Carole McDonnell is a writer of fiction, devotionals, and essays. Her Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories appear in various anthologies, and her reviews appear in print and at various online sites. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two sons. Her fantasy romance novel, Wind Follower and her Bible Study, Seeds of Bible Study are both available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Follow Carole at her blog, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.
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I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? John 3:12
I tend to avoid Christian mainstream fiction for two basic reasons. The first: they often preach the law. Yes, even when they are trying to preach the gospel or—better yet—the kingdom of God, I inevitably feel as if I have been shown yet again why the Ten Commandments are the right way to go. It often seems to me that while Christianity is about showing the world the tree of life, many writers end up bringing their readers to the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The second reason concerns me as a lover of fantasy.
With the exception of an answered prayer or the odd spiritual coincidence, much mainstream Christian fiction allows little entry to the supernatural.
But fantasy does. Every writer, religious or not, has a worldview. We see the world emotionally, spiritually, socially, politically. But a Christian fantasy writer wants to show that Earth and the universe have spiritual supernatural laws that affect humans, non-human, or non-terrestrial characters. For us, Christianity is not only about semantics/doctrine/rules. We understand that the world is magical, that the Christian sacraments are not only about obeying rules but that they have an affect on both unseen and seen matter and entities, and that doctrines are really keys to power. In short, we take Bible verses seriously as starting points to our stories.
The exploration of the supernatural is problematic because some Christians actively live de facto in a closed universe and they pooh-pooh the supernatural, thinking the supernatural unenlightened or irrational. Others hate the word “supernatural.” And still others fear it.
In addition, non-Christian writers also explore the supernatural and there is often an overlap. The Bible has given us all God’s revealed truth about sin, mankind, evil, and the devil. But other cultures also have some glimpse of the truth. Thus, the Greeks can write about family generational curses, or the writers of the Matrix can depict a world within a world, or a group of rationalistic scientists can declare that the universe is a simulation.
The Biblical fact is this: Jesus said “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” John 3:12
There are earthly truths that are so untenable to our human minds, so high and unattainable to our human intellect, that we simply do not believe them. And the Bible is full of verses that open a window on what real reality—or heavenly things—might be. And these verses can also be used as seeds for stories.
A fantasy writer could take the concept of Jesus being the Word of God and create a novel where the world is made up of people and their doubles born from their spoken words. Another could look at the verse, “God’s word is active and powerful” and create a world where words have a life of their own. Yet another writer could look at the verse, “The stones will cry out” and can build a whole universe where stones and matter can react to the emotions around them.
All these possible stories have this in common: they would bring us nearer to the Truth. Poets, madmen, inventors, and visionaries are often linked together.
When considering a theological doctrine or a religious activity such as the “laying on of hands,” a Christian fantasy writer could invent a story about some force or invisible “substance” within each person (and especially within Christians) that can be passed from one person to another. Or he/she might create a story based on the tower of Babel where an invention is made that suddenly changes the communication and language centers of the brains or all humans on earth. Are all believers really in God and in each other as Jesus said in His high-priestly prayer? A Christian fantasy writer could explore this truth by creating such a world.
How magical is this world? And how magical is it intended to be? And how powerful could we Christians be if we took some of the stranger (seemingly metaphorical) verses literally? Christian fantasy writers explore this.
Throughout the Bible, we humans are encouraged to ask God to open our eyes and to use our imagination to understand the knowledge, the height, width, depth, length of God’s power working in us who believe in Christ. A good Christian fantasy is like a good sermon. Not because it preaches at us but because it opens our eyes to the godly, the numinous, the weird, the magical, the banal, and this marvelous light God has called us to.