Yesterday during an NFL game, a quarterback dropped back to pass and was belted from both sides, violently sandwiched between two onrushing linemen. The two-team collision reminds me of Christian speculative fiction.
As various contributors here at Speculative Faith have pointed out from time to time, speculative stories are the brunt of criticism from those who believe fantastical elements don’t belong. At the same time, however, the hammer comes down, claiming theology has no place, that it’s too restrictive, too confining, too box-like.
Like so much else in the Christian life, I believe writers following Jesus Christ must walk in balance, in this case between those two extremes. We have God-given imagination and we have God-given revelation. One ought not exclude the other.
The logical approach seems to me to anchor ourselves, and therefore our writing and our responses to what we read, in that which is fixed. From that point and within its parameters, speculative stories have infinite latitude. The “anchor,” I submit, is truth, especially God’s self-revealed truth.
The Apostle Paul addressed false teaching from time to time in his letters to various churches. He was concerned that those spouting wise-sounding words might delude believers into abandoning the gospel. Repeatedly he called believers to govern or protect their minds. To the Corinthian church he wrote
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)
Some people might be tempted to put a period after speculations or possibly after every lofty thing. But the verse clearly states that the speculations and lofty things Paul was standing against had a specific purpose: they were raised up against the knowledge of God.
A logical deduction, then, would seem to be that speculations and lofty things aimed at revealing a true knowledge of God would receive Paul’s approval. The key seems to be in the last part of the verse: we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Think of our thoughts as beautiful stallions, sleek and strong. They can either run wild or they can be tamed and trained. Are those tamed and trained stallions inferior to the wild ones? That question, I think, expresses the fears of some writers. If we submit our thoughts to “theological correctness” somehow we will be giving up something vital and necessary for good storytelling. Somehow the captive thoughts, the tamed ones won’t express the messiness of the human soul.
I don’t believe that to be true, for one main reason: Christ was a man. Well, OK, two reasons: God created Man. My point is, no one knows the messiness of the human soul more than He Who created it and Who lived it (“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” — Heb. 4:15). In other words, our greatest source for understanding the way the world works — that in the heavens or on earth, the visible or the invisible — is God’s revelation.
Apart from that anchor, however, we can wander into all kinds of false ideas, and our stories will no longer be true. Paul again, this time to the church in Colossae:
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)
The key here, I believe, is that our thoughts will be taken captive, one way or another. The wild stallion may be a romantic notion, but in truth, horses on their own are prone to hunger and disease and may become prey to any number of predators. Their “freedom” leads them into lives of skittishness and fear and danger, whereas those that are tamed and trained know safety and satisfaction.
Our thoughts are not so different.
But what does “safety and satisfaction” do to storytelling? I mean, conflict is the key and that messiness of the soul is what we’re concerned about. What does “tamed and trained” have to do with that?
My contention is that Christians see with more clarity, not less. Yes, the glass through which we peer is still dark, but we’re no longer blind. We do see, however imperfectly. Yet some who profess Christ act as if our Christianity handicaps us from writing what the rest of the world sees. Just the opposite is true. We not only can write what the rest of the world sees, but we can write what they are incapable of seeing, and that, my friends, means Christians should be the best speculative writers of all.