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

writes:

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)  

6 Comments

  1. I have read recently that J.R.R. Tolkein loved the Bible as no other book. If you look carefully at the “Lord Of The Rings” you see the absolute, yet falible good and the complete and total evil in the characters on both sides in “The Battle for Middle Earth.” I have not read the entire series myself yet only seen the movies. I did read the Hobbit and did not come away at the time of reading with an overwhelming sense of Good verses Evil. It was just an enjoyable book. I read it many years ago but I recently gave my daughter the Lord of the Rings trilogy to read and I am hoping that she will enjoy them.

    GBY

    In His Service,

    Craig

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  2. Awesome post, Becky. I’m looking forward to reading more about this topic and learning from you. One question, why are you offering a paid critique a the ACFW conference? . There’s really no one on that list right now, that I would be interested to submit my work to.

    Blessings!
    Beth.

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  3. Craig, thanks for your comment.

    Lord of the Rings is certainly the greatest classic fantasy and without a doubt the lines of good and evil are clearly drawn.

    I think your observation about The Hobbit is interesting. Supposedly the events in The Hobbit happened earlier than those in Lord of the Rings, so the evil had advanced during the intervening time. In the Hobbit it wasn’t the organized front but more nearly defined as “lawlessness.”

    Even in that I think there is much to learn.

    Becky

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  4. I love talking about fantasy, Beth–this should be fun.

    I’m not sure what you are referring to about the ACFW critique. Maybe you can fill me in on more details? Where did you read this? Did it say I was offering critiques? That I was paying for one?

    Becky

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  5. Naso, I removed your poem simply because you made no comment how it or whatever spurred it related to the topic under discussion.

    Feel free to join us if you are on topic.

    Becky

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  6. Miss Becky,

    Thank you for responding to my comment. I read The Hobbit so long ago that I don’t remember a many of the details but I do agree with yoiu about the intervening years and evil increasing in the land.

    GBY

    IHS, Craig

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