I’ve long contended that Christians can and should include spiritual truth—theology, if you will—in our stories. At the same time, I believe truth about God ought to open up our imaginations as we grasp the ramifications of a world ruled by a sovereign God who can do the impossible.
We also have an infallible, Spirit-inspired revelation of God’s work in the world from the beginning of creation. Why, then, don’t we Christian speculative writers more often take what we know from the Bible and speculate on what the world might look like?
I know, some have. We’ve certainly seen a good deal of speculation about angels and demons and Nephilim. But I’m thinking, for example, more along the lines of what the world as a whole once looked like in light of what Genesis says.
Some writers, such as Brian Godawa, have taken particular people from the pages of Scripture and speculated about their lives and the world in which they live. That’s not quit what I’m suggesting, though. Rather, I’m wondering if we couldn’t imagine the world the way the Bible describes it, and use that as a basis for our stories.
For instance, what would the world look like if people lived to be 900 years old? How would that affect society? What might a person be able to learn in 900 years? Stories with this idea as a basis wouldn’t be Biblical fiction. They would be utilizing a fact Scripture revealed as once true of our world.
Here are a few others: What did the world look like that caused God to say, “Nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them”? What would the world have been like with one language? With only one large land mass? What would it be like to live in a temperate climate year round, with no rain?
What would it be like to hear God’s voice? To have Him warn against sin crouching at the door, to have Him ask, Where’s your brother?
What would it be like to have the earth divide into continents? To have someone violate God’s created order and take a second wife? To have someone live a righteous life and to disappear because he’d been taken away by God?
Understand, I’m not actually advocating for more speculative Biblical fiction. Rather, I’m suggesting that the Bible shows us things that are beyond the accepted norm. However, instead of using those in our stories, we tend to accept what we learn from secular history books and scientific theory, and make the secular norm the groundwork for what we write.
Consequently, since archaeology has no evidence of an advanced early civilization that aimed to reach the heavens, and science theorizes that early man was primitive, having evolved from apes, we Christians think within those boxes rather than beyond them to the world pictured in Scripture.
Oh, sure, we may stand against the ape idea, but we still have early man living in primitive circumstances as Stephan Lawhead does in his imaginative and thought-provoking Bright Empires series.
But what if God’s creation of humans in His image meant that we had a greater capacity to think and create than we have now. I mean ten times greater. Or a hundred times greater?
What if humans could communicate with the animals? God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the rest of creation, after all. How were they to exercise this dominion if they essentially lived separate lives from the animals?
I’ll admit, some of my thinking on this topic has been sparked by how reviewers have reported the way the Noah movie depicted life on earth.
To be clear, I’ll say again, I don’t think we need a flood of new speculative Biblical fiction—a Christian version of Noah, for instance. That seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to things we Christians don’t like that come from secular pop-culture.
Rather, I’d like to see our approach to fiction broaden. I’d like to see us take the Bible seriously and ask more what if questions about Biblical history rather than secular history or scientific theory.
I’ll move my examples out of Genesis. Psalm 18, written by David, has an incredible verse about God’s response to David’s prayer for protection:
The the earth shook and quaked;
And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry. (v 7)
What would the world be like if God answered every prayer by His people with that kind of judgment? What would that do to humankind’s understanding of Him? How would such a world be different from the one shown by the Greeks?
Maybe I’ve not read widely enough and Christians are writing these types of stories. If that’s the case, I hope readers will leave comments with the titles and authors of books that speculate grandly about the world the Bible shows.
Too often, however, when I see speculation about the world the Bible reveals, it revolves around something like half-angels.
It seems to me, those stories aren’t really using the world of the Bible but speculating about what would be if the world of the Bible was different from its revealed existence. That’s one type of speculation, certainly, and it does require imagination. But why aren’t we Christian writers doing more when we have such great source material?