Why Don’t Christian Writers Speculate According To Scripture?

We 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?
on Apr 14, 2014 · 53 comments

The_Holy_BibleI’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?

Adam_and_Eve019What 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?

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. Forgive me for potential facetiousness, Becky, but I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking for.

    I’ve seen examples of everything you’ve listed; some examples that come to mind are Ice by Shane Johnson (due to spoilers I won’t say exactly which scenario it relates to) and Havah by Tosca Lee (God speaking directly to Adam and Eve). But it seems like you’re advocating for something beyond merely “fill out the biblical narrative;” in fact, some of the scenarios bandied about sound like clear alternative history possibilities, a world where the continents didn’t divide or mankind’s life wasn’t shortened.

    Perhaps that’s where my confusion lies. On the one hand, “I don’t think we need a flood of new speculative Biblical fiction,” and on the other, “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.”

    For starters, I don’t really understand the division between Biblical, secular, and scientific theory. Is there actually such a division? I think we both believe the Bible to be a true, accurate account of God’s work in His creation; therefore, the Biblical narrative is not relegated to the realm of ethereal spiritualism but also of the material world, which includes the arts and the sciences.

    In truth, man may try to claim a secular existence but we as Christians believe God is master of all. As an example, did He truly have no impact on ancient China and America until Western missionaries arrived? Perhaps that’s the sort of speculation you’re after. But if I were to write an account of someone from ancient China having a spiritual journey towards Yahweh (something I’ve toyed with in sketches), it would necessarily be extra Biblical; that is, it would not occur within the context of the Bible’s stories, as we have no specific revelation from God on His doings outside of the Middle East for that period of time. Such a story would necessarily rely on the work of archeologists and cultural historians, which would involve understanding that nation’s culture and legends. I wonder, then, if such a work would be accused of being unbiblical and too reliant on secular source material.

    As another example of my confusion (which I hope I’m communicating with the desire for dialogue that I intend), you write:

    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?

    I don’t see how such a world would be different from the one posited by the Greeks. After all, they no problem simultaneously believing that lightening was caused by Zeus and that study of the natural world could explain it, or that mathematicians could theoretically measure the same world that Atlas held. Most ancient cultures grasped at religion and science in equal measures for daily living, neither one supplanting the other in their worldview. Our division of these two facets of life is more due to the Enlightenment and post-Modernism, which has led to the unfortunate belief that we can actually live without a spiritual element in our lives. That, more than anything, makes me leery of anything that attempts to separate faith from reality.

    • notleia says:

      I want to half-like this comment, because yes, there are things that exists that Becky is describing, or something like them. Heck, there was L’Engle’s take on the Noah story in that one book of hers whose title I can’t remember. A little (or a lot) WAT, but it was interesting.
      On the flip side, pretty much no to everything else. I’m getting tired of being dragged behind the anti-science wagon because I’m culturally associated with creationists. #thisiswhywecan’thavenicethings
      As for the God-in-China thing, I dunno how well that would work. First of all, which period would we be talking about? Pre-Buddhist? Post-Buddhist? From my fuzzy memories of world lit class, I don’t think they had a concept of sin, between Daoism and Confucianism. Ethical and unethical behavior, yes, but not necessarily sin as in our definition. (Though I wonder if we put too much emphasis on sin ourselves.) And I wonder if Christianity translated to ancient Chinese terms looks mostly like Buddhism. Where’s a world religion professor when you need one?

      • dmdutcher says:

        That was Many Waters, and yeah kind of WAT. I think they had mini mammoths in it or something. 

      • On the flip side, pretty much no to everything else. I’m getting tired of being dragged behind the anti-science wagon because I’m culturally associated with creationists. #thisiswhywecan’thavenicethings

        Just for clarification before I write more: did my comment come across as anti-science?

        • notleia says:

          Yes, yes it did.

          For starters, I don’t really understand the division between Biblical, secular, and scientific theory. Is there actually such a division? I think we both believe the Bible to be a true, accurate account of God’s work in His creation; therefore, the Biblical narrative is not relegated to the realm of ethereal spiritualism but also of the material world, which includes the arts and the sciences.

          That sounds very much like you fall in line with the six-dayers, and they are pretty much by definition anti-science, because science says “hahahaha–no” to that idea.

          • ROFLOLOLOL notleia. As if “science” is an actual physical human Grand Imperial Emperor who can “say” anything. #reificationfallacy 😉

            • Stephen, I’m going to say this as someone who enjoys your posts and cares for you as a sibling in Christ: you’re criticizing notelia for using a common rhetorical device (personification) instead of addressing her concerns, which I do not believe is helpful to the discussion. We all know what she means, we have all used such a device, and I really don’t see how this comment furthers a conversation that I would hope can remain civil. Please take this comment in the spirit of love it is offered.

            • Point and the spirit with it taken, Michelle! For clarification, I can understand the metaphor (“science” = “the majority of scientists,” etc.), but I’m not sure everyone who uses this kind of shorthand does get this point. I also doubt that people understand scientists have biases just as much as any other human. Therefore we’re not really talking about a Platonic-ideal Science or Scientists; we’re talking about human beings who have religious beliefs and mixed-up worldviews and preferences and histories with certain religions and therefore reactions for or against them. Ergo my comment: intended to lead to the very same more-formal followup that I just gave away. 🙂

          • Notleia, do you really believe people who believe in creation as opposed to evolution are anti-science? That’s so narrow minded. I’m really surprised.

            What is science but theories about how things work. Lots of times those theories are right, but not always. So why should we be considered ignorant if we disagree with a theory we think is wrong?

            Let’s face it. Most people are just taking scientists’ word for something. Gravity, for example. No one’s ever seen it, but we all believe in it. Or how about tectonic plates? Anyone actually ever seen a tectonic plate? Yet we all line up to hear the super scientists explain earthquakes to us. And they’re probably right. But the point is, we are taking their word for it.

            So why is it ignorant to say, I have a better authority–omniscient God–and I’ll take His word in this particular matter? The scientists might be right about a lot of what they observe, but they’re drawing erroneous conclusions.

            I’m sorry. That doesn’t make me anti-science and it doesn’t make me an idiot.


            • Becky, like with my comment to Stephen, this one is delivered in love due to my affection for you as a sibling in Christ and the inspiration you’ve given me over the years of following this blog.
              First, I do not believe there is such a thing as creation versus evolution in the sense that the method God used to create the world is supplemental to the fact that ultimately, He did it. I know these are the terms for the camps we have divided into, but it saddens me, because it implies that those people who believe that the current scientific theory is accurate based on the evidence presented but who also truly believe in Christ as their personal lord and savior are somehow lesser Christians than we are. I think the nature of creation is an important issue to discuss, certainly, and I believe an attempt to remove God from the equation is wrong. But a belief in one specific method of creation is not more important than a belief in Christ’s salvation, or being His hands and feet in the world.
              Now, that being said, I myself have used the “just a theory” argument in my youth (on my middle school Science Olympiads team, no less!) But as Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) The problem I have with the “just a theory” idea is that it is facetious and, forgive the harshness of the term, ignorant. No scientist argues with the idea that science is about theories, since that’s the entire method by which they carry out research. To my mind, saying “just a theory” is akin to saying a Christians spend all their time “just trusting God” (ie, as opposed to pursuing a specific action). Well, of course we trust God. I would hope not one of us denies it. But trusting God should not mean we simply sit tight on our rooftops, idly waiting for him to deliver us from life (though some have unfortunately promoted such an idea). So too, scientists pursue theories in the hope of learning more about the world around them. One must start with a hypothesis in order to prove or disprove it. Once a certain body of evidence amounts around a given proposal, it becomes a theory: a belief in the sense that it is still not able to be proven by laboratory conditions, but one supported by a body of work and continually being tweaked and improved on. The current contemporary theory of evolution is build on the shoulders of Darwin but has long outgrown his Origins of Species.
              When you say “we must take their word for it,” yes, you’re right. I spend most of my waking hours in a theatre, working on shows, and also on a computer, doing contract work, reading, and writing. I do not have time to simultaneously spend hours researching topics in a lab or traveling around the world to discover what’s happening. I therefore depend on scientists and reporters to do that work for me, in the same way I depend on plumbers and mechanics for repairs I do not know how to perform myself (or at least not with the same expertise). Does that me we should accept everything that’s splattered in a headline or journal article as true the moment we read it? No. With any subject, whether it’s gravity, geology, or even the state of Crimea, we should research what’s reported, sift the evidence, and try to discover the truth.
              Becky, I do not believe you are ignorant, an idiot, or anti-science, because I have known you virtually for years, read your posts here and at your own blog, and respect you as a person who is educated, knowledgeable, and above all, passionate about truth. I know from your wonderful tutorials on writing that you firmly believe in research, and that you hope to bring truth to light through your work.
              This comment is offered in a similar vein: to clarify and bring truth to light. I have written it based on what scientists offer and what we accept, ideally. Obviously we live in a less than ideal world. There are those who do not practice science in the best possible search for truth (due to financial obligations, personal bias, etc.) in the same way there are Christians who do not follow him as well as they should (for similar reasons). But a true scientist is not satisfied with a theory, always seeking greater understanding and further evidence. As Christians, we should always encourage people to seek after the truth, and so I think we should be guarded in how we approach scientific discussion: anything that appears to trivialize another’s work is unlikely to persuade.

              • One day I will learn how to actually make a new paragraph in this comment box. My apologies everyone for the big wall of text.

              • Michelle, as a side issue, when someone starts a comment “this one is delivered in love,” I always wonder if other comments were delivered from some other consideration. I tend to believe all our words should be from a place of love.

                That being said, for what it’s worth, I was engaging Notleia and her division of “six-dayers” and “science.” As it happens, I wouldn’t put myself in either camp, but I know a number of thoughtful, intelligent people who do in fact believe in a six-day creation as set out in Scripture. I do not rule that out as a possibility. This position does not make me or those believing in a literal six-day creation to be anti-science—which is what I thought I said to Notleia. In other words, I am saying, no camps. I guess you and I are just not communicating particularly clearly in this post’s comments.

                But as to your point about “just theory,” I have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion. Of course science is just theory. Some of those theories have moved to a place of some certainty because of experimentation using the scientific method, but something like “the big bang,” which, if it happened, is an unrepeatable event and can only be studied by observation. A host of logical conclusions have been drawn from those observations which fit with the original premise. Except, that premise assumes something different from what Scripture says about matter and its existence.

                The fact that a different model also explains the same observations should not be viewed as anything other than that people disagree, largely because our starting places are different. Hence, my comment to Notleia—people who disagree with the commonly accepted scientific position about the origins of the universe are not idiots and most are not anti-science, though I suppose a small percentage might be. (Most I know actually use science to validate their views).

                Michelle, it baffles me why you think someone disagreeing with this common position is accepting “everything that’s splattered in a headline or journal article as true the moment we read it.”

                Finally, I’m also unclear how you think I “trivialized another’s work.” I am sorry that something I wrote created that impression.


              • Please correct me if I am wrong: science is theory—some have better proof than others. Engineering is using theory to build product. Religion is an organization dedicated to directing your life on unprovable theory. As I understand it, evolution and creationism are both theories which have become religions. I intensely dislike religions, but I have recently changed my belief from old earth/evolution to young earth/6-day creation after carefully examining both theories. Example, if death came into creation in the garden then oil, coal, fossils, et al had to have occurred after Adam & Eve fell. The details of that decision are exciting and fascinating, but do not affect my salvation. I have just decided that I’d rather put my faith in Jesus and scripture as I have come to know Him and understand it.

              • dmdutcher says:

                You have to hit return twice between each paragraph to get normal spacing. It’s been a bug ever since I started posting here.

              • David, your thoughts about death are the most compelling arguments for a Christian against evolution, I think. I haven’t heard of anyone resolving the” no death until sin entered the world” belief with the dying and surviving of evolution.

                But I also believe we who believe the Bible in a literal sense have other options besides a 24-hour six-day creation. Not that God would actually need even that much time. Certainly He could create in six days if He chose to do so.


          • First, notleia, thanks for your thoughts on my story idea. To answer at least one of your questions, it would have been pre-Buddha, in very ancient times. The nature of sin is something for an entirely different post and discussion, which I won’t take up more room on this thread to discuss at this time.
            Second, please see my responses to Stephen and Becky (yes, that big wall of text without spaces: sorry for that, my computer froze before I could edit the comment to add them).
            Third, thank you for letting me know how my comment came across to you. I did not mean to express that sentiment, and I am always open to critique on how I can communicate better.
            Finally, to the meat of the matter: I took the time before answering you to respond to both Becky and Stephen first, to show you that I do not wish to mock you or disparage you. You are a person, and I believe I am called by God to love and respect all. I believe we have a special obligation to be show love and respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ, which I try to do even when I disagree with them, the same way I do for my biological siblings. I have never met Becky or Stephen in person, but have engaged in many conversations with them virtually, and come to deep affection for them both due to their work here. We have not always agreed on everything, but have always found common ground in our commitment to Christ and love for Him and His Church. I have found the majority of people on Speculative Faith to be like-minded in that sense, going out of their way to show grace and curtsey to all.
            I’ll admit, notelia, the first time I saw a comment by you on this blog, I thought you were simply a troll. It appeared you were only interested in beating down others. I have since seen that such a description is too limited and that you are able to express opinions outside of that narrow description. That being said, I find your constant need to make every topic of conversation about your particular issue (creation, specifically “six-dayers”) exhausting. As you interpreted me by my comments, I must interpret you by yours, and it appears you have a definite axe to grind against that community; when one has such an outlook, every topic becomes a tree. I am also wearied by your lack of grace for those who disagree with you. I am not a “six-dayer,” but that does not mean I summarily dismiss such people out of hand, in the same sense that I do not accuse people who believe in theistic evolution of unbelief.
            You may note that I have not told you what I believe on the matter of God’s creation. That is because such a conversation is really tangential to both Becky’s original topic and my response, and yet you leapt on that as the overwhelming gist of the conversation, sidetracking this thread into a realm it didn’t try to address. Regardless of your intentions, that behavior is by definition trolling. I don’t like it. It’s unfair to Becky or the others trying to discuss the actual topic at hand. Therefore I will not devote any more space on this thread toward explaining myself or my beliefs: it’s not the right venue for that discussion.
            I have never known Speculative Faith to deny anyone a voice: if you feel so strongly about this topic, I suggest you ask permission to write a post or series on it here, or even elsewhere at a forum of your choice, where we could better understand your feelings on the matter and engage with you. In such an event, or in a private conversation, I will be more than happy to engage in a discussion on the scientific merits of current evolutionary theory and its place within my theological understanding of the Bible.

            • notleia says:

              Oh, believe me, I’ve questioned why I even come here in the first place if I end up disagreeing with roughly half of the content, but I’ve come to think that I occupy a valuable space in being the (often lone) dissenting opinion, because I don’t think Christianity is defined by being conservative and/or literalist. Otherwise I would peace the shell out of this website — and probably the whole of Christianity. (I don’t mean that as a threat, I mean that as in “the Spirit is leading me” kind of thing, though that’s a really, really weird and contradictory way to put it.)

              I say “anti-science” because that’s how it looks to me, though I try to distinguish between the six-day literalists (with whom I’m losing patience, sorrynotsorry) and the more flexible (and, to me, more reasonable) Intelligent Designers who can accept the things that come out of mainstream scientists’ mouths without making sounds like disgruntled sugar gliders, except without the cute factor.

              • Notleia, I understand your position. There are plenty of people out there who use completely unscientific support for their literal interpretation of scripture. On the flip side, there are plenty of people out there who use completely unscientific support for their belief in evolution. Fanaticism is not a partisan issue, I’m afraid.

                However, it might surprise you to realize that there are actually quite a few scientists who believe in a six-day creation. I would highly encourage you to look into publications like the Creation Research Society Quarterly (of which I am an editor) or even the Answers Research Journal, both of which feature peer-reviewed articles by scientists. The whole “religion vs. science” debate has been wrongly framed from the outset; when it comes to origins, all views are inherently religious, because while you can make feasibility models and predictions, you cannot actually witness the past. Just because one view is naturalist and one is supernaturalist in no way changes the fact that when it comes to origins, all we have is speculation.

              • Notleia, I hope you realize the Spec Faith team is willing to dialogue with you on pretty much any topic. What I was trying to point out, and what Robert did a better job of, is that you have reached your conclusions based on a set of beliefs, and people who disagree aren’t automatically morons for doing so.

                I certainly don’t think you’re a moron either. Rather, I think you’re an intelligent woman with strong opinions that color much of your thought.

                But I’ve got my own strong opinions, so that makes for lively discussion. Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think.


  2. I will not be quoting scripture in my next book because I have an alternative scripture which is my own paraphrase of the Bible. I’m on a separate world with it’s own rules because I want to avoid like the plague doctrinal issues, denominational ridiculousness, and so on. Hopefully, the reader will be able to easily apply the lives of the characters in the book to their lives today in the world. At least that’s the goal.
    However, to actually use this world as a what-if scenario invites dismissal as a fundamentalist, pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical, baptist, catholic, Roman catholic, or whatever statement the character makes which might imply any of the above. Personally, I fit into all of the categories just listed. I’ve been a member or pastor of  all the listed churches [except Roman Catholic, but I was saved, reborn, & filled with the Spirit in a Roman Catholic Charismatic Bible study in the mid-1970s though I was still an Episcopalian back then]. In the present age, we need to step outside “reality” to make true reality more real and our message more potent.

  3. Tim Frankovich says:

    Michelle, I also thought of Ice immediately. 
    Others include The Genesis Trilogy by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow, and Cradleland Chronicles by Douglas Hirt. Both cover many of the topics listed in this posting.

  4. dmdutcher says:

    Time for a new writing challenge centered around this then Becky?
    I think I get what you say. You want more real speculative fiction based on what-if’s inspired by the Bible. Like what if God was with nations, and he did things in the modern day that were equivalent to what He did with Jericho, knock the walls down. A lot of Christian SF is just the written equivalent of movie novels; not so much speculative as space opera and punch-em-outs. 
    It could be done, but a lot of them might not be strong enough to make for a novel. Idea fiction is often better as short stories.

  5. Alex Mellen says:

    I had a friend who imagined a world without women–Eve hadn’t been created, but other Biblical events were unfolding. He had a great story and might still try to publish it, but from talking to people, we realized he would basically lose half of any audience he tried to reach–the women.

    • notleia says:

      That might be worth exploring if it were handled right. No women, how is reproduction handled? Is God still doing to the dirt-to-man thing? Then that wipes out the concern about marriage, inheritance, and the vast, vast majority of the sex-related commandments. If they’re not organized by tribe and family, how are they organized? Adopted sonship? Do they even bother with individual inheritance or would communal property end up being more practical? How would the division of labor be handled? How would things traditionally described as “feminine” be seen?
      And it’s totally open for Rule 63. I might have to put this in the memory banks for future word-dinking.
      And if I see this concept taking “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” angle, I might have to reach through the Internet and strangle the author if only for the horrendous cliche factor.

    • Alex, the “no women” idea would certain have its problems, but that’s kind of what I’m thinking—just not keeping the story set in Eden or with a Biblical Adam. But God created Man first, so what if He never got to creating woman, or what if there was a significant time period before women were made?

      It could be an interesting story to explore gender issues!


      • Matthias M. Hoefler says:

        Another point is if Eve hadn’t even been taking from Adam’s side, he would still retain whatever the Lord took out of him.


        In other words, he would on some level be Adam and Eve together




        If you did want it still set in the garden, would Adam/Eve have taken the fruit and fallen?

    • dmdutcher says:

      I had an idea similar, except instead of creating, an event in the future winds up changing women into a different species. Think Frank Herbert’s the Lazarus Plague, but different. Problem is every time I get a cool idea, I’m at a loss who would publish it. I feel like I’m too secular for Christians, and too Christian for secular people.

      • dm, I have voiced those exact sentiments regarding my own writing. Hence, indie publishing. 🙂

      • DM, I’m thinking more of us should try the general market, especially if we have fresh and innovative ideas that aren’t commonly seen by editors at secular houses. I think if we handle the Christianity of our stories without preaching, they should work. Look at some of the movies that are out and books like Gilead and Peace Like A River. The religious aspect of those didn’t keep them from making it into the marketplace.


  6. Michelle and Tim, thanks for the titles. I haven’t read those books but checked them out on Amazon. Actually those are the kinds of stories I’m NOT talking about. They are excellent examples of Biblical fiction, as is Tosca Lee’s Iscariot.  If people want to write those stories, that’s fine, but that’s not what I’m advocating here.

    I think DM is on the right track. (I’ll have to give some thought to the writing challenge—if I can’t explain it better than I got my ideas across here, it could end up to be a disaster! 🙄 )

    I’m saying, as authors we could take something the Bible said happened—people living into their 900s—and postulate a whole different world or universe, not a Biblical one, in which people would have that kind of longevity.

    Or we could postulate a fact based on a Biblical truth—e.g. humans were created in God’s image and He said His creation of them was good, so at that point humankind was at its pinnacle and has been downgrading ever since

    Or the Bible says there was a point when the land was divided, implying a large land mass. Imagine a story set on a world where there were no islands or other continents. And then imagine that something occurred to split the land apart, separating families and villages from each other.

    I agree, David, that some of these ideas might be better as short stories. But none of what I was suggesting was meant to be the actual premise of a story. Each would need all the regular elements of good novels. But I think there’s so much box we can think outside if we took details recorded in Scripture and asked, what would that look like today or in a different world or on a different planet?

    In some ways, I think that’s what C.S. Lewis did in his space trilogy. That’s the one that came to my mind, at least, as I was thinking about whether or not I knew any stories like this.


  7. I just remembered another example of the kind of fiction I’m advocating—Jill Williamson’s the Safe Lands series. She looked at what happened to Daniel when Judah was exiled to Babylon and asked, what would exile look like in a future time. Well, I don’t know as that was the precise question she asked, but that’s a thumbnail look at the heart of her story.

    I think that kind of use of Scripture leads to imaginative, creative stories.


  8. Tim Frankovich says:

    Ice is NOT Biblical fiction. You could argue that a couple of chapters in the middle of the story is Biblical fiction, but not the whole book – it’s set in the 1970’s! The other two I mentioned could mostly fall into that category, but they’re highly speculative, especially from Hirt. I don’t put them anywhere near the same category as Iscariot, not even remotely. Iscariot doesn’t have Ragnarok and exploding planets…

  9. Adam Graham says:

    I have a couple alt. earth stories that take some speculative elements from the Bible. There’s one that combines Jacob wrestling with an angel and the story of Jesus and the Centurion, and I also have another dimension where there was no Flood that will appear in Ultimate Midlife Criss.  Of course, neither story is quite published yet, so unless you hack my computer, you won’t be able to read them for a while. 🙂

    • So, Adam, are you saying the actual Jacob is a character in your book and one of the plot points you have is him wrestling with the angel? And Jesus and the Centurion are also actual characters in your novel?

      This is interesting—a little hard to wrap my mind around, actually—but not quite what I had in mind. I’m not putting down such ideas or saying they are lesser or not as intriguing or anything. Just that using actual Biblical characters and places and events is not particularly new, though it sounds as if you’ve put a twist on them that is quite different.

      Rather, I’m thinking we Christians can take something the Bible includes and use just that one unique aspect in a completely different setting and make it the concept upon which our premise arises. I think Robert’s story sounds like it does the kind of think I’m talking about.


  10. Julie D says:

    I didn’t really understand the question at first either; some of these comments clarified it a bit, but I think I’ll chew on the topic a bit more before responding.

  11. Becky,
    I think I get the gist of what you’re saying. K.G. Powderly’s WINDOWS OF HEAVEN novels are a highly speculative historical science fiction series about Noah & Co., but his were the first to give me some inkling of what it would be like to live that long and see that much. Although I don’t touch on the sorts of things you mention in your post in my first book, some of them are tangentially related (SPOILER ALERT). When I came up with the concept of why there are humans on a number of different worlds, I decided that they should all have their origins on Earth, but that no one would remember it except in mythic terms, because the event that precipitated the Flood cut them off from their planet of origin. So people developed technologies without fossil fuels, ships are made by guilds rather than automation, etc. And people from different worlds have different lifespans (one character is around 50, but looks 30s), though none live quite as long as their antediluvian progenitors. The societal ramifications of a single landmass are something I have not personally explored, but it’s an intriguing notion.  Interesting food for thought.

  12. OK, after reading through the comments and responses, I think I understand better what you’re proposing Becky. I certainly agree there’s too much fixation on the “angels/demons” stories in Christian spec fic. But I don’t see how any of the topics you’re proposing we do tell stories about (longer lifespans, space exiles, human/animal communication) are somehow Biblical in the sense that they are unique to Scripture as opposed to general mythology or speculative fiction.

    For example, Robert’s suggestion that “they should all have their origins on Earth, but that no one would remember it except in mythic terms,” immediately reminded me of Asimov’s Foundation series. The trope of a centuries-old being that appears youthful is seen everywhere from Tolkien to Star Trek (sorry Robert, not trying to pick on your idea, just using the example I felt came closest to what Becky was discussing). Animal/human communication, whether it be with dragons or dæmons, is also a very common aspect of fantasy stories. Certainly the origin of why any of these things occur may differ in a Christian spec fic novel, but so to do they differ in the general market. I’m unsure how we’re being “Biblical” by utilizing ideas that are rather Jungian to the genre.

    I feel like there’s a false dichotomy here, “Biblical” versus “secular,” and I’m not seeing evidence to support why the speculations of one or the other (at least in terms of general story ideas, as opposed to the execution and potential moral underpinning of said ideas) are more related to God’s Word. Could you clarify further what you think the difference is, or should be?

    • sorry Robert, not trying to pick on your idea, just using the example I felt came closest to what Becky was discussing

      No offense taken; it’s hardly unique to me. The reason I brought it up was that it was directly inspired by the scripture, as opposed to, say, artificially lengthened lifespans due to better medicine, science, etc. , so it seemed like the sort of thing she was talking about.

    • Michelle, I think I see two areas that might be creating a bit of a problem. First, I’m not suggesting these concepts will give the Christian writer any kind of potential moral underpinning. That’s not what I’m suggesting here at all. I’m thinking, rather, that a Biblical worldview means we look at the things in the Bible as true or at least having been true. Sometimes that means we believe in things that other people say are impossible or didn’t happen.

      In addition, in the process of reading the Bible like history, we can “read between the lines.” Nowhere does the Bible say Adam and company could converse with the animals, but when you read those early chapters of Genesis, it’s not hard to imagine.

      And I’m not talking about human/dragon telepathy or even verbal communication. What if an entire world was made up of talking animals. Well, C. S. Lewis already did that one, I guess, didn’t he.

      I’m also not talking about an ancient wizard who still looks young. I’m talking about a world of people who live well past 900. Can’t you imagine what the accumulation of knowledge would be? Maybe you haven’t lived long enough to experience this, but how many times I’ve heard people say, Oh, if I’d only known when I was young what I know now. Well, at 60 or 80, those people would still BE young. And they’d be wiser and smarter and . . . Just imagine!

      There’s all kinds of things like that in the Bible.

      And yes, some secular myths exist that mirror events in the Bible. I’m suggesting we stretch beyond those and glean from the Bible ideas that haven’t been done and done over.


      • Ah, I think I’m finally beginning to understand what you’re going for, Becky, thanks. I always like to clarify a discussion so I understand exactly what we’re talking about. I am in complete agreement that doing the same-old, same-old is a bad idea. It’s why I think we put too much focus on Tolkien and Lewis: yes, they were both great. Now let’s stop trying to mass produce them like fast food and get some new blood and ideas into the mix.
        So far as ideas fleshed out from the Bible, but not within a specific Biblical setting per se, I think Christians should move beyond the stories everybody knows and grapple with the less comfortable side of Scripture. For example, what does following the Law actually look like in a society? I’m not talking about just the Ten Commandments, I’m talking about the whole Torah, including the parts related to criminal justice and the economy. How would a space society experience the concept of the Year of Jubilee? Here’s another: in a fantasy setting, where some may have the power of telepathy, how would such beings exercise justice toward accused murderers in the context of what Yahweh commanded His people? Could you accept the evidence of only one witness if that person could peer into another’s mind?

  13. Julie Bihn says:

    Children of the Earth by Catherine Wells (2nd in a trilogy but the only one I read) isn’t Christian but it basically has the story of Leah and Rachel (different names/societies for all, but same idea). Eventually Wells in effect speculates how Jacob’s relationship with Leah changed when he had an extended period alone with her (I don’t remember if the Rachel died prematurely or not). I liked that idea much better than Biblical fiction because you can clearly see the parallels between the Biblical people and the fictional characters, with none of the “would Jacob have really done that” baggage…it felt more plausible to me than if it had been Biblical fiction, and maybe even more respectful of the Bible’s truthfulness.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs did a couple books like that, too. In fact, one about Leah and Rachel. Her story was set in Scotland, I think, in the 1700s maybe. I haven’t read it, but if I recall, she did a series of those kinds of stories. I guess Francine Rivers did something similar with Redeeming Love.

      I guess I’m suggesting, as those writers have taken characters an put them into another place and time, why couldn’t we take aspects of the world as the Bible shows it and use those as the foundation of a fantasy or science fiction?

      Hey, Julie, thanks for the title. I feel like this is kind of a brainstorming session. 😉


  14. Julie Bihn says:

    The whole book wasn’t quite Leah and Rachel; I took it more like “what does this established character do when he marries the woman he loves and has to marry her unattractive sister too and also there are spaceships and I think time travel.” 😉 I don’t recall them having the same number of children as their Biblical counterparts or anything. I guess I’m generally more character-driven than setting-driven overall. (One could almost argue Tolkien-inspired Elves are like the 900-year lifespans…)

    • Julie, I’m not positive, but I think that the elves in Tolkien’s world were more like unfallen man, and the Numenoreans were more like antediluvian man (a parallel made stronger by the Atlantis-style sinking of their island).

  15. Matthias M. Hoefler says:

    I think Becky’s dropped a lightning bolt on us.Initially I wanted to apply what she wrote and then come back and talk about it, but my current projects are in the way. I am going to do this, though.

    I’ve not heard this suggestion before. We are all persuaded the Bible is “profitable” for “teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” Could we now say “all scripture” is good for imagination as well?

    Maybe the more obscure the premise, the more original it would be? Am I right in thinking one of the payoffs expected is originality? Another would be spending more time in the Bible, or at least thinking about it.

    An aside: New or old earth? Irrelevant. God created the world last Thursday.

    I found this: “[James Frey] gives another great example of a premise in the Bible story of Samson and Delilah–the premise of that tale being that Repentance leads to a glorious death. As Frey explains, the Samson story’s premise is really stating that: God’s love leads to great strength, which leads to heroism in battle, which leads to haughtiness and arrogance, which leads to temptations of the flesh, which leads to betrayal, which leads to defeat and disgrace and blindness, which lead to repentance, which leads to a restoration of superpowers, which leads to a glorious death. The premise, as stated above as “Repentance leads to a glorious death,” is just a shorthand way of saying all of that.”

    Not what Becky’s going for here, but a related idea. The bones of what happened to Sampson could be used as a framework for a story in a completely different setting. So her desire for us to draw on the Bible as source material is present, but handled differently.

    Becky wrote: 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?

    And again:But why aren’t we Christian writers doing more when we have such great source material?

    My guess is too many of us don’t know our Bible well enough to work this out practically. I thought a good bit about other possibilities to add to our brainstorming session, but I couldn’t come up with one.

    How would we go about finding useable “premises”? A concordance isn’t going to get us there.

    She’s given us an alternate way to read the Bible – mining it for scraps of truth that could be magnified and broadly applied to generate original storytelling.


What do you think?