Last week I quoted from Lovecraft the following:
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
The horror genre focuses on our fears, especially of the unknown, for entertainment value mostly.
Can Horror and Christianity Coexist?
Many people don’t believe that reading or writing horror is compatible with Christianity. To make the case, they will often quote Bible verses like the following:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2Ti 1:7 KJV)
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mat 10:28 KJV)
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Rom 8:15 KJV)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1Jn 4:18 KJV)
Out of context, these verses would seem to be speaking about fear as a whole. When you read them in context, they are speaking of specific fears. Obvious by the fact that if they weren’t, the Scriptures would be contradictory. One verse says to fear God, the next says such fear should be cast out.
For example, St. Paul’s words to St. Timothy in 2Ti 1:7 are in the context of encouraging the young leader to not fear, but be bold in his leadership. He was given a gift and ministry by God, and he should not fear to use it with authority. Paul is not speaking of fear as a whole, but fearing to fulfill the ministry God gave him.
Mat 10:28 above is in the context of fearing God instead of fearing what man might do or threaten. Fearing in this context relates to who you reverence with obedience. If it comes down to obeying man or God, Jesus is saying, fearing what God can do to you is the greater fear. Talk about the unknown: the second death! As if the first death isn’t scary enough.
Likewise, in Rom 8:15, St. Paul is speaking on the subject of following the flesh instead of the Spirit. The fear is breaking the Law through the flesh and becoming part of the damned. The fear of Judgment Day looms large. Such fear is not necessary when one is an adopted part of God’s family through grace. The verse merely points out that living by the flesh is fearful compared to living by grace.
St. John’s verse refers to what our motivation is to serve God. The Scriptures regularly say we should fear, reverence, God. St. Paul even tells the Philippians to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12b) The word fear is used 400 times in the King James Bible, and the majority of them are exhortations to fear God.
Obedience to God out of love is the better way, St. John says, but who among us has perfect love? He is not saying fear is sinful, just that it is not the best motivation for obedience. Not unless you are suggesting that St. John is contradicting everyone else before him.
These verses do not condemn fear itself. Indeed, there are more verses commanding us to fear God than God telling people to “fear not” upon addressing them. Even Jesus in His parables uses fear to guide people. For example, concluding the parable of the servant that owed a huge debt to his master, Jesus says:
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Mat 18:35 KJV)
God is not saying we should avoid fear, but face it and use it.
Horror can serve a Christian purpose. For while people read horror for the adrenalin rush, it goes deeper. For fear is a foundational emotion. To paraphrase Lovecraft, fear is the first and oldest emotion we experience.
This is in large part why babies just birthed cry. They are scared. And well they should be. They’ve just been violently ejected from their warm, safe womb, squeezed through a small hole, and into an alien, strange world. You’d be scared and cry too.
Then as we go through life, there are plenty of horrors we will face. Spankings. Nightmares. Being laughed at. Dating. Bullies. Cancer. Heart attacks. Diseases. Marriage. Infidelity. Divorce. Death. The list could go on and on.
How do we process and deal with our fears?
For many of them, it will be by facing those fears and realizing God will help you overcome them with His love and peace.
What better speculative genre to learn those lesson with than horror? A person can safely face their fear in a fictional context and learn that God can overcome them. If He can help us through those evils, He can give us courage to face our real-life horrors as well.
The fact is, evil is scary. But God is scarier.
To paraphrase Solomon, the beginning of wisdom is to be scared by God.
What other ways can the horror genre teach us the fear of the Lord?