Vampires and Angels – 2

We had such good discussion on the Vampires and Angels Tuesday post, I decided to blog on it again rather than responding in the comment section.

Where to start?

First, I think I’ve made my point about real beings and historical events, but what about those elements that are purely make-believe? Such as vampires.

While vampires are imaginary, they do have one thing that defines them—they ingest blood in order to survive. The myth, of course, is that they need human blood—hence their status as evil because they killed others to survive.

Of late, however, the “good” vampires found ways to satisfy their need for blood without taking human life. So the question moves to a theological one. The Bible says in Old and New Testament that Jews, then Christians, were to refrain from eating meat with the blood. So what can we assume about creatures that survive by ingesting the blood of another? I’d say, if they existed in this world, they stand in opposition to God’s law.

But what if these creatures exist in a fantasy world without God’s law? Must we, as readers, interpret such creatures in the light of Biblical reality? I don’t think so, not any more than we need to interpret physical events in a fantasy world by earthly reality. In other words, if it’s OK to include a portal between worlds or a flat earth or a sword only the rightful king can remove from its stone setting or any number of things and beings and events that do not adhere to earthly physical laws, then can’t fantasy also reinvent elements in a way that does not adhere to Biblical laws?

Understand, I’m not saying Biblical laws are to be ignored, just that they don’t apply in the same way to a fantasy world or a fantasized rendering of beings. Consequently, in a fantasy, people don’t need to become Christians. Salvation can be depicted through symbol or allegory or through what C. S. Lewis called “supposal.” (For more on this, check out my article at Spec Faith). The idea is, the author imagines a fantasy world and then asks, how would God make Himself known in this place, to these people?

So I might imagine a world where all people drank each other’s blood. They didn’t think it wrong because they all did it. How would God show Himself to those people? I can see Him coming as the only person ever born who did not drink blood. I can see a story about a group of blood-drinkers determined to take His blood by force.

What about beings with power over others and even over nature? How would God show Himself to them? Any number of story ideas suggest themselves.

Now what if I called those beings with power, witches and wizards?

Have I violated Scripture if some of those mythical creatures side with the good that must come if God, as He would show Himself in that fantasy, shows up? Perhaps of equal importance, must I show that their power comes from God?

I suggest it isn’t necessary any more than it is necessary to show that a character in a realistic novel can speak or think because God gave him that ability. In a fantasy world, if “special” powers are the norm, or the norm for a certain class of people, then I don’t think their power has to be shown as either from Good or from evil. Certainly a story can show this if the author chooses, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Which brings me to Lord of the Rings. The wizards in Tolkien’s work are a special class of people; their power isn’t derivative. It is power that they use for good or for ill, depending on the intent of their heart. And nothing about his imagined beings is like real humans who practice divination or witchcraft. Tolkien has invented a different being but used a familiar name.

Frodo’s buddy Sam has a familiar name, but that doesn’t mean he is human. The point is, names must be understood in context. Because Aragon is called a Man doesn’t mean he’s restricted to act like men of reality act. In fact, he doesn’t.

In the same way, the White Witch, though Lewis depicted her as evil, did not act in any way like witches described in the Bible. She was as much a fictitious construct as Tolkien’s wizards.

Well, I have more to say, but this post is too long as it is. If you’re still reading, abundant kudos to you! 😉

4 Comments

  1. Interesting, i appreciate your veiw point. One thing I would add is that the Bible specificly speaks against “drinking” blood. Not just not eating meat with blood.

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  2. In your previous “Vampires and Angels” post, you mention something about angel stories generally being bad, in some way. (Poorly written, or entertaining, or lacking realism.)

    You seem to have forgotten what may be the ultimate Christian Speculative Fiction book of all time, The Screwtape Letters. C.S.Lewis wrote with his usual talent, and since the book operates on the premise of a FALLEN angel, there can exist great internal conflict. Also, although Screwtape is the main character, he is actually not the protagonist, his “patient” is.

    Biblical Laws do apply to a fantasy world, in the sense that if we are writing of a fallen world, we know that the ONLY thing which can atone for sin is the ultimate manner of bloodshed: death. The penalty for sin is death, and death is the only thing which can atone for sin, although a mere mortal death is not enough to erase a persons sin.

    We know that the nature of sin must be the same in any world, real or fictional. Therefor, the only manner in which sin can be atoned is death, and Christ’s death is the only thing that can truly save a persons sole, in any world.

    Perhaps this is another reason that vampire were originally used solely as evil characters. Vampire live on human blood, playing God in the sense that they throw blood on their alter of greed, just as the priests through blood on the Alter of the LORD.

    There are two reasons that blood is forbidden. In OT times, blood could be extremely unhealthy, but also, blood is in a sense the sole property of God. Blood is the physical thing source of life, and ultimately, death is always intertwined to the blood. Blood is the key to life and death, life and death belong to God.

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have said about the fictional depiction of angels, except in the area of fallen angels, who are really much more like us than both we, and they, would like to pretend.

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  3. I just finished reading this and the previous Vampires and Angels post. I think I’m starting to understand a lot more about the fantasy genre and Christians’ take on it now. So thanks for referring me to these posts!

    One other thing: regardless of my family’s rules, I’ve never been a fan of vampires and I’m always wary of angel stories – for the same reasons you listed in the previous post. However, I might point out that I loved the new YA novel Angel Eyes. It’s a story that has humans, angels, and fallen angels/demons in the real world, and as far as I know it’s very Biblically sound. I know most book reviewers don’t have a lot of reading time (talk about a paradox!), but from the book reviews and discussions I’ve seen on your blog I think that’s one book you’d really enjoy.

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    • I’m never going to be a fan of vampires either. And you already know what I think about most angel stories, but I’m totally with you on Angel Eyes. I love that book. Here’s my review if you’re interested. Yes, I thought it was the most Biblical story I’ve read that’s featured angels. Plus it’s a great story and well-written. So glad to know you’re a fan too, Emily.

      Becky

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