Christianity Today Weighs In on Science Fiction

ct-lghomeThanks to an email group I’m a member of, I found an incredible article in Christianity Today entitled “Sci-Fi’s Brave New World”.

The essence of the article is that science fiction is a central component of pop culture and as such has played a much larger part in forming religious attitudes than most of us are aware. The following quote from the fine article written by James A. Herrick (Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs , InterVarsity Press, 2008 ) gives you the essential thrust:

But we must be clear: Arguments against Christianity and in support of rival worldviews now arrive daily as embedded components of visual and written fiction. Pop-culture fiction, not academic nonfiction, is now the cutting edge of public discourse on spirituality.

The thing I like best is Dr. Herrick’s call to action. What should be the church’s response? That’s a question I think that is overdue. Interestingly, the first point in his suggestions is a diligent exercise of discernment. Regular readers here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction know that I’m doing a standing ovation with that one. 😀

Next Dr. Herrick suggests we need to give an answer—form an apologetic, if I understand his point. And finally we need to

attend more diligently to the presentation of her true myth in public settings.

His closing line says that we need to adhere to the one and only true myth (a term he uses as C.S. Lewis did), that is God’s Story.

Good, good stuff. I encourage you to read the entire article.

But my question is, What place does fiction have in the response to this infusion of errant thinking into our society through pop culture?

As you would expect, I think it should play a big part. People love stories. Why, then, don’t we Christians tell stories infused with truth? Stories that pose the science fiction questions. Or fantasies that reveal who Good is.

Stories have been forming our culture for a long, long time. It’s not good enough for Christians to be reactionary and give a Christian version of Twilight or a Christian version of the Matrix or a Christian version of Heroes. We need to be visionary. We need to write the Next Great Thing, infused with truth. That’s the apologetic that everyday people will hear. That’s the greatest response we can give.

8 Comments

  1. I just got this in the mail yesterday, and am excited to read it (didn’t have time last night). I thought of you immediately when I saw it!

    “We need to be visionary. We need to write the Next Great Thing, infused with truth.”

    I highly agree with this statement. I know we don’t fully agree on how worldview informs our art, but ultimately we should be able to be the most creative people, considering our Source. Where’s the next Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tolkien?

    Like

  2. Here’s an article which looks at the topic of getting theology from fiction.

    http://matthiasmedia.com.au/briefing/library/2067

    The writer is dubious about this current trend. His main concern is the theological adequacy of Christian fiction. Novelists are usually not theologians, and he suggests they often get it wrong. In the past is was also rare for theologians to be readers of speculative fiction, so critical commentary was often missing.

    I recall that Neil Gaiman was an admirer of C S Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, but later he began to suspect them of allegory. Writers write out of what they believe, but many people in the world seem reluctant to accept this from Christians. They accuse them of cheap propaganda. The obvious answer is to write winsome stories and win them over. Protestantism has always been a bit wary of art. That makes it difficult for the Christian fiction writer to develop in a sympathetic environment. I don’t really have an answer for that, except that we should read each other’s stuff and respond to it.

    Like

  3. Responding to Jason’s comment: “Where’s the next Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tolkien?” Edited out of all their meaningful content.

    Like

  4. Ken, this comment: “Novelists are usually not theologians, and he suggests they often get it wrong.” is typical of people who can’t seem to equate that the non-spiritual novelists get it “wrong” also. Most Christian fiction readers realize that occasionally their personally held doctrinal beliefs will not necessarily mesh with an author’s, but they’re prepared to ignore, disregard, or even condescend to the author’s chosen denominational beliefs as long as heresy isn’t present and the story is good.

    Like

  5. I just saw that article on the front of my husband’s Christianity Today, so I think I’ll go and borrow it 🙂

    I expressed a similar question on a forum asking where are the christian fantasy writers? Authors like Terry Brooks, Christopher Paolini and Philip Pullman are putting out books that are being gobbled up by the masses that have an underlying worldview that is anti-God.
    Yet the fantasy genre is a great means by which to introduce a God-shy society to him. And right now the floodgates are open to both fantasy and sci-fi: people want it. You can see that by the books, the movies, and TV shows being produced (I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many fantasy and sci-fi tv programs as there are now…).
    But as Ken said in his statement above, one needs to write a good story first, not a sermon hiding within a story. When we write, who we are inside naturally comes out: our love for God and others, our grief over the hurts in the world and the sin within us, and our hope in something greater than ourselves… Jesus Christ.

    Like

  6. I’ll tell you a story about fiction and doctrine. Back when the first Narnia movie came out there was a group of librarians in the Sydney public library system. They were active in promoting books to children. In particular they liked to get kids reading the Narnia Chronicles, presumably because it introduced kids to earth magic. The librarians were Wiccans. Before the first movie came out the media was full of discussions about the Christian underpinning of Narnia. The librarians were upset. They had completely failed to see this. They also lacked the background which would have given them this knowledge. They then tried to recruit conservative Christian groups to have Narnia banned from the public library system, on the grounds that it promoted pagan magic.

    That’s the tricky thing about stories. We tend to bring ourselves to the reading, and see in them what we want to see.

    Like

  7. Becky said: “It’s not good enough for Christians to be reactionary and give a Christian version of Twilight or a Christian version of the Matrix or a Christian version of Heroes. We need to be visionary. We need to write the Next Great Thing, infused with truth. That’s the apologetic that everyday people will hear. That’s the greatest response we can give.”

    Perfectly put, Becky. We need fresh and new. We need to dig deeper. A hardy amen! As Christian artists we should be striving that much harder to hone our skills and digging that much deeper to find the story that draws out the truth.

    Like

  8. “”as long as heresy isn’t present and the story is good”” [Nicole]

    I was just passing on a link, but knowing something about the writers of that article, I suspect they did think that heresy was often present and the story not good in current Christian fiction.

    And to pixy: we should remember that Tolkien almost single handedly invented modern fantasy. At the time he was doing something so off the edge of the map that he is almost still there today. Lord of the Rings comes top of all favourite book lists in the Western world. English professors shake their heads in wonder. It does not meet any of their criteria for acceptable literature.

    The Next Great Thing would be great, but then maybe it wouldn’t be speculative fiction. Who knows what it would be. There are probably very few people capable of offering the Next Great Thing. Perhaps every generation doesn’t get one.

    We still have plenty to read, though.

    Like


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: