The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy

I’ve mentioned this in passing a time or two, but recently the point has come home more forcefully. Speculative fiction is hugely popular in the culture, but for the most part, since there has been little Christian science fiction or fantasy published, the genre is driven by those with an opposing worldview.

But what makes this particularly different from suspense or mystery or literary fiction, movies, or television? After all, CSI isn’t Christian, and neither was Murder, She Wrote. Mysteries have a long history, with few surfacing as Christian, and no one seems to think this is a serious problem. So why would it be for SF/fantasy?

Simply put, because of the required tropes. In a mystery, a crime is committed and someone has to solve it. Justice triumphs. There is little leeway. In science fiction and, more so in fantasy, good clashes with evil. Good wins out. But, and here’s the central issue, what is “good”?

Spec Faith blogger Stephen Burnett wrote in his post yesterday about the British sci-fi television series Doctor Who. From what he says, I thought of the Star Trek: Next Generation or Voyager or Deep Space Nine or even Enterprise. All those showed essentially a fight between good and evil, but good was defined as sentient life that is willing to do no harm to other sentient life. Those wonderful shows primarily said night in and night out, Can’t we all just get along? No matter the sexual orientation or the cultural practices—unless said practices harm others.

I called them “wonderful” because they built these captivating worlds and populated them with interesting people, but I also think the programs reinforced a solid humanist worldview. Certainly, for a Christian aware of this, the shows were informative, providing a basis for understanding our culture. And yet, there was that “reinforcing” aspect.

In some ways, this is the question, Does art reflect culture or influence it? I suggest the answer is, Yes.

Which brings us back to the issue of the need for a Christian worldview in SF/fantasy. While humanists have been defining good and evil for some time, now atheists are beginning to do the same. And New Age writers, Buddhists, Mormons …

Once, even in works by a-religious authors, a good/evil struggle nevertheless mirrored Truth. But with writers shaping good after their own image or in the image of their favorite idolatrous religion, good has been turned on its head.

I was reminded of this just last Wednesday when I saw the Spiderwick Chronicles at our local dollar theater (which charges $1.50 😉 ). In that movie there is a clearly defined evil, but good? Not so easy to spot. The closest representation of supernatural good was actually more concerned with self-preservation than with anything else, even becoming an antagonist at one point to those trying to defeat the evil.

And who was fighting evil? Humans. So, the real good vs. evil struggle was humans vs. supernatural evil, with supernatural good sort of neutral—sometimes aiding and sometimes hindering.

God? Not present.

Is this the Truth we think art should reflect … or the influence on society we would like to see prevail?

13 Comments

  1. Glad you wrote a post on this topic. It is a topic that comes up for me often when reading or watching TV/movies. I am a huge Voyager and Dr. Who fan, but as a Christian I must admit that I don’t define good the same way they do.

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  2. Always interesting to consider how we bring “good” to the top and what that really means. I find it fairly simple in my genre, but I believe that this genre you speak of faces a great challenge. After all, to just start saying things forthrightly seems to water down the story aspect. So there needs to be a deep structure and a deep meaning that supports it all and glimmers through. (I don’t envy ya’ll for your writing challenges!)

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  3. “Fascinating.” to borrow a common quote from one of those interesting characters in Star Trek. 🙂

    Speculative fiction IS hugely popular in the culture at large. I wonder if that is because the “good” humans so often prevail in the dire situations they find themselves in. And the very act of prevailing makes the audience “feel” good too. It is satisfying. The ‘good’ though in that venue is defined by self-centered us, which speaks to the self-preservation model.

    I remember when the BORG came on the scene in Star Trek:Next Generation. I loved those episodes because for once, mankind got a kick in the collective pants. Simply put, they encountered an enemy that quite literally they could not win against. Indeed, the only option initially was to turn tail and run. “Resistance is futile” … in light of an awesome power bigger than they. THAT made for some very interesting story lines. Conflict’orama.

    Mankind’s story since the garden has been conflict with the creator. Our version of good vs. the Ulitmate Good.

    Our challenge then is to build our stories around the genuine cornerstone of good. And that is a challenge! We are in essence telling a story and convincing our audience that the good that will prevail does not come from within, but from the ONE who put it within us to live, love, and die for HIM. There’s your real story. Trouble is, we like to tell how good we are and our stories reflect that approach.

    So then, in light of the challenge … consider this:

    Speculative Scaffolding –> Structure, framework, support, etc. These are words I keep seeing spring up. The culture at large has given us fine examples of speculative scaffolding. We can use that so long as we remember it is just a tool. We take that, build it around our cornerstone and then fill in the sheet-rock, finishings and furnishings. Now we have a solid story.

    Sounds like a constructive challenge. Can we do it? I am willing to try. And in the trying I will know that I have at least the best tenant in all of the universe in residence … even if at the end of the day the occupancy remains ONE. The Audience of One.

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  4. Hello! I’m glad to be back after lots of travel.
    I agree with your post. But as I thought about it, I wonder how we as Christians define a “Christian World View.”
    Is it broadly defined as good vs. evil? Does the spiritual or unseen need to be addressed in the story? The list of questions goes on.
    At times, during my more cynical moments, I wonder if we as Christians define our Christian World View based on the culture of our Christianity rather than our Biblical faith. I am a firm believer in the culture of our Christianity. It provides a framework of structure through which we can interact locally in a community of faith, and provides flexibility in determining many aspects of such communities of faith. The most apparent is worship styole, such as structured vs. unstructured worship styles.
    However, I realize that equating a Christian World View with Christian Culture can give rise to Phariseeism and all the problems that Jesus rebuked in the gospels.
    How do we define a Christian World View? Best regards.

    Michael A. Heald

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  5. I think the concept of “good” in the non-Christian worldview is often either 1) good is what’s selfish (best for the individual) or 2) good is whatever makes everyone “feel” okay with their own lives (which is a version of selfishness anyway). Obviously, a Christian worldview would tell us that God’s principles are the best. And, usually science and psychology actually back up what God’s Word tells us. So, a Christian worldview in writing is essential to understanding our universe.

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  6. Great discussion, all. Some very thought-provoking comments. I want to explore this subject some more so will post on it again, I think. Thanks for your participation!

    Becky

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  7. […] J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview, the Good Samaritan, worldview Last Friday’s post, The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy, generated some great […]

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  8. […] Miller of A Christian Worldview of Fantasy blog suggests a particular set of books for my sons (older teens) to read.  I know there are more […]

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  9. Get real!

    The Original Star Trek was just TOOO.. 60s. Captain Kirk was The Lone Ranger with a libido. Mr. Spock was an Uncle Tom Tom alien.

    Do you notice how the CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW ignores annihilating the Indians and stealing a couple of continents? But then we have to put up with this “Thou shalt not kill.” and “Thou shalt not steal.”

    Christianity is more delusional and fictional than good science fiction. Not all science fiction is good however. Babylon 5 is better than Trek.

    How about a sci-fi perspective on the Bible.

    Bible Trek

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  10. Umbrarchist, I’m not sure what your point is or how it relates to this post, except that you seem opposed to the Christian worldview, though you apparently don’t understand it.

    And when you say, We have to put up with this “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal” are you saying those are burdensome to society?

    In what way do you find Christianity delusional? I really am interested in understanding your view.

    Becky

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  11. {{{ you seem opposed to the Christian worldview, though you apparently don’t understand it. }}}

    I could not possibly. A mere 13 years in Catholic schools.

    SHEOL is the word in the Old Testament that is translated as HELL. Is that really what it means? How often do Christians even mention the term? I didn’t learn it until I was over 40. Of course since then I notice how much IT DOES NOT TURN UP.

    What really matters is the WORLD not the worldview. If the worldview deviates too far from the world, then there are problems. One of the most amusing is this business of Europe being a CONTINENT. There is no water separating Europe from Asia. They make up a single land mass. So this Europe as CONTINENT is just a delusional worldview.

    It is not a matter of opposing it. I am not into that for us or against us worldview either. I just consider the internet a good venue for pointing out nonsense. How often do you hear about Jews killed in the holocaust vs the number of American Indians killed here. Doesn’t that indicate there must be blinkers on the worldview?

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  12. umbrarchist, the reason I say you don’t understand the Christian worldview is because you made the statement that it “ignores annihilating the Indians and stealing a couple of continents.” That may apply to colonialism or Manifest Destiny or nationalism, but it is not consistent with a Christian worldview. If the education you received in Catholic schools taught you otherwise, then I suggest they mis-taught you.

    I use the Bible as the authority for what determines the Christian worldview. I’ll agree with you that how the world actually is matters most, but postmodernism is quick to tell us that how people see the world is also significant. I happen to think that the Bible is true in that it reflects how the world actually is—with spiritual matters central. I also look at the rest of the world through the lens of the Bible and what it teaches me about God and Mankind.

    So in that regard, I think the Bible, and Biblical Christianity, reflect the world and also inform my view of it.

    Thanks for your comments. I’d be curious what you think of yesterday’s post (1/29).

    Becky

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  13. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is not only one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time, but (in the words of its author) “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Tolkien’s worldview is quite Biblical, and in LOTR the battle between good and evil is based on moral absolutes, not the “feel-good” moral relativism we get in much of today’s SF/F.

    C. S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist and author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was converted from atheism to Christianity due, in part, to the influence of his good friend Tolkien. In 1939, Lewis wrote “…any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it.” Lewis did precisely that in his Space Trilogy novels and in the seven Narnia books.

    I blog about both of these authors and J. K. Rowling at http://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com. I am the author of a book entitled The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. In the book I explain much of the religious meaning of the Harry Potter series in comparison with the fiction of Tolkien and Lewis. Rowling herself has explained that the two Scripture verses that she quoted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows “sum up–they almost epitomize the whole series.” My book explains what she may have meant by that. More information is available at my blog. Please visit it if you get the chance.

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