Christian Fantasy?

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Tinuviel

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I'm a huge fan of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. They both had Christian worldviews and were able to write fantasy. My question is:

As a Christian, how do you write fantasy without a deity? Or if you have a deity, how do you write it sensitively without having to "create a character" for your god and treading on the edge of blasphemy?

Has anyone else had this problem? I greatly admire the two authors I just mentioned, and think they are good examples of people who had this balance; any suggestions on how to FIND that balance?

I've pretty much given up fantasy writing, because I can't find a way to do it respectfully.
 

Calla Lily

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Hey Tinuviel. Welcome to AW.

We have two older threads on this subject. I've locked them because necro'ing threads messes with the database, but I'm linking to them here in case some of the answers in those threads may be of help.

Christianity in a fantasy world

Christian Fantasy?
 

semmie

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Hey Tinuviel (great name, by the way),

All I can say for sure is... don't give up. I think the important thing to remember is that the deity you write into your world is simply that--a character you've created. Have you started your work and found that you felt it blasphemous in some regard? Or have you just been too paralyzed for fear of blaspheming? I'd love to hear about the world you're wanting to create, the characters, the story, and even the deity. Maybe talking about it will help. :)

For myself, the "deity" is referenced in the story but is not a character, so I didn't spend much time working out the details of doctrine or anything like that. It's just really not necessary in the piece I'm presently working on. There are a few core beliefs that are central to the story, and those I focus on. I don't think it's necessary to write a defense of the deity or beliefs of a fantasy world, though... yanno? It just has to work within the realm where it exists.

Pax!
semmie
 

LeviSweeney

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I'm a huge fan of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. They both had Christian worldviews and were able to write fantasy. My question is:

As a Christian, how do you write fantasy without a deity? Or if you have a deity, how do you write it sensitively without having to "create a character" for your god and treading on the edge of blasphemy?

Has anyone else had this problem? I greatly admire the two authors I just mentioned, and think they are good examples of people who had this balance; any suggestions on how to FIND that balance?

I've pretty much given up fantasy writing, because I can't find a way to do it respectfully.

Hello, Tinuviel! I'd be glad to see if I can help you with your question!

I understand your plight perfectly. It can be very difficult for Christian who are writers to write story depicting something related to their faith without sounding preachy or without getting bogged down in questionable theological stances. I see your point completely. I have read two Christian book series which were, in hindsight, perfectly horrid (I loved them both when I first read them, but in retrospective have changed my opinion.)

With fantasy of the type characterized by the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, one must keep in mind two things.

First, these esteemed gentlemen were accomplished scholars of literature who thoroughly understood the Christian religion and related subjects which helped them to interpret their faith in a unique, brilliant manner. (As a useful note, Tolkien never intended for LOTR to be taken as a Christian allegory. He personally hated allegory and had a jocular rivalry with his pal Lewis over the legitimacy of allegory as a literary tool.)

The second thing to remember may be a matter of personal opinion, but must be remembered nonetheless: "Christian" is not a genre. There are only stories of specific genres with Christians in them. Attempts to write Christianized versions of LOTR or Star Trek and the like almost never end well.

If you want to write fantasy, but would like to insert Christian elements into it, I will be glad to tell you that such a feat is not impossible. Just don't write the story in the same manner as one might write a tract.

Going back to Lewis's example with the Chronicles of Narnia (I absolutely love those books, BTW), he wrote his story as an allegory. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an allegory for the basic story of Christianity. But never once in that whole series do the words "God," "Jesus," or "Church," appear. None of the characters are explicitly stated to be members of any variety of religion, and that's what makes it work. Just imagine if, say, Lucy Pevensie, were portrayed as a devoted Sunday School child. What to do then when presented with Aslan, who Lewis explicitly wanted to be understood to be an allegory of Jesus? Or suppose that Aslan commanded the Narnians to set up a church or temple for the purpose of worshiping him? Or what if Eustace were portrayed as an avowed atheist? Do you see the problem?

Now, it would be the height of unoriginal writing to attempt to create a fantasy story which is a Christian allegory. I do not suggest doing that, and I don't think such a thing can be done nearly as good as Lewis did even if it weren't so well known as it is today. The solution, therefore, is to write a fantasy story which is chiefly a good fantasy story with Christian characters in it. Maybe your main character gets thrown into a weird, alternate dimension where what amounts to paganism is the norm. I can easily imagine your character going up against some evil god of death or something, and your character needs to come to terms with the idea that there's a big difference between gods and God. That would certainly interesting.

Anyway, I sincerely wish you the very best of luck. Cheerio!
 

lonestarlibrarian

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It's a necropost, but I'll bite as well--

Wasn't there a scene in the Narnia books where someone is attempting to bow down and worship Aslan, but he corrects them and says, "Never to me?" ie, that particular brand of reverence is due solely to the Emperor-Over-the-Sea.

I also was reading one of Bujold's later Chalion books. (Was it Hallowed Hunt? I can't remember.) She has a quintarian religion-- Father, Mother, Daughter, Son, and Bastard-- which is well-developed throughout several novels, but there was the briefest glimpse that there's an Authority even beyond them, even though the ordinary people aren't aware of it.

So I think those are two different takes that handled it well, even though Bujold herself is a self-described agnostic, but she portrays religion with respect and seriousness. In both cases, you have the deity-figure or the savior/creator-figure who interacts directly with the characters, but there is the acknowledgement of a greater being offstage.
 

Calla Lily

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My bad. I should've locked this.

Gang: In general, please don't resurrect threads older than 6 months. Since Christian is a slow-moving room, this can be stretched to ~1 year. Thanks.
 
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