Monday, May 23, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories


Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 45)

It often happens that theology in ordinary settings becomes meaningless through over familiarity. Being preached at often raises defenses. Yet experiencing a gripping, imaginative story with relatable characters, vivid imagery, and settings that are out of this world makes faith new, more palatable, more beautiful.

I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. . . . But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 47)

The trappings of church can obscure the wonder of the Gospel. The infighting in many congregations can disgust even true Christians. The hypocrisy of many prominent leaders can turn people away, even when they are seeking that purpose beyond this world. But speculative fiction breaks free of the stuffiness, the infighting, the hypocrisy. It goes beyond the preconceived notions we all have and shares with us the effects of faith, the heart of the Gospel, the nature and power of God in a way we cannot otherwise experience.

At times I have felt distant from God. The circumstances of life press down, I see the evil in the world increase, and it becomes difficult to remember that God is still here and in control even throughout all of these pains and sorrows. During these moments of hopelessness, I remember a passage from Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy:

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” (164-165)

God is here. He is with us all the time, even when we do not realize it. And fantasy stories can remind us of that. 

Certainly one must be careful when writing stories of science fiction and fantasy. There are pitfalls that must be avoided and these tropes and plot devices must be used intentionally and within biblical parameters. However, these genres truly are powerful vessels for exploring truth. They present the Gospel in new ways. They make faith real in ways that nothing else can. 

Therefore, far from being instruments of harm to Christians, speculative fiction is of great benefit and ought to be welcomed as a creative expression that glorifies God and furthers His kingdom.

References

Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. Scholastic, 1995.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...


We have seen throughout this series that stories of imagination and wonder need not be inherently harmful and that Christians who write in these genres have no intention of leading their readers astray. But are these stories simply neutral or can they have a greater purpose? Could they possibly further God’s kingdom, spread the Gospel, and enhance Christian faith?

Many believe that rather than obscuring truth, these stories actually illuminate truth, give us a better picture of reality (Ryken), and artistically represent truth: “Yes, these tales are intended to reflect and embody many important Christian ideas. But they do it thematically, symbolically, and imaginatively, somewhat in the style of the parables of Jesus” (Focus on the Family).

J.R.R. Tolkien expressed a similar sentiment: “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker” (52). Furthermore, he explains that fantasy used properly evokes a joy that reflects the same joy and picture of reality of the Gospel story (64-66). Creativity and imagination reflect aspects of God’s nature and present metaphors that can aid in understanding of Scripture and show readers the wonder of God in a new way.

One method that has long been used in Christian fantasy is that of allegory. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was a very strict allegory and has come to define the method of writing for Christians. Every character, every place in Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, was a strict metaphor for some element of the journey that is the Christian life.

Personally, I believe this method is too on the nose. Authors of allegories run the risk of focusing so hard on their allegorical message they neglect to develop their characters—such as occurred in Chuck Black’s Kingdom series—and thus end by diminishing the ability of the reader to simply enjoy a good book, reducing the overall impact of the allegory. That said, Pilgrim’s Progress style allegories have their place in the canon of Christian fantasy. For instance, when read in conjunction with his partial autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress is a fascinating allegorical exploration of his conversion. Still, there is a more effective and enthralling use of speculative fiction in regard to faith.

“Suppose there was a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the ‘Great Emperor oversea’) went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?” (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 92)

What, indeed, could spiritual truths look like in fantastical worlds far different from our own? This question of what if?—commonly referred to as a supposal, based upon Lewis’s explanation—forms the basis of the majority of Christian fantasy in the modern era. Where this differs from the allegory is that allegory originates from a message and builds a story around it, causing every element to directly represent something else. A supposal begins with a story and the biblical worldview of the author naturally informs the what ifs to create a story that is far more powerful, universal, and accessible to the masses than allegory. 

Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight is a supposal in a similar vein to Narnia. Narnia “began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood” then grew to contain the supposal and Christian themes when “suddenly Aslan came bounding into it” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 53). Ilyon began with the concept of a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are unaccepted and grew into a series with parallels to Ancient Rome and Christian persecution, centered around substitutional atonement when Elon, the Son of God in Ilyon terms, sacrifices himself for the protagonist Jace, assuring him of his worth and the existence of his soul. 

Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings trilogy may not contain substitutionary atonement, but it nonetheless contains strong themes of following God and using gifts for Him. Half of the country of Er’Rets is covered in darkness, and Achan must learn to use his bloodvoicing ability—which incidentally includes telepathy among other spiritual abilities—given to those of royal blood by the true God Arman, to fight against evil in dedication to Arman in order to banish darkness from Er’Rets, thus providing a parallel of spiritual warfare among other things. 

Additionally, these kinds of biblical themes and parallels can be found even in secular works (Greisinger). For instance, the BBC series Merlin shows numerable instances of Arthur being willing to sacrifice his own life for those of his people, which is a beautiful picture of how Christ—our King—sacrificed His life for us on the cross. Also, my favorite episode, “A Servant of Two Masters,” illustrates Matthew 6:24 perfectly by showing that Merlin cannot serve two masters. Either he serves his king unreservedly or—under the enchantment of Morgana—he works actively against him, attempting to kill him. He cannot do both.

Seeing these pictures of biblical truths in these stories of wonder and magic and imagination, as well as in stories of space travel and technological advancement, casts them into a new light, causing them to resonate with us in entirely new and powerful ways.

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories

References

Focus on the Family. “Questions about Christian Fantasy/Fiction.” Focus on the Family, Focus on the Family, 7 Jan. 2011, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/questions-about-christian-fantasy-fiction/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Griesinger, Emily. “Why Read Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling and the Christian Debate.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2003, pp. 297-314,314-316. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/why-read-harry-potter-j-k-rowling-christian/docview/201277855/se-2?accountid=11824. Accessed 21 September 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Ryken, Leland. “In Defense of Fiction Christian Love For Great Literature.” Desiring God, John Piper, 10 Aug. 2021, www.desiringgod.org/articles/in-defense-of-fiction. Accessed 9 September 2021.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” Tree and Leaf, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1988, pp. 9–73.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Is Science Fiction Inherently Humanistic?


Science fiction. A genre in which I freely admit it is difficult to find quality works that are not totally incompatible with Christianity. In fact, it's super easy to rank in Amazon's top 100 Teen and Young Adult Christian Science Fiction category. But does that mean it's all bad and must inevitably turn readers away from God?

What I found in my research is that many object to science fiction on the basis that it promotes humanistic ideals and elevates both man and science to the level of God, thus replacing Him. Science fiction is often based upon Darwinism, excludes God from the narrative, promotes the idea that our salvation rests in the technology and inventions of man, and encourages moral relativism, as well as building its pseudoscience upon ideas easily disproven by true and commonly accepted science—some prominent examples of such an attitude being the works of Arthur C. Clarke and certain episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Laughlin, Manlove).

Yet a predisposition towards humanism is not a necessity in science fiction: “Typically, science fiction and faith are circles that don’t intersect. In the instances when they do meet, however, it is usually one throwing stones at the other . . . . Bradbury’s stories weren’t like that, though. He wasn’t afraid to revere the Bible in his seminal work Fahrenheit 451, or to allegorize man’s search for a savior (whether on this planet or the next) in short stories like The Man. Rather than despising faith, he often embraced it, and sometimes—horror of horrors—even glorified it” (Nietz).

Furthermore, there is nothing inherently wrong with pseudoscience. Sure, hard sci-fi readers won't appreciate it, but if you're writing pseudosciencey stuff, are they really your readers? Pseudoscience and technobabble are plot devices and elements of worldbuilding, just like magic can be. They're ways to tell stories. They're methods by which to explore themes. They're a manner in which writers warn people about future dangers of many kinds. Is it evil to use FTL travel in your book when it will probably never actually exist? Will it damage people's faith to write about time travel? I certainly don't think so. They're stories and stories that can be used for amazing purposes.

Science fiction can and has been used to explore faith rather than to elevate humans above God. It is a creative way to explore creation and an apt genre for exploring the dangers of technological and social ills. For instance, Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands trilogy explores the vices of ancient Babylon in a futuristic setting, speculating about the evils Christians would face when trapped in a city ravaged by STDs and filled with debauchery, forced to reproduce to maintain the population because they are the only ones uninfected. Kathy Tyers’s Firebird series takes a different path by imagining what would have happened had humans gone to space prior to the arrival of the Messiah. 

These writers may be few and far between, but truly, science fiction can explore themes of faith, God, ethics, humanity, the dangers of trying to play God, and much more. It does not have to promote anti-Christian ideals and can indeed do quite the opposite.

Besides, sciencey things and pseudosciencey things are fun and cool and just one of many ways to use our God-given imaginations.

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...

References

Laughlin, David. “Science Fiction: A Biblical Perspective.” Answers in Genesis, Answers In Genesis, 1 Aug. 2001, https://answersingenesis.org/culture/science-fiction-a-biblical-perspective/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Manlove, Colin N. Christian Fantasy from 1200 to the Present. Macmillan, 1992.

Nietz, Kerry. “What I Learned From Ray Bradbury.” Enclave Publishing, 9 June 2012, https://www.enclavepublishing.com/what-i-learned-from-ray-bradbury/. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Real or Not Real?


"In the quiet that follows, I try to imagine not being able to tell illusion from reality. Not knowing if Prim or my mother loved me. If Snow was my enemy. If the person across the heater saved or sacrificed me. With very little effort, my life rapidly morphs into a nightmare."

 —Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins


Upon one occasion, I spoke with a library patron regarding her concern with allowing her upper elementary-aged son to read Percy Jackson. She was worried that it would cause her son to believe in mythology, thus causing problems with his Christian upbringing. I assured her that he was more than capable of understanding that Percy Jackson and Greek mythology is fiction, and she can simply tell him that it is imaginary. Children understand.

As I researched objections to Harry Potter as a part of my English paper, I came to see that this is not an uncommon concern. Parents are afraid their children are unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

While in the early 20th century it was believed that children as old as preteens “struggle with this confusion” between reality and imagination, more recent studies indicate that children as young as three have a good sense of what is real and what isn’t (Taub and Sevarty, 57-62). There certainly may be children who have difficulties distinguishing fantasy from reality, but in most cases, a simple statement from a trusted adult that a particular thing is not real or is imaginary is enough to set the child straight. 

Truly, the only situation in which I can ever remember being confused as to the difference between fiction and reality was Little House. It's a fictionalized account of real people and events, and in any such based-on-a-true-story book or movie it is difficult to discern what is real and what isn't without thorough knowledge of the true events. But I never believed Oz was a real place, or that I could get to Narnia, or that I could tesser across the universe. I never thought I was really in an Annie-like orphanage, or that I lived on the frontier, or that my Barbies were sentient, whether they were running for public office or trekking to Oregon in covered wagons. Nor have I ever interacted with a child—either as a child myself or while babysitting—who appeared to believe their imaginings were real either. In fact, when playing we lived during the American Revolution with a battle raging outside with some friends, one little girl, under five at the time, appeared to be genuinely scared. Slightly worried about it, I asked her if she was really scared or just pretending. She instantly snapped out of it, said "just pretending," then went back to acting terrified.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. Yet some people simply don't see it as such. In fact, there are people who—apparently discounting the creative ability of children—believe that imaginary friends are actually demonic in origin. I had imaginary friends as a two-year-old (I credit Barney with the early development of my imagination; I read in a book once that children don't typically have imaginary friends until they are a year or two older). My sister and real-life friends have had imaginary friends and imaginary adventures. I still in a way have imaginary friends. They're called fictional characters. But I'm fairly certain none of us ever believed that the things we pretended were reality.

Certainly there are mental conditions that can cause people to believe things exist that are not real, but that is not the average child, and not the average speculative fiction reader. I may have enjoyed playing Jedi Temple training, having lightsaber battles, pretending to go on rescue missions chasing down bounty hunters, and wishing there was a live-action series based on Jedi Quest wherein I played Darra Thel-Tanis, but I never once actually thought Jedi were real or that I could use the Force.

So this is as much to say, parents may very well be concerned about their child's ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, but I believe that except in rare cases, they need not worry. And this concern from parents is simply a perfect opportunity to discuss literature and truth and philosophy and much more with their children, something that is beneficial to the building of a worldview regardless of the strength of the child’s grasp on reality and rather increases the benefits gained from speculative fiction.


Reference

Taub, Deborah J, and Heather L Servaty. “Controversial Content in Children's Literature: Is Harry Potter Harmful to Children?” Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Heilman, RoutledgeFalmer, 2003, pp. 54–57.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Matter of Mythology


Confession: I have never been a big fan of mythology. I've just always thought it was kind of dumb. People really believed in those stories? How is that possible?

But I still read Greek myths, and I never batted an eye at the mythological creatures that inhabit Narnia. Furthermore, I very much enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, and was super excited when the official greenlight on the Disney+ adaptation was announced.

I do see why someone would be concerned about the inclusion of elements of mythology: mythology is inherently anti-biblical, presenting a view of the world that is based upon false gods and imaginary spirituality. Some have asserted that such use of mythology—particularly in Christian stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia—distorts the truth and causes readers to become dangerously comfortable with alternate worldviews and religions, that even Christ-figures such as Aslan are problematic and draw readers away from the truth (Kjos). 

Certainly stories that assert as their premise that mythology and false gods are real—the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, for example—could be challenging for young readers and readers with little discernment, though I would suggest that mature, discerning readers can enjoy these tales simply as entertaining fiction. Yet it is possible to include mythological creatures and even gods in a way that is not inconsistent with Christianity. 

In Narnia, for instance, fauns, centaurs, dryads, and even Bacchus and Silenus are created beings subject to Aslan just as much as the Talking Beasts are—simply a part of the worldbuilding. Indeed, leading children astray by familiarizing them with myths and setting up false pictures of Christ was not Lewis’s intention, nor is it the intention of any writers of Christian fantasy I have encountered. Rather, Lewis’s intention was to enhance rather than destroy children’s faith as is evident from the letter he wrote to the mother of Lawrence Krieg. 

Lawrence was concerned that he was “loving Aslan more than Jesus” but Lewis asserted that “the things he loves Aslan for doing and saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Lawrence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before” and then suggested a prayer for Lawrence to pray that further exemplifies this intention (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 52-53). Like magic, mythology and symbolism must be used wisely and with caveats, not elevating these mythological figures to a status that replaces God, but within a proper framework, it too can be a powerful storytelling and worldbuilding tool even in Christian speculative fiction.

Besides, even though mythology was created as an alternative explanation for the universe, the stories and creatures are often highly creative and perfectly useful to fantasy writers. Certainly, deep worldbuilders may look down on you for not inventing something entirely new, but there is nothing new under the sun and I see no less reason to incorporate fauns and centaurs into your worldbuilding than elves. Though one must naturally take care to put one's own twist on things. While straight-up copying out of copyright things may not technically be illegal, it's still lazy. And there's so much that can be done with mythological creatures and tales.

Speculative Fiction: Real or Not Real?

References

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 1: Blending Truth and Myth.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 2: A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia-2.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 3: Christian allegory + Mythical gods = Deception.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia-3.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 4: Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/caspian-4.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Question of Magic


Magic. Ah, for the most controversial aspect of fantasy.

It's understandable why people are so concerned. Witchcraft is a very real and very dangerous thing. And it has often been asserted that fantasy magic inevitably promotes witchcraft and other aspects of occultism. Most notably, the Harry Potter series has come under fire for purportedly containing “actual beliefs and practices associated with witchcraft and paganism including: divination, astrology, numerology, familiars, pagan gods/goddesses, spellcasting, potions, necromancy (i.e. communication with the dead/ghosts), mediumship/channeling, crystal gazing, palmistry, charms, arithmancy and magick” (Abanes, 173). Even some of those Christians who find Rowling’s brand of magic to be imaginary are still concerned that the positive portrayal of witchcraft and wizardry in Harry Potter will lead children into the discovery of real witchcraft and other occult practices (Greisinger). I'm not a big fan of Harry Potter for reasons I'm not going to get into here (you can read my Goodreads review if you're curious), but I'm personally not in the Harry Potter is real witchcraft camp. 

Furthermore, even books such as The Chronicles of Narnia have been accused of containing potentially harmful positive depictions of divination, astrology, and magic (Kjos). Yes, Narnia, with it's suppositional portrayal of Christ's sacrifice, with its positive impact on Christians.

I do not believe this concern should be taken lightly, and indeed there are fantasies that truly do promote occultism and witchcraft. Yet including magic in a story does not inevitably cause the book to be harmful and evil. It must be handled carefully, for the biblical prohibition of witchcraft is a serious one, but it can be handled in a way that does not violate biblical principles. 

Considering the source of the power and making it clear that purportedly good magic does not come from evil sources is essential. Supernatural power may very well originate with demons, thus constituting evil magic, but supernatural power can also originate with God, as evidenced by the biblical story of Moses versus Pharaoh’s sorcerers, and in many fantasies and science fictions, abilities that seem supernatural to humans are simply inherent abilities of fictional species. 

There is so much room for creativity, even within boundaries. Certainly, a Christian writer should never condone a protagonist using actual occultish magic for evil purposes, or indeed, using it with good intentions, for such a thing would promote end justifies the means philosophy. I would even venture to say that it's unwise to go into the details of bad guys doing actual occultish magic. But not all magic falls into real-world practices. For example, Cinderella's fairy godmother waving a wand and singing "Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo" isn't going to conjure up demonic power. Neither is Elsa's ice magic.

What I have come to love in recent years is magical/supernatural abilities that are either gifts of God (e.g. bloodvoicing in Blood of Kings) or inherent abilities of species or characters (e.g. elven magic in Elven Alliance, Merlin's magic in BBC Merlin). There's so much you can do with that as a writer, and in those cases, it's evident the characters aren't calling on demons for their power. And the interesting thing is, even with things such as that, the characters aren't always going to use it for good purposes, which can make for some interesting and powerful themes. Human nature twists even things that are meant to be good. For instance, in Blood of Kings, bloodvoicing is an ability given by Arman to those of royal blood, and some use it to fight for good, some to enact evil. It's the same thing in Merlin. Merlin tries to use his magic for good (and when he uses it for selfish or stupid reasons, it always ends badly), but there are also lots of bad guys using magic to try to kill Arthur and/or Uther. Therefore, it is not even necessary to have bad guys calling on demonic power to create magic-related conflict. After all, evil is in the hearts of men, not necessarily the tools they are using. People have even twisted Scripture to justify and promote various forms of abuse.

Additionally, as Lewis and Tolkien did, confining good magic to entirely imaginary sorts used in other worlds by characters who are not the protagonists is a potential way to handle magic well. This article was foundational in my formation of my beliefs surrounding fantasy magic and, though long, is well worth the read. Used thoughtfully with caveats, magic and superpowers need not be harmful and can add great value and potentially allegorical meaning to a story.

Though perhaps less prominent than the attacks on fantasy, science fiction has also come under fire for promoting anti-Christian ideals. It has been said that common science fiction elements such as telekinesis and telepathy are occult, New Age, Eastern Mysticism concepts masquerading under supposedly “ ‘scientific’ terms”, the Force in Star Wars being a prime example of this occultism and Eastern Mysticism brought into a futuristic setting (Laughlin). Yet it is not impossible to see unintended faith metaphors in secular fiction, as Star Wars author Kathy Tyers stated in an interview with TheForce.Net. Certainly one must approach these scenarios with caution because they tend to mix in elements that are not strictly Christian, but if one views science fiction through the lens of a biblical worldview, it is just as possible to see limited elements of Christian spirituality in the Jedi, particularly as written by authors such as Tyers, as it is to see a picture of spiritual rebirth in the regeneration of Time Lords in Doctor Who. They may be imperfect pictures, but a proper perspective can see value in these purportedly occultish and New Age science fiction elements. 

Furthermore, these sorts of plot and worldbuilding elements can be used in purposely Christian science fiction stories. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has often been accused of promoting occultism and “New Age spirituality,” though it is full of Scripture quotations and written as a way of exploring the author’s faith through science (Bailey). She had no intention of promoting evil by including telepathic abilities and other strange elements such as tessering and kything in her stories—rather, she was writing about defeating the darkness with the light of love, and science fiction and fantasy elements provided a perfect storyworld for this message. Besides the fact that kything is just plain cool, and so is tessering.

Speculative Fiction: The Matter of Mythology

References

Abanes, Richard. Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick. Horizon Books, 2001.

Bailey, Sarah P. “Publishers Rejected Her, Christians Attacked Her: The Deep Faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Author Madeleine L’Engle: Her Famous Book is Sprinkled with Scriptural References” WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post, Washington, 2018. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/publishers-rejected-her-christians-attacked-deep/docview/2012009596/se-2?accountid=11824. Accessed 21 September 2021.

Greydanus, Steven D. “Harry Potter vs. Gandalf.” Decent Films, 2001, http://decentfilms.com/articles/magic. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021

Griesinger, Emily. “Why Read Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling and the Christian Debate.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2003, pp. 297-314,314-316. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/why-read-harry-potter-j-k-rowling-christian/docview/201277855/se-2?accountid=11824. Accessed 21 September 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 1: Blending Truth and Myth.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 2: A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia-2.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 3: Christian allegory + Mythical gods = Deception.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/narnia-3.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 4: Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/caspian-4.htm. Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Potts, Michael, and Kathy Tyers. “Jedi Council - Interviews: Kathy Tyers.” TheForce.Net - Your Daily Dose of Star Wars, The Force.Net, Nov. 2000, http://theforce.net/jedicouncil/interview/tyers.asp. Accessed 7 Nov. 2021

Taub, Deborah J, and Heather L Servaty. “Controversial Content in Children's Literature: Is Harry Potter Harmful to Children?” Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Heilman, RoutledgeFalmer, 2003, pp. 54–57.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Dangerous Occultism or Witnessing Tool?


It's impossible to know me and be unaware of how much I love science fiction and fantasy. It's just a big part of what makes me me. And so it's not probably a surprise that when my English professor said we could write our research papers on pretty much anything as long as we could research it and make an argument about it, I decided to write about speculative fiction. More specifically, the role speculative fiction plays in the Christian community.

It's not really a secret that said role can be rather controversial. One need only look at Harry Potter to see that. So I set out down a rabbit hole of research on the objections to and defenses for science fiction and fantasy in the Christian community. It was a fascinating research subject, and I wanted to share the results. 

Some believe speculative fiction is occult and evil. Some believe it is a good thing that can be used for God's glory. Where do I fall? I'm sure you can guess, but go on this journey with me anyway to explore my conclusion and how I came to it.

Speculative Fiction: Dangerous Occultism or Witnessing Tool?

When I was young, I went through a phase where I struggled to understand the efficacy of prayer. I believe God is sovereign and in control, and that nothing happens that is outside of His will. So what good does it truly do to pray? As I pondered this, a passage from C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew sprang unbidden to my mind:

“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”


From this I understood instantly that while God does know everything and He is sovereign, He still wants us to pray, to deepen our relationship with Him as well as our understanding that everything we have comes from Him. He wants us to ask. From that point forward, I ceased to struggle with this particular issue—all because of a few lines in a fantasy story. And this is only one example of spiritual understanding gained from speculative fiction. 

Yet some allege that these very stories and others like them which deepened my understanding of Scripture, illustrated biblical truths, and enhanced my faith are inherently harmful and evil, rather promoting such things as occultism, humanism, and witchcraft. Many of my fellow writers within the Realm Makers community have faced backlash from family and church family for writing stories of magic, dragons, aliens, and more. 

Is there merit to these accusations that these stories we write tamper with the forbidden? Or is it rather true, as others assert, that speculative fiction is the perfect vessel for spreading God’s truth and reflecting the creative aspects of His nature? I contend that while these genres of fantasy and science fiction must be handled with care and a solid grounding in Scripture as a result of certain genuine concerns, they are nevertheless effective vessels for conveying God’s truth and furthering His kingdom by exploring truth in new and imaginative ways.

Speculative Fiction: The Question of Magic

References

“Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Explained.” Performance by Steve Laube, YouTube, Enclave Publishing, 10 Sept. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OelI7pD6-jQ&t=73s. Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Lewis, C. S. The Magician's Nephew. Scholastic Inc, 1995.