Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Biblical Perspective of Fantasy: Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

This verse contains eight qualities which should define our thoughts. Whatever we choose to think about, whatever we linger over, should be, for the most part, defined by these attributes. (For more on this verse and its application to fiction, see my blog posts on the topic here.)

So is fantasy worth dwelling on?

True (conforming to historical/scientific facts or moral truth):

By its very nature, fantasy defies facts and goes beyond the scientific realms. That said, the removal of the factual often accentuates the moral so that these stories must adhere more strictly than usual to the truth God has written into the universe. Otherwise they won’t feel right or ring true in the heart.

Noble (serious topics handled with respect/characters acting with dignity):

Fantasy usually excels in this area with its epic battles of good-versus-evil and codes of chivalry.

Right (conforming to the will, standard, and character of God):

While it will depend on the book, fantasy tends to espouse a world where there’s right and wrong, largely based on scriptural principles due to the need to conform to moral truth. This genre also readily acknowledges the presence of the supernatural, but whether those elements conform to the standard and character of God will depend on how it is handled.

Pure (actions and attitudes will not contaminate if applied to real life):

Many of the actions will be worth emulating. Sacrifice, heroism and doing what’s right despite the outcome (common themes in fantasy) are all worth keeping. However, the misuse of the supernatural can be equally damaging.

Lovely (pleasing to the senses; moves the heart toward love):

Fantasy is often known for unique and elegant worlds described with poetical language. It also often exposes the ugliness of war and evil. But in the end, who can remain unmoved by its characters’ epic efforts and gut-wrenching sacrifices? For “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13, NIV)

Admirable (a good reputation):

Fantasy is truly a mixed bag. Correct use of the fantastical has resulted in God-glorifying, spiritually edifying work like seen with C.S. Lewis’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. Yet despite its Christian background and a modern desire by many Christian authors to reclaim it, fantasy remain associated with the Occult by many, largely due to its terminology. 

Overall, fantasy has much going for it as a genre. But whether a story is truly excellent (skillful presentation of a story) or praiseworthy (honoring to God) will depend often on an author’s ability to create well something original (rather than mimicking what has already been done) and the handling of the supernatural.

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