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Fantasy and A Christian Worldview

One of the reasons I love to write fantasy is because of the good vs. evil conflict present in the stories. In most fantasy types—classic or high fantasy, adventure fantasy, even fairy-tale fantasy—good and evil are defined in rather stark, […]

One of the reasons I love to write fantasy is because of the good vs. evil conflict present in the stories. In most fantasy types—classic or high fantasy, adventure fantasy, even fairy-tale fantasy—good and evil are defined in rather stark, unyielding terms, based on what the author believes.

Philip Martin, editor of The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature writes:

Fantasy, then, is speculative fiction that takes one giant step inward. It is highly imaginative, wondrous fiction, rooted in inner beliefs and values. Fantasy is about good and bad, right and wrong.

Martin makes a case for fantasy differing from science fiction because it is not tied to the rational.

Fantasy celebrates the nonrational. Wrapped in a cloak of magic, it dares a rational reader to object to a frog suddenly being turned into a prince. Where an explanation would be required in science fiction, fantasy says: “Because it did.” Though fantasy may offer some cause and effect—the prince probably did something wrong in the first place to cause him to be turned into a warty amphibian—no scientific rationale is required.

There is a reason, says science fiction. We believe says fantasy.

Surprisingly, this definition offers a couple of stumbling blocks to evangelical Christians in accepting fantasy as valuable. First is this contrast between belief and reason. Frankly, that bothers me, too, because I find my belief to be eminently reasonable. Faith is not faith based on nothing.

But true faith does admit that there are things in the world that are beyond a person’s ability to explain completely. Fantasy does nothing more than capitalize on this fact.

A reader of fantasy, then, enters a world constructed by an author’s beliefs. If the author is a student of God’s Word and relies on that source to inform his beliefs, then his world, his fantasy story, will be filled with truth. The kind of truth that can’t otherwise be explained.

Fantasy’s first value, therefore, is that it can give voice to a Christian’s deepest held beliefs.

Re-posted from A Christian Worldview of Fiction, May 13, 2006

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Esther
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And yet, it seems that part of the objection that some Christians have to fantasy literature is that it is a “lie”. For this reason, they also object to science fiction or any other fiction. Rational or irrational, a lie is a lie, they claim.

They base this belief on the scriptures that our “yes should be yes and our no, no”, and “do not bear false witness”.

How does a bible-believing Christian writer of fantasy fiction reconcile this?

E. Stephen Burnett
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Esther, way back in 2007, on the old Speculative Faith site, I took a crack at that one:

2. ‘Christians shouldn’t bother about fiction, which is lies’

This [objection] I’m a little vague about, because I’ve only heard that frankly silly idea in passing, and followed quickly by rebuttals. Perhaps some commentators can contribute anecdotes in which they’ve heard this objection more clearly made, most often, I would surmise, by more-“fundamentalist” folks.

However, the rebuttals are, by the way, rather easy to form and remember: 1) Jesus himself taught in fictitious parables, 2) nowhere in the Bible are stories compared to “lies” or forbidden from being told, 3) if you’re legalistic about banning fiction altogether, you’re surely legalistic about a darn lot of things too, which of course ignores Grace.

Still that’s just a basic overview — if I wrote more about it, I’d probably capitalize on the truth that Jesus’ parables were “lies” (as were His comparisons of the Kingdom to a man buying a field, etc.). The Psalms’ artistic excellent would come into play too.

But I’m also sure Rebecca’s written more about the whole “fiction is lies” objection. …