What is this thing called Christian speculative fiction?
Readers and writers are still debating those definitions, and I think that’s okay.
The most recent instance was Monday at this site, in the comments here. Rebecca Miller admitted her original question was more broad, about which Christian speculative stories — besides Lewis and Tolkien — would be considered required reading. Still, some of the submissions were from a wider field of reading than what most would consider “Christian.”
To prove that, we must define Christian speculative fiction/stories. How do you define that?
Here’s a possible pattern for discussion:
- Write a short definition of Christian speculative fiction/stories.
- If you like, break down the words and phrases with sub-definitions.
- Any bonus comments, with evidence or preemptive rebuttals of criticisms.
Here’s what I mean.
1. Definition of Christian speculative stories.
Here’s my working definition for discussion/revision.
Christian speculative stories are fantastic tales that are written, or otherwise shown, clearly yet naturally from a Christian worldview. That is, the hero and plot reflects Christ and the Gospel, the characters reflect real people, and the story-world and style reflect reality and God’s truth, wonders, and creativity.
2. Phrase breakdown.
Christian speculative stories are fantastic tales
- We’re speaking here of story-worlds including things we don’t normally see: fantasy, technology, creatures, alternate histories, miracles, and so on.
that are written, or otherwise shown,
- These include novels, television, plays, motion pictures, and so on.
clearly yet naturally from a Christian worldview.
- What this means: the hero/plot, characters, and world run on Biblical “rules” — not necessarily God’s “will of command” or revealed will, but His sovereign will (e.g., sin brings consequences, we don’t always have answers this side of Heaven, He is God).
- What this doesn’t mean: every character finds God or finds answers to every question.
- What this means: the author is knowingly telling the story according to Biblical “rules.”
- What this doesn’t mean: the author is clearly a professing Christian (but I’m not aware of a case in which a non-Christian author wanted to write a specifically Christian story).
That is, the hero and plot reflects Christ and the Gospel,
What this means: the hero in some sense is a Christ-figure, and sin and grace are seen.
- What this doesn’t mean: any hero, even if he sacrifices himself, counts as a Christ-figure.
- Example: the alternate gospel “story” of Mormonism, a fantastic tale with other planets and everything, is not the original Gospel. This goes beyond intra-Church debates over baptism or “Calvinism” vs. “Arminianism,” for the Mormon concept of Jesus and His mission, the Gospel, is skewed to the point of being a false “Jesus” and false “gospel” (Galatians 1: 6-9). For more, see here.
the characters reflect real people,
- As in reality, characters behave like actual humans, not one-dimensional clichés. They show the Biblical truth that man is sinful, yet can be redeemed, and that even sinful people can do good, even if they have bad motives (Matt. 7:11).
and the story-world and style reflect reality and God’s truth, wonders, and creativity.
- What this means: in such a story, God is “seen,” even if He seems hidden. He’s shown in a way that nature itself reveals Him. “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
- What this doesn’t mean: God and His nature are seen just as clearly as He is revealed in the Bible. Scripture is final, only-certain revelation from God Himself. So no speculative novel need also try to act like the final, most-comprehensive word on the subject.
- What this means: the story includes truth, not always accessible or resolved or seen, but always present — even behind the scenes, even just out of reach.
- What this does not mean: beauty in style and craft don’t matter if the story has truth.Truth without beauty is a lie. Beauty without truth is ugliness.
3. Bonus: why read newer Christian speculative stories?
Becky later asked this question:
I’m beginning to wonder–we have a lot of writers who stop by, and readers who read general speculative fiction, but do we also have visitors who read “Christian speculative fiction”–the books we have here in the Spec Faith library, the books many of our guest bloggers write?
I’ve also begun to wonder if Christian readers are reading anything besides classic fantasy — works by Lewis, Tolkien, MacDonald, etc. — and secular speculative novels. Recently I had to razz a friend from church who was only recently pushed into reading The Hunger Games. His reason: it wasn’t Lewis or Tolkien, so why read anything else?
I’d rephrase his question, and not only because this brother happens to lead the singing at my church: it isn’t by Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley, so why sing any other song?
Rather, God should be worshiped with “a new song,” played excellently (Psalm 33:3).
And if worship is more than singing, and it is, we must also enjoy new stories for His glory.
Browse our Library shelves. On June 1, we’ll launch an upgraded Speculative Faith, with new cross-reference options, organization, and featured reviews. It’s the best way we know to find new authors and novels, similar titles, and fantastically unique means of worshiping God — not only with classic fantasy or secular books, but with Christian speculative stories.