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Parabolic Tales: The Hidden Beauty Of Faith In Speculative Fiction

As a reader, I want to be transported to a place beyond myself. To a place where light-versus-dark struggles are elevated beyond the mundane to new heights of courage, bravery, and inner strength. Sometimes, it’s only at these new heights that we can finally grasp the truth.
| Apr 15, 2016 | 7 comments |

Lion MagicFour children find themselves in a strange world where it’s winter all the time and the animals invite them to tea. Sounds like a dream, until their brother is lured away by the Ice Queen. How will a lion’s sacrifice restore their family?

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A spoiled son demands his inheritance before his father is dead, then squanders it in a few years. He returns to his father’s house a broken and groveling man. What does this father do? He throws his son a great big party and welcomes him back with open arms.

THE POWER OF STORY

There is so much power in a simple story that even Jesus used them to illustrate his message. The parables of Jesus are famous for breaking down the truth into bite-sized nuggets of wisdom we can understand more easily. Yet, Jesus’s parables were tailored to his own time period. The people who lived in biblical times could understand his message far better than we ever could.

In the imaginative world of speculative fiction lies a hidden gem of a story like no other—the modern-day parable. No, I’m not saying that The Chronicles of Narnia are the same as the Bible. But the power of story is still present, made even more powerful when it points back to biblical truths. Even in this simplified version of a C.S. Lewis Narnia classic, there’s transcendent truth that resonates deep in our souls. That’s the beauty of fantasy, supernatural, and science fiction. It speaks to readers like no other genre can.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

As a reader, I want to be transported to a place beyond myself. To a place where light-versus-dark struggles are elevated beyond the mundane to new heights of courage, bravery, and inner strength. Sometimes, it’s only at these new heights that we can finally grasp the truth. Why does an all-powerful lion have to sacrifice his life to save a traitorous boy? Why do the Jedi have to fight the Sith? Why does Frodo have to destroy the ring of power? These parabolic tales can illuminate new facets of faith readers might never see otherwise.

Today, so many entertainment options are screaming for attention. Yet there’s one message guaranteed to be tuned out first—anything deemed “too preachy.” Therein lies the need for a new perspective. Speculative fiction is a way to bridge the gap. It’s a perfect tool for authors to convey a new message based on timeless truths. Other worlds and alternate realities can change the landscape of reality while holding fast to deep biblical truths.

Why do so many Christians shy away from speculative fiction? Maybe it’s the strangeness of these other worlds, or an underlying fear that changing a world’s reality might subvert the truth. But the goals of any piece of writing are entirely dependent on the author’s goals. There are all kinds of speculative books out in the market today, written by authors whose sole purpose is to glorify God. How many people missed out on C.S. Lewis’s amazing fiction because they were too afraid to read one book and see for themselves?

Truth be told, I used to be one of those readers. Afraid to pollute my mind with books that weren’t godly. But the literature options I limited myself to weren’t enough for me. So with tentative steps, I ventured out into the unknown. And found a whole new realm of possibilities waiting for me.

THE GROWTH OF SPECULATIVE FICTION

Not only is SpecFic an opportunity to portray biblical truths in a new light, but it’s also a great way to send that message out into the world. Because speculative fiction, as a genre, is seeing some explosive growth. Especially in the young adult genre I call home. The popularity of Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games and all of its dystopian kin, is leaking out into the general market. Adults of all ages are flocking to speculative fiction like never before. Leading some Christian publishing houses to put their speculative titles on mainstream bookshelves, especially in the YA category.

I encourage you, as a reader, to keep an open mind. Be on the lookout for new books on Christian shelves and mainstream shelves. Be willing to try a new genre. My current favorite is YA dystopian. When you do pick up a new book, look for how faith, Christianity, and biblical truths are highlighted in new ways. And don’t be afraid to tout your discovery to all your friends. Authors love that.

Remember, there are more avenues to find great fiction than brick-and-mortar bookstores. Due to the small scope of SpecFic in major Christian publishing houses, there’s a growing collection of indie Christian titles in all speculative genres. Just check the Amazon Christian fiction lists, and I’ll bet you’ll find some titles you’ve never heard of. (Be sure to “Look Inside” to make sure they’re for you.) That’s why I’m glad great blogs like SpecFaith exist—to spread the word about the hidden treasure trove of faith-based speculative fiction. So take a chance on a new book, and enjoy!

[Editor’s note: also feel free to browse the Spec Faith Library for titles of Christian speculative novels, whether self-published, published by a small, independent press, or by an ECPA publisher.]

WHAT ARE SOME GREAT NEW BOOKS YOU’VE TRIED AND LOVED?

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Barbara Hartzler Author Pic copyBarbara Hartzler is the debut author of The Nexis Secret—the story of The Seer, a girl with a gift to see the unseen world of angels. And the two secret societies vying for her allegiance. The Nexis Secret is inspired by Barbara’s college experiences and peppered with anecdotes from her teen missions trip to New York City. She’s always wanted to write, not necessarily about angels, but the idea was too good to pass up. As a former barista and graphic designer, she loves all things sparkly and purple and is always jonesing for a good cup of joe. So grab a cup of coffee and peruse her blog at www.barbarahartzler.com. Or look for Barbara on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads (another place to find great books!).

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Leah Burchfiel
Member
Leah Burchfiel

My initial, uncharitable reaction to this was along the lines of “aren’t you precious,” but obviously I’m not the audience for this message. But that leaves me disgruntled as to WHY we have an audience for this message. WHY do we need permission to like spec-fic? WHY do so many feel like they have to justify their liking by pointing out “good vs evil” themes and assorted morals and edifications?

Lauren Beauchamp
Guest
Lauren Beauchamp

I like your point and wish it could be that way. But a lot of us grew up in the 90’s with Christian parents who were afraid of any appearance of magic etc in books. My mother doesn’t even like Narnia, though she let us read it.

I remember when I first found this website and articles like this really were new and insightful for me. I’m past that point now, but not everyone is.

As for new books I’ve been reading I’m about a year behind, but Stephen Lawhead’s Fatal Tree was awesome! I’m also reading the Storm Siren sequel. And I recently read The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker. (Which I think you would really like Leah!)

Tyrean Martinson
Guest

Although I’ve loved fantasy and scifi from a young age, and had the wonder of imaginative stories along with Bible stories and stories from real life to read in an intermixed way from the first time I started reading, and from the first time I started getting read to by my parents and grandparents, I think it’s good to think through why I love speculative fiction. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Yaasha Moriah
Guest

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. There was a time in my life when I deeply questioned whether I should write speculative fiction, because of so many messages I heard from other Christians about how speculative fiction isn’t Biblical because of factors X, Y, and Z. But speculative fiction from both Christian and non-Christian authors have profoundly influenced me spiritually. (Yes, even non-Christian books can convey enough about the truth of life to be of value to us.)

Some Christians argue that Phil. 4:8 admonishes us only to read/write about things that are “true,” or real to life, so therefore, supernatural or fantastical elements are out. But that’s not even a valid argument, because real life IS supernatural. The Bible itself records tons of supernatural events. It is the context that establishes whether the events are of God or of the devil, but supernatural things, on a basic level, are fully compatible with a Christian worldview. I believe that sci-fi and fantasy stories, when done well, are capable of conveying familiar truths in astonishing and profound ways like no other genres can, and we would miss incredible stories if we became “too spiritual” to value them.

As for your question, “What new books have you tried and liked?” I’ve just finished Ender’s Game and really enjoyed it. It’s made me think a lot about human nature.

Peter Younghusband
Member

Barbara, great post and one that resonates with me greatly, I posted yesterday on my review blog along these lines, go here:

http://christianfictionreviewguru.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/guest-post-why-is-redemptive-fiction.html

David Bergsland (author and reviewer) and a few reviewrs (myself included) are issuing Awards to authors who include redemptive and spirit-filled themes and content in their novels for the very reasons you outline here.

Thanks for posting this.