Fantasy and a Christian Worldview

Since I hope to teach on this subject, I thought a little exploration of fantasy and its value to Christian thought merited attention.

One of the reasons I love to write fantasy is because of the good vs. evil conflict present in the stories. In most fantasy types—classic or high fantasy, adventure fantasy, even fairy-tale fantasy—good and evil are defined in rather stark, unyielding terms, based on what the author believes.

Philip Martin, editor of The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature

The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature


Fantasy, then, is speculative fiction that takes one giant step inward. It is highly imaginative, wondrous fiction, rooted in inner beliefs and values. Fantasy is about good and bad, right and wrong.

Martin makes a case for fantasy differing from science fiction because it is not tied to the rational.

Fantasy celebrates the nonrational. Wrapped in a cloak of magic, it dares a rational reader to object to a frog suddenly being turned into a prince. Where an explanation would be required in science fiction, fantasy says: “Because it did.” Though fantasy may offer some cause and effect—the prince probably did something wrong in the first place to cause him to be turned into a warty amphibian—no scientific rationale is required.

There is a reason, says science fiction. We believe says fantasy.

Surprisingly, this definition offers a couple of stumbling blocks to evangelical Christians in accepting fantasy as valuable. First is this contrast between belief and reason. Frankly, that bothers me, too, because I find my belief to be eminently reasonable. Faith is not faith based on nothing.

But true faith does admit that there are things in the world that are beyond a person’s ability to explain completely. Fantasy does nothing more than capitalize on this fact.

A reader of fantasy, then, enters a world constructed by an author’s beliefs. If the author is a student of God’s Word and relies on that source to inform his beliefs, then his world, his fantasy story, will be filled with truth. The kind of truth that can’t otherwise be explained.

Fantasy’s first value, therefore, is that it can give voice to a Christian’s deepest held beliefs.

There is a second element in Martin’s definition that might trip up a Christian—”magic.” This perhaps introduces the biggest objection to fantasy which some Christians voice, an objection I’ll start to debunk next time.

Published in: on May 13, 2006 at 1:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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