Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Would Jesus Say? Fantasy, Writing, & the Bible

You can never get enough of God's word, period. In my last blog post (Magic: 5 Questions to Ask & Answer), we only really skimmed the surface of what the Bible has to say about writing and fantasy. So, today, you get the treat of a whole post exclusively devoted to digging in the Scriptures for guidance about magic, faerie, writing, and everything in between!

1. What is fantasy, really?

Before we really plunge into the discussion, let's build the framework by defining fantasy itself. According to good ole' Google, fantasy is "the faculty of imagining things that are impossible or improbable."

Well, when you look at it that way, the Bible is simply stuffed with fantasy!

Now I don't mean to imply that any of the history of the Bible did not take place--quite the contrary. No matter how "improbable/impossible," the events of the Bible really did occur. However, what is "fantastic" in the Bible is found, for example, in Revelation 12:9, which says, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan." This is fantasy at its best and purest: using the fantastic to help us visualize something in our own reality.

2. Magic

Let's continue by building on what we learned last time about magic. There were some passages I didn't have time to cover, so here they are.

First, Leviticus 19:31 tells us, "God told His people, 'Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.'" In addition, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 warns, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD.”

"But wait," you say. "I thought you said magic was okay last time?"

Sorry for the confusion, folks. Let's make this really clear: magic from evil sources (apart from God’s power) is evil in God's sight. This should be all the more encouragement for you to think deeply about what source the magic in your writings comes from.

3. What's in a Name?

Next, what about specific terms like "wizard" or "seer"? Can we use those, or Are they inherently evil?

In a way, yes, seers and wizards are "evil." As defined Biblically, wizards and seers were/are pagans who used various unbiblical sacrifices to see into the future and preform unnatural "miracles."

Well, funny thing about these terms: the Bible doesn't only use them to describe pagans. Oddly enough, the term "seer" is used in the Bible to describe both good guys and bad guys, saved and unsaved alike (see I Samuel 9:9, II Samuel 15:27, and II Samuel 24:11). Similarly, the term "prophet" is used to describe both pagan prophets like Balaam and Israelite prophets like Isaiah.

4. A Note on Talents

In general terms, if God has given you the desire to write, then don't ignore that call. But be warned by the fate of the third servant in Jesus' parable of the talents: "'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'"

This passage actually tells us a lot about the Biblical nature of "talents": your talents include all the resources God has given you (including time, energy, Internet connection, or anything else), and the use of those resources in the way God calls us to (whether that's writing or plumbing or something else entirely). So if God gave you a keyboard and time, plus the desire to write, then, Biblically, you'd better follow His call and start writing!

And another thing--if you're worried that you don't have enough skill to write, then stop worrying now. If you are a great writer, than that's fabulous. But don't be discouraged if you're not. If God has called you to write, then you must practice and hone your writing until you do have skill. Practice, as the old mantra says, makes perfect.

5. Final Warnings

As fantasy writers, it's especially important for us to remember the grave warning that Isaiah delivers in Isaiah 5:20. He writes, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

When we imagine and create, we must be particularly careful that our words clearly define darkness and light. Even in fantasy, there is evil and there is good. There is what glorifies God and what does not. And, as writers, we have the grave task of preserving this distinction.

So, with those weighty thoughts in mind, go and write!


  1. This is very enlightening, thank you!
    The subject of light and dark is a very serious one for me, and I often lose my way.

    1. You're very welcome, and I'm delighted that you found it helpful! It's certainly a "grey area" and one that deserves much thought, prayer, and attention.

  2. Wow. So glad I stumbled onto your blog. This seems like exactly what I've needed to hear/read. I love to write, especially fantasy...but I've felt torn about if that's what God wants me to use my talent for. This post really helped me to see the difference and how I should be applying magic and other fantastical issues in my fiction. THANK YOU!!!

    1. Amanda, I'm so happy and blessed that God used my post to help you! I pray that you will really be able to see His guidance in your writing, whether you decide to include magic/fantasy or not :) . God bless!

  3. Hi Sienna, fantastic blog. How do you strike the balance between being original in Christian fantasy without diluting the truth of Scripture? I'm struggling with presenting a story that doesn't simply pattern itself off of Bible stories, but still presents the message clearly. I guess what I'm getting at here is, what is our job as Christian fantasy writers? I hope this makes sense.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement, David! Also, that is an excellent question (and I apologize for my delay in responding to it!).

      In my understanding, your question is something like this: how do you write an original fantasy story that isn't an allegory of Scripture yet still presents the Gospel in some way? Well, there doesn't seem to be one hard-and-fast answer to your question, since different Christian fantasy writers have different degrees of incorporating the Gospel. Here, though, are two of the most common approaches:

      A. Direct allegory: This is what C.S. Lewis did in Narnia, and what Ted Dekker did in the Circle Series. They specifically had a Christ-figure, who actually died and rose again for our sins. In these types of stories, the gospel is adapted slightly to the different "worlds," but all those worlds are connected to our earth and to the Gospel in our earth. In Scripture itself, this style of writing is closest to the Gospels or books of history in the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis, 1 & 2 Kings, etc.).

      B. God-in-the-background Story: This type of story is a bit like Lord of the Rings, where God is only mentioned vaguely or briefly (e.g. in the Silmarillion), and there is no direct equivalent to the Gospel. However, there is still a clear morality of right versus wrong, and God is certainly acknowledged as the good and powerful Creator. Sometimes in books like these, characters will pray to God, but more often, God does not directly come up in the story. This type of a story is what we see in Scripture in the book of Esther: God's Name may not be mentioned, but His presence is clear and assumed as the background behind the story.

      I'll add, too, that in the end, this is an issue between you and God. If your conscience convicts you about something you've written, then consider re-evaluating how you portray God in your story. Do all things prayerfully.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you've still got more questions.


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Proverbs 15:1
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