Author Rick Miesel gives us a historical-critical analysis of fantasy. While I do not necessarily agree with everything Mr. Miesel had to say, it certainly gave me pause to consider.
Because I have school age children, the article rang a clear note with me. I have to look at everything differently. Food, movies, tv, books, video games, and the next new thing.
Mr. Wiesel is a parent and is concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children. He should be. The information age has made access easy. Access to every sort of good or terrible thing available all over the world.
Since we have access, parents must be careful. We are called "train up a child in the way he should go." As much as I would like to, I cannot close their eyes to the Twin Towers. Or the pictures of soldiers in tanks. Or to the pictures of abortion on the picket signs of protestors. Or cereal commercials.
What do I do?
I talk to my children.
I have to teach them to think. To question. To listen. Not just to the sorcery -- "The Force" being equivalent to black magic and white witchcraft, but also to preachers who proclaim the ever popular blab it and grab it gospel.
My family and I rented The Thief Lord, based on a novel by Cornelia Funke. My husband and I rolled our eyes at the blatant disrespect of adults by the children, by the assumption that it's ok to steal in certain circumstances, by the standard "terrible rich father / neglected son," by the premise that the children could "take care of themselves" in an abandoned movie house in Venice.
Thankfully, the kids were bored with the movie. When it was done, we talked about it and asked them what they thought. And they told us and we listened. I have no doubt that Mr. Miesel does this with his own family.
In these times we live in, we believe pastors and parents must exercise extreme caution regarding the literary use of fantasy.
I couldn't agree with that statement more. My children go to a public school in a very Catholic area. We are blessed that way because the values are very close to our own. I am encouraging my kids to read a lot of books, including the Potter Books and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Why? Because they live in a world that reads it and how can they respond to it as Christians if they don't know what it's in it? How can I respond to Potter if I have never read the books?
By the way, I have read every Potter book. My kids haven't read a single one. Too busy with Pokemon.
Today's children see nothing wrong with pagan practices.
Not to mention nursery rhymes--do you know what ring around the rosey is about?
Or Humpty Dumpty?
What about the days of the week, many of them names for Norse gods?
The names of the planets?
What about the tradional wedding song by Mendelssohn?
Knocking on wood?
Throwing salt over you shoulder?
"Christian" fantasy parallels the occultic literature for children, using similar images, story-lines, symbols and characters. Literary fantasy, rather than being neutral, has occultic roots.
As a parent, I feel like I need to know about these things now, talk about them in the open rather than forbidding it and making fantasy a forbidden fruit.
Fantasy does have occultic roots. In what respect? In what instance? How does that differ from what the bible teaches? Why is it bad? Why is it easy? When were these myths written? These are questions that should be asked. Must be asked, especially when they're small, because if you DON'T bring it out in the open then, they will hide it from you later.
Finally, Most true Christians would recognize fantasy...as being extremely wicked...
I am a Christian. I read science fiction and fantasy novels; not all, I use something called discretion. Until a year ago, I had no idea that Christians wrote science fiction and fantasy, other than Mr. Peretti and Mr. Jenkins and LaHaye.
Science Fiction and Fantasy is a popular genre with believers and non-believers alike. If the Christian community does not respond with stories--excellent stories--based on Judeo-Christian values, who will be the salt? Who will be the light to millions of readers?
And, if we are to eliminate fiction, then many preachers will have to revisit their sermons. Some actually tell stories as illustrations. Are they lying? Is this Fiction? Or is it acceptable because they are preaching from a pulpit?
I agree that we must be careful what we allow our children to read. We must be careful what we read ourselves. We must be careful of what we write so not to cause others to stumble. We must be careful judging others that we not bring judgment on ourselves.
We must be careful of legalism and fear.
First, are we allowed to read fiction of any kind? Modern fiction didn't exist in biblical times, but similar items--myths, plays, and poetry--did. For example, when Elijah confronted the Baal worshippers in 1 Kings 18:27, he said of Baal, "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." This ridicule is based on events from the Baal myths, so Elijah must have been aware of them. Why did he bother learning such things? Surely any charge against fiction must apply here.
Or consider Daniel and his friends. They were among Israelite exiles who had to learn "the language and literature of the Babylonians" (Dan 1:4). "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning" (v. 17). There are two points of interest here. First, the four looked for an alternative to their normal rations, because the food had been part of an idol sacrifice. They were not rebellious about this; they merely found a way to avoid being contaminated by the local idolatry. This is important because what they had to learn would have included astrology and other forms of divination, and Babylonian mythology--somewhat beyond Elijah's likely involvement. So the second point is this: though they resisted idol sacrifices, they did not make a recorded protest against the mythology and divination they were told to learn. Yet God blessed them--though it is true that they turned to him for answers, not to the stars and idols. If reading Babylonian textbooks wasn't condemned, neither should reading modern Christian literature be off limits.
What about Paul? In Athens, he quoted the pagan poets Epimenides ("In him we live and move and have our being") and either Aratus or Cleanthes ("We are his offspring") in Acts 17:28. He quoted Epimenides again in Titus 1:12. And in 1 Cor 15:33 he quotes from Menander's comedy Thais, which was fiction. Why would someone like Paul bother reading such things, much less memorizing phrases from them? Unless we allow Christians to read literature, there is no answer.
Second, what about writing fiction? Is reading it okay but producing it forbidden? Some have already referred to Jesus' parables, but we can't be sure they were fiction, any more than we can be sure they weren't. But if writing about talking lions is a problem, let's bump it up a notch to walking, talking plants!
In Judges 9:7-20, Gideon's son Jotham confronts those who murdered his brothers, and part of his speech is speculative fiction: verses 8-15. We have trees that move around and talk, even referring to "gods" (vv 9, 13)! Yet God evidently listened, for Jotham's curse on the murderers came upon them (v 57). "Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?" (Lam 3:37)
One can find many cases of "speculative fiction" in the Prophets; a complete list and examination would generate a book. But this should serve to eliminate some of the charges brought against Christian fiction.
It occured to me today that, while the "Biblical Discernment" people accuse Christian fiction authors of encouraging escapism, they themselves advocate leaving whole mediums (as in television, books, and movies, not the folks the OT required stoned) to the unbelieving world.
As an admitedly secular author pointed out in, "Now Discover Your Strengths," talents are values-neutral. One such talent would be the creativity that drives the arts, including fiction writing. Like all talents, creative writing can be a vehicle for either good or evil. The BD would then have us abandon this vehicle simply because some have used it for evil.
I am missing something, or is that escapism?
Further, I would remind the brethern our talents are from God. If God has given us the talent to write, would we not be judged by God if we took BD's advice and buried our talents just as surely as we would if we used them for personal glory or to advocate evil? Indeed, in the scriptures, the later was not even mentioned--but the former Jesus did mention, and the steward that buried his master's money paid a heavy price.
As to their charges to the nature of fiction, if I understand what they meant, it's true that our characters take on a life of their own, but the fact you can't walk up and shake our brain-children's hands does not make our work a lie. If we are created in the image of God, why should it be such a scandal and shock that some of us imitate our Father, who created the whole universe in like manner? Judge, then, our shadows not by their appearance, but by whether the message they carry is consistent with biblical truth.
Do not mistake me, Escapism is the goal of those like the BD, not ours. The Christian author merely seeks to be the salt of the earth, using our art to glorify the Lord, and convey the truth in the only form some are willing to recieve it in. If Christians abandon our arts, we have both abandoned them to deception--and our commision.
Indeed, my love, and godliness, to use their phrasing, makes it unthinkable to abandon the field to which my Master has called me.
Linked to: Adam's Blog
"Most true Christians would recognize fantasy, such as the movie Star Wars, as
being extremely wicked (in this case, sorcery -- "The Force" being equivalent to
black magic and white witchcraft). Yet, apparently, when we call it "Christian,"
this somehow sanctifies what we do with our minds (imaginations), or what we allow our minds to entertain. "--BDM
1) Star Wars is an imaginative work, and an opportunity to "be in the world but not of it". It's a chance to debate Pantheism with those around us, and expose the weaknesses of that world-view.
2) This argument implies that we who are called to write Christian spec-fic, pen works of Pantheism like Star Wars, then merely add the word "Christian" to movie posters. I'd like to invite a BDM representative to join Daniel I Weaver's critique group, which consists of nearly forty Christian Speculative Fiction authors. They can observe how we struggle to get the Theology of our fiction as Biblical as possible. The Lost-Genre Guild will not stand behind any piece that's not Biblical. They can watch how we strive to glorify Him with our every word. This is the prayer of our members:
Father, we are gathered here to praise and glorify you.
Our project may give us the idea that we're trying to lift up ourselves, our names, our work. But we are determined to lift up Jesus, that HE may draw everyone to HIMSELF. That is your will too, so we ask you to bless this project.
But we also know that you delight to reward your servants. Proverbs 27:18 says, He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored. We are doing your work in the way you have designed us to do it, so bless us as well as our efforts, and help us to love and support one another rather than compete for the glory that belongs to you alone.
In Jesus' name, amen.
"Well," someone might say, "I'm not doing anything wicked, I'm just reading about wickedness."--BDM
If I can pre-define all my terms, I'll win every logical debate I enter. By these standards, since all men are sinners, therefore all writing is wicked, therefore only Jesus, Adam and Eve (before the fall), are the only ones capable of writing non-wickedness.
All the Lost Genre Guild's members consider our work to be primarily a ministry.
"But does this align with godliness? There are four things about fantasy which must be considered:
I. It is Anti-Truth.
II. It Slips Into Reality."--BDM
Using the broad brush with which BDM colors "fantasy", Jesus' parables are guilty of these points as well. That is, in fact, exactly how Lost Genre Guild Members regard our work--as parables.
"III. It Does Not Fit True Godliness.
IV. A Love for God Will Oppose It."--BDM
Again by, pre-defining "True Godliness" and "Love for God", anyone opposing these points is anti-God.
During the Reformation, a vast wealth of Christian art was lost, when Protestants stormed cathedrals and destroyed icons. What BDM promotes with their own zealous opinions, destroys future art, and is no less tragic.
Humankind has value because we're all created in the Creator's image. Christian spec-fic authors want to invest the talents He's given us to glorify our Creator.
BDM's zealotry is Biblically groundless, pharisaical, and an ugly Ambassadorship to the lost and watching world.
We will be praying for the wisdom of its membership and leaders.
A Christian authors work is 51% ministry and 49% business--God's will gets the deciding vote in any decision.
To God be the glory,
Scott “Frank Creed” Morris
Frank Creed's BLOG
Book Review Blog: A Frank Review
Christ used fictional scenarios as a tool to reach people with the truth. Consider his parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep or the lost son (just to name a few). He used these fictional stories to stir people to think on a deeper level. (I'm in no way claiming speculative fiction equal to God's word.) Following the parables in Matthew 25, including the lesson of the Sheep and the Goats, the religious leaders planned to find a way to kill Jesus. They didn't care for the message.
To label the tool good or evil is narrow-minded thinking. A knife used to cut the meal on your plate or a knife used to harm a fellow human being is still a knife. Speculative fiction is no different. It's the tool that carries a fictional story.
God creates each person as a unique individual. We have likes and dislikes. Some people like sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, etc. Those who don't care for sci-fi, fantasy and horror cannot understand those who do. For Christians who do, finding Christian speculative Fiction offers a refreshing difference.
First, one can't stop but comment on the fact that everyone who does anything for Christ seems to be on their blacklist. One can expect to see Rick Warren on such a list and there's a lot of controversy around him. Benny Hinn certainly would go on the list of people to be exposed. But then, you begin to see some odd choices, such as Dennis Rainey, who has worked to restore and strengthen families through Family Life. R.C. Sproul, who is often beloved by critics of evangelicals, is attacked by Biblical Discernment. Apologist Josh McDowell is assaulted, so is C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther. All of this should cause us to pause and ponder many things, such as whether incessantly bashing people counts as a ministry. It should also cause us to watch our own critical attitudes, lest we get to the point where everyone and everything is under attack.
Now, they've posted four arguments against Christian Fantasy, by which they mean a broad range of books. Let's consider these points:
I. Fantasy Is Anti-Truth
The point made is that as fantasy doesn't happen, it's a lie. They've got a broad definition of fantasy, including the Lion King, to which they offer conclusive and final evidence as to the untruth of fantasy:
"Do animals talk?" Just on this fantasy alone (animals talking) it is a lie.
We'll have to talk to Moses about a rewrite of that whole Baalam's Ass thing. (Num. 22:21-39). I don't think he'd have wanted to end up on Biblical Discernment's Expose list, as they've affirmed that animals never talked. While I'm perhaps being a little absurd here, the issue of how animals communicate with one another is open to debate. I suppose if Disney wanted to be totally accurate, they could show lions growling, baboons making their noises and put subtitles at the bottom, but I don't think this would please BD.
In all seriousness, the question is whether fiction in general (more apt than fantasy given BD's definition) is anti-truth. The answer is that by it's very nature, it's not. I walk into a book store and I pick up a novel. On the back of the jacket, it tells me, "This is a great novel of suspense." I know that I'm picking up a novel, a piece of fiction.
I go in the library and the books are divided by fiction and non-fiction. What I'm reading is completely above-board. I know by reading description whether a story's truth or fiction.
It's true that some novels lie. When Dan Brown makes claims that his book is based on true information, he's telling a lie. When people make statements about God and evil in their books that are not true, they're telling a lie.
However, not all novels tell lies.
II. Fantasy Subtly Slips Into Reality
Now here, they go on to attack the premises of certain Christian books and I won't argue on a book by book basis. Some decisions are poorly made and not every book in the Christian fiction world is a great idea, or even inspired by God.
However, I should hope, if I'm writing to the glory of God, that some of my fiction slips into my reader's reality. I have a novel, Super Hero, that I'm working on where the character learns valuable lessons along the way. BD would have us conclude that because bad and harmful thoughts can slip into people's reality, it is a waste for Christians to plant good or positive ones.
III. Fantasy Does Not Fit True Godliness
This argument centers on the escapism of fiction. "God doesn't want us to escape reality" goes the argument. This to me seems somewhat absurd. The fact is, most people have some escape from reality. For some, it's fishing or hunting. For others, it's taking a long walk down an isolated stretch of road.
Certainly, one can have too much escapism and not enough facing the truth. As scripture says, "Let your moderation be known to all men." (Phil. 4:5). However, if points one and two are not valid, then point three becomes a legalism.
IV. A Love For God Will Oppose Fantasy
This is perhaps the most uncharitable point. If you love god, you'll oppose Christian fiction. Under this point, they took down John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress for a bad analogy. Most of us have heard of Pilgrim's Progress, but fewer know of Bunyan.
Mr. Bunyan was imprisoned because of his faith in Christ and loyalty to scripture over the State Church for twelve years. But now, thanks to BD, we know that as Mr. Bunyan wrote "fantasy" he had no love for Christ.
So having examined the reasons given why Christian fiction is incorrect, let us turn to the subject of what the good Christian Author should do:
1) Draw Readers Closer to Truth
This I see as a vital function of Christian fiction. If you've merely escaped into my novel for a moment, I've done nothing long-term for you. But, if I give you a thought, some nugget to take from this story that makes you think about your own life, I've done you a great service. I know there have been books that given me a vision and an understanding I didn't have before.
2) To Teach Biblical Truth
By this, I don't mean that every page must be annotated with Bible verses. But, rather that the truth of the Bible should shine through. Is sin rebuked? Is there a consequence for it? To me, these are vital questions. If we teach sin and immorality without consequence, our stories are useless. If we teach only consequences without the mercy and grace of God, our stories are useless.
We must be especially careful in portraying God's character in our stories, because of the powerful impact fiction has on the way people view the world.
The third aim, which should be the aim of Christians regardless of their vocation is excellence. Don't compare yourself to someone else and say, "I'm better," but rather reach for the fullness of what God can do through you. Christian Music Artist Michael Card often became angry at the state of Christian worship. His longtime mentor, Dr. Bill Lane told him to let the "Excellence of your work be your protest." It is the exact same thing with Christian writers.
The Importance of Christian Fiction
The importance of good Christian Fiction writing is so vital in our current age. In my short story, The Agent, one of the characters observes, "It is the fictional people accept as fact, the fanciful that forms people’s view of the real world." With such power in the hands of Christians today, it is incumbent on those of us who are able to write for the Glory of God and to speak to our people in a language that they understand. We must be guided by the scripture and led by the Holy Spirit, but despite what criticism may come, we have a work to do and we must be about Our Father's business.