“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.
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.