I find it ironic that the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring back-to-back books dealing in a fictitious way with very real spiritual entities. In August the subject was make-believe angels and here in September our featured book The Telling by Mike Duran deals with make-believe demons.
In some ways The Telling is more controversial, in my opinion. Whereas there was little resembling Biblical angels in Eye of the Sword and hardly any mention of God, The Telling refers often to prayer, faith, prophecy, the Bible, and God. And fallen angels. In fact the physical appearance of these fallen angels fits the Biblical description of certain angels found in several passages (see for example Ezekiel 1:19 and Revelation 4:7).
But there is a departure with what these fallen angels/demons are capable of doing. In Scripture they are described over and over as possessing a human and being “cast out,” implying, of course, that they are in. The pretend demons of The Telling act in an entirely different way. They, in fact, are not your run-of-the-mill demons operating in rebellion to God, but they have broken free from God’s confinement of them–also a pretend event since it would be pretty impossible to break free from omnipotent God.
So the question comes up again: how OK is it to portray real beings in a fictitious way? Some might compare this kind of portrayal of the supernatural to that of humans as good rather than sinful. Or immortal rather than mortal. Or capable of shedding the human body in order to imitate a supernatural spirit rather than joined inextricably, body and soul and spirit.
In other words, does a Christian writer anchoring his story in reality (as opposed to creating a fantasy realm) have a responsibility to convey the supernatural truthfully, reflecting what Scripture says? How much leeway is there for the imagination?
Frank Peretti was one of the first contemporary novelists who explored the spiritual world using his imagination. Reportedly, he had no intention of showing demons as they actually are, if for no other reason than that Scripture is largely silent about the appearance of “unclean spirits.”
We know what they believe (that God is One–and it makes them shudder). We know they are the object of spiritual warfare, that they possess people, that they can produce supernatural feats, that they recognize who Jesus is. We do not know how they look or even if they can be seen. At various times Scripture records people seeing angels. I don’t recall an incident in which they saw evil spirits.
So how should someone read a book like The Telling which portrays demons as real, with the capacity to take from a human and acquire a body? It’s fanciful, though couched in the context of a man wresting with his faith and his calling. Can readers embrace the one and dismiss the other without the two becoming entangled? And if they mistake error for truth, is the author responsible or the reader?
Do novels need disclaimers these days–the events you are about to read are fictitious; any similarity to actual events or people is purely coincidental.
I suppose we should also discuss whether the label “Christian” adds a particular burden of truthfulness to a novel.
I’ve lobbied for the distinction between truth and Truth in fiction–the former portraying the human condition truthfully with no attempt at presenting the greater spiritual Truth, whereas the latter aims to incorporate both. But what about a novel that portrays some spiritual Truth on the way toward addressing the human condition truthfully? Does some Truth negate the inclusion of the imaginative that might be mistaken for more Truth?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
I’d also recommend you visit other CSFF members participating in this tour for The Telling (links below, with a check mark linking to a tour article). I suspect this subject might be visited by one or two others.
- – - – -
- √ Jim Armstrong
√ Noah Arsenault
√ √ √ Keanan Brand
√ Beckie Burnham
√ Brenda Castro
√ Jeff Chapman
√ Theresa Dunlap
√ Victor Gentile
√ √ Nikole Hahn
√ √ √ Bruce Hennigan
√ Becky Jesse
√ √ √ Jason Joyner
√ √ √ Carol Keen
√ Emileigh Latham
√ √ √ Meagan @ Blooming with Books
√ Anna Mittower
√ √ √ Lyn Perry
√ Kathleen Smith
√ √ √ Jessica Thomas
√ √ √ Steve Trower
√ Dona Watson
√ Shane Werlinger
√ Phyllis Wheeler