If we took a poll with the question, What do you believe God thinks about fantasy, I wonder what kinds of responses we’d get. Let’s say the choices were, a) He approves; b) He disapproves; c) He has no opinion one way or the other; d) it depends on how the fantasy is used; e) who cares—what percentage of responses do you think would say God actually approves of fantasy?
Perhaps people who frequent Speculative Faith are not the right people for this question. I mean, I assume those of you reading this article have stopped by our site because you have some interest in one or more of the genres slotted under the general heading “Speculative.” In that case, those with a Christan worldview more than likely have resolved the question I’m posing.
Or have we?
Perhaps we’ve answered a tangential question—is fantasy permissible for a Christian to enjoy (as a reader or as a writer)? I want to go beyond “permissible” to “preferred”—what genre does God prefer? What genre does He approve?
I think an excellent case can be built for God not favoring one genre over another, with a few exceptions (erotica comes to mind). However, I want to suggest that fantasy might be a little different.
The obvious is that fantasy contains a good-versus-evil motif which fits the spiritual paradigm laid out in the Bible. The devil is our adversary, we are to put on spiritual armor, the Word of God is a sword, we are to fight the good fight of faith, and on and on. Clearly the Bible deals more with conflict—God and those who are His in opposition to whatever stands against Him—than it does with tolerance.
There’s a second reason. God created Man in His own image, after His likeness.
That means we have a will because God does. We have intellect and emotions because He does. We are relational beings, communicators because He is, and we are creative by nature because He is.
It’s fair to say, I believe, that our imagination is part of that “in His image” package. We imagine only because God imagines. Of course He has the added aspect of knowing the answers to any “what if” scenarios, but I’m focusing here on how we are similar to our Creator, not how we differ.
Fantasy, of course, stretches the imagination. It also requires a level of creation that many other genres don’t require. In short, as a genre, it engages man in our image-bearer state.
There’s a third evidence that suggests God approves of fantasy. The Bible is full of symbolism and types, as is fantasy. Moses, the deliverer of Israel, is a type of Christ. The bronze serpent the Israelites lifted up in the desert was a symbol of Him. Jesus referred to Himself as bread, living water, the good shepherd, the vine, the door, and other analogous objects. While other genres may employ symbolic elements, none seems more fitting than fantasy.
This “fit for symbolism” aspect relates to one of the core elements of fantasy—the presence of the magical. Or the miraculous or supernatural, if you prefer. In other words, fantasy takes a step beyond the rational and allows for that which science cannot explain. Certainly this freedom from the constraints of the mundane lends itself to an exploration of the spiritual—the very thing that is at the heart of the Bible.
There’s a final indication that fantasy has a place on God’s list of approved genres—the Bible records several fantasies. One of the longest is in the book of Judges (9:7ff) and starts out like this:
Listen to me, O men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. “Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!'”
A story in which trees talk? Fantasy.
Here’s another one, much shorter in the version recorded in Scripture (2 Kings 14:9):
Jehoash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “The thorn bush which was in Lebanon sent to the cedar which was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ But there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trampled the thorn bush.
A cedar looking for a marriage match for his son? Fantasy.
So how about it, does God approve of fantasy? For me, the evidence is overwhelming. He does approve indeed.
It’s what writers do with the fantasy tool He’s given us that may still be up for debate. 😉