably shapely) fish from the waist down, but she's an almost nude woman from the waist up. Is this modeling Christian patterns of dress or protecting the purity of the viewers or readers of our stories?
B. Is it OK to create things like hobbits, elves, and dwarves, which are both obviously not beast and are by their very definition not man?
Obviously we don't see any such thing in Scripture. Frodo and is like another species of human- but Scripturally humanity started with Adam, and man is the only creation made in Imago Dei. How does this weigh in?
C. What about talking animals?
This one I'm not as bothered by. After all, both the serpent in the garden and Balaam's donkey spoke, so such things aren't Scripturally unprecedented.
3. What about the whole concept of fantasy? "Creating" something beyond what God has already created?
I don't know about this one. Whatever we do must be subject to God's Law/Word, including the worlds that we "create", but beyond that... may God give us wisdom as we seek His face. A few thoughts, though- nothing is truly beyond what God has created. Even our fantasies are bound by His Natural Law. I am amazed at how many fantastical creatures still conform to the basic template that God gave us in nature.
If we ever get to a point where we believe that our fantasies are real, there is most certainly a problem there. God has created reality for us, and that is where we belong. (Pointed glance at Avatar)
Also, we are created in God's Image, and part of that includes a desire to create, to produce, to "fill the earth and subdue it". So again I do not say that fantasy is inherently bad- simply that we must be careful, as with everything, to subject our fantasies to God.
It's something I have failed at before, and probably will in the future. Yet we repent and press on. May God's Kingdom be advanced further in our world and in all the worlds we make up.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!