Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Bible and Fantasy: Part 1

Ello everyone!  I hope your year is going well!

Anyway today's post will be about overcoming some common issues in Fantasy by finding solutions in the Bible.  I know several people who don't like/approve of fantasy and I think it is because they believe it is Biblically unsound.  If we're talking about some fantasy books, they would be right.  But overall, I think I can refute most of the arguments against fantasy in general.

Alright, lets start.

Issue Number Uno: God is the creator of the world.  Is it right for you to invent/create your own world and write about it as if it were real?  Is it okay to create an alternate way "God" created your world?  Is it right to create an alternate version of God?

This is the toughest one to answer.  It really depends on the particular novel.  Here is what I consider a wrong version of fantasy, and one that I think is right.

Before I begin, I would like to say that I really do like Bryan Davis.  He is an extremely talented writer.  I even attended a writing workshop held by him and I learned a lot from him. His plots tend to be interesting, even if his characters are a tad stereotyped.  I met him, and I truly believe him to be a good Christian man.

However, Bryan Davis tends to insert things into his stories that give me a pause.  For one, he has a bad habit of always resurrecting his dead characters.  I'm going to cover that issue in a later post.  But he also tends to insert spiritual elements into his story that either don't sit right, or blatantly go against what the Bible says.  Here is my example:

In his series "Dragons in Our Midst" the characters discover that they have a need to go to Hell.  No, literally.  Some sort of relic thingamajig got stuck down there, and they have to go and get it back.  When I first got to this part, I paused a little, but I continued reading, hoping he would surprise me.  He did, but it wasn't pleasant.  Turns out, there are "circles" in Hell, and different pits for different sorts of people. There was even this bizarre town where some people who WEREN'T dead were trapped, and one of them was a Christian!  Okay, this made me feel a little weird, because I know that God views all sin as sin and there aren't different "circles" for different sorts of people.  Plus, I did not think it Biblical that live people could just go traipsing through hell when it suits them.

Not only do the characters go to Hell and manage to get out, they also go to Heaven, and they have to fight this huge battle at the gates of heaven.  None of the characters were angels, and none of the characters were dead.  There was even ANOTHER bizarre little town in front of heaven where some other undead beings resided.

So how does this apply? First of all, I might not have been so perturbed at this if the story took place in an actual fantasy world.  This story however, was about King Arthur legends and dragons in the real world.  It's a form of fantasy, and it was an extremely gripping tale with lots of potential.  I did not like it though.  First and foremost, I did not like the weird spiritual realms he added to a story that takes place in the real world.  I also didn't like the characters, but that's beside the point.

The point is: his story goes against what the Bible says, and it takes place in the real world.  Fantasy that takes place in the real world should add mystical elements, but I don't think it is right to tamper with spiritual realms. (And yes, I will be covering magic in a later post too.)

Matthew 10:28 is Jesus talking to his disciples.  He says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can kill both soul and body in hell."
The "One" Jesus is referring to is Satan.  This passage says that bodies and souls are destroyed in hell.  Why weren't the characters destroyed body and soul in hell?  Because they were Christians?  Well...

Matthew 25: 31-46 recounts the parable of the sheep and the goats.  Jesus said he would separate the the "sheep" (righteous) from the "goats" (unrighteous).  The righteous will inherit eternal life in heaven, while Jesus says the goats will inherit eternal punishment.

This and other passages (Psalm 16, John 3: 16, John 10: 28, etc.) show that Christians will not go to hell.  We also don't go to heaven before we die.

Now for my good example.

The Silmarillion recounts the stories of the Silmarils and the creation of Middle-Earth.  Long before Middle-Earth was formed, Eru (God) created the Valar.  He taught them how to sing, and he taught them notes that when they sang it together it created Middle-Earth.  However, Melkor, one of the Valar, was proud and jealous of Eru.  He created his own notes, and through it he created darkness and sin.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a very strong Christian.  Heck, he was the one who brought C.S. Lewis to Christ.  How would y'all like that on your Christian resume?  Any Christian can clearly see the parallels between the real Creation of the world in Genesis, and the Middle-Earth creation of the world.  God created the heavens and the earth to glorify him.  Eru created the Valar to sing and glorify him, so that Middle-Earth might be made.  Lucifer became jealous and wanted the power for himself.  God cast him to earth, where he and the other fallen angels caused mischief  and tempted Adam and Eve into sinning.  Melkor wanted Eru's glory and power, so he tried to lead some of the Valar against him.  He was exiled to Middle-Earth, where he formed darkness and despair.

Now, here is why I think Tolkien was right in what he did.  Tolkien was very open about his Christian faith, and his books clearly resound with his love for God.  He did not write this "for the sake of his story."  He wrote this to glorify God.  Many non-Christians read his books, and if they truly love them, they might look into Tolkien's beliefs.  Who knows?  His books have probably brought at least a few people to Christ!  Even if they have not, they strengthened my understanding of God and the purpose of Nature and Heroism.

Bryan Davis' on the other hand, takes place in the real world.  It makes it very unclear what is real and what is not.  You see "real world fantasy" should have a very clear line between the "real" and the "not real."  When I read a real world fantasy,particularly a Christian real world fantasy, I know that telephones, dogs, God, videogames, and New York City are all real.  I also already know that dragons, Excalibur  anthrozils, and wizards like Merlin are not real.  The line gets really blurry though, when you begin tampering with spiritual issues.  I've never been to Hell.  I wouldn't know if there would be live people trapped down there.  But something doesn't sit right with me about that.  I've never been to heaven.  How should I know if there is a town sitting outside the gate?  But something does not sit right with me about that either.

So you see my point?  As long as you make it very clear you are glorifying God, it should be okay.  Dragons in our Midst was an extremely exciting series, and I admit, the Hell and Heaven parts made it even more interesting.  But did Bryan Davis put that in to teach me something about God, or to make his story better?  I have a feeling it was the latter.  At least I hope so.  If it were the former, then he would need to examine the Bible a little closer.  You see the problem?  I'm very confused on what he was trying to say.

With Tolkien on the other hand, he was trying to demonstrate the love and care God shows for our planet.  If Eru, an unreal representation of the real God, can love, care, and look over an unreal Hobbit with such dedication, how much more so will the real God love, care, and watch over me?  It is a staggering thought, and I can't wait to meet Tolkien in heaven someday to thank him personally.

Tune in to Part 2 in two days!  It will be about magic and mythical creatures!

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