Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Hows and Whys of Naming God in Your Fantasy Story

As Christians, God plays the major role in most aspects of our lives. We may go to church, pray, and serve for God, but we should also extend our faith to our writing.

There are many ways to incorporate faith into writing. An allegory, like the Chronicles of Narnia (especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), entails an analogy or metaphor for Scripture. Pilgrim’s Progress also demonstrates this approach to writing. It’s very blatantly Christian, so in this style, God's name and presence will almost certainly be incorporated.

Another method of writing is much more subtle. As Christians, we incorporate our worldview into everything that we write. In this second method, the themes our work espouses are Biblical themes—loving our neighbor, sacrifice, service. This is the method J. R. R. Tolkien used in The Lord of the Rings. In this second method, God may or may not be mentioned, but either way, Christianity is upheld.

If God does come up in your book, then He must have a name.  Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

1. God
  • Pros: straight and to-the-point. There’s no confusion here about whether you’re really referring to the Christian God or not.
  • Cons: it’s very obvious and pushy if you’re writing for non-Christian market 

2. Biblical Name (e.g. Jehovah)
  • Pros: Not quite so obvious as saying “God.” Still incorporates God as He chooses to be called.
  • Cons: Again, can still be rather pushy. Non-Christians may be dissuaded by an overly “religious” tone.

3. An attribute (e.g. the One, Guide, Voice, Protector, etc.)
  • Pros: Not so obvious and definitely not so pushy as a direct Biblical name.
  • Cons: Often overused. More importantly, it’s impossible to sum up all that God is with only one word or one attribute. 

4. A made-up name (e.g. Illuvatar from Tolkien’s works, or Aslan in Narnia)
  • Pros: The least pushy of the lot. Creative and different. Can work better in the context of a different world.
  • Cons: Difficult to “create” a unique, powerful-sounding, beautiful name that is worthy of God’s majesty. Also, may or may not be associated with the Christian God.

Be sure to give this topic a whole lot of thought and prayer. One of our most important responsibilities as writers is to represent God as He is.  God bless as you embark on this most important decision!


  1. I believe that this is a really beneficial topic for Christian writers to think about. I know recently I've been struggling with how well my writing fits into my faith and this has been helpful. Thanks so much for the post.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Sunny! It's really encouraging to me that you found it helpful :) . I struggle with this a lot, too, myself. My current fantasy project is the first to feature an actual named "God" in it, and...boy is it hard to write about God! Yet I do want my writing to reflect my faith. I just wish there was some easy answer! You're very welcome!

  3. Wonderful post Sienna :-) I personally had a hard time picking a name for God, in my Christian Fantasy Series... I didn't want to be disrespectful to my Heavenly Father. Your pros and cons are a nice list on making a good decision. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the comment, RPH! It's truly such a hard choice to make. Currently, I'm using a name in the third category, but right now it's feeling very inadequate and lame, which cannot do for God's own Name! You're absolutely welcome, and I'm glad the pros and cons were helpful!

  5. i think this is a very thoughtful post. i sometimes use god and sometimes use the universe. we can never really know the unknowable but naming is a possessive sort of act, no matter what name we use.

  6. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Ed. Naming does seem to imply a form of possession (I wonder how that ties in to how Adam named the animals in the Garden of Eden), especially as one's identity is so closely connected to one's name. And, you're right--God, being super-natural, is by His very nature unknowable, and thus unnameable! Excellent comment, and thanks again.

  7. Just a clarification on my earlier comment--God may be unknowable to us from a human perspective. After all, how can we know an invisible dimensionless God on our own wisdom? Yet God chose to reveal some aspects of His Self to us through His Word, so we can know God as He revealed Himself through the Bible.

  8. Such a great post. I've been having trouble with this as well. Thank you so much for sharing!


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Proverbs 15:1
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."