What is ‘Christian Fantasy’?

We have talked about taking ordinary fiction and tacking some “Christian stuff” onto it to make it “Christian fiction.” And we have talked about fantasy as a special kind of story-telling that gets under your skin, if it’s done well. But what about “Christian fantasy”? Can we take fantasy’s special qualities and put them to work for Christ’s Kingdom?

Well, of course we can, But how? Here are a few ways not to do it.

Write it as if it were a perfectly ordinary fantasy story, like everybody else’s, only plug in a few scenes of characters praying or going to church.

You want to know why that doesn’t work? Because even an unbeliever can pray or go to church. Christianity that is only on the outside isn’t Christianity at all.

Have God give the good guys better magic than the bad guys have.

Remember what happened to Moses when he snapped at the children of Israel, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?” God did all the miracles, but here was Moses taking credit for one of them.

I just read a book featuring a great big magical duel, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. “May the mightiest magician win!” is hardly a sentiment found anywhere in the Bible. What we do find in the Bible is God using weak and inconsequential things to confound the great and powerful. So Balaam is rebuked by his donkey, David slays Goliath, a lot of itty-bitty germs wipe out Sennacherib’s army, and the whole world is conquered not by armies, but by a baby in a manger.

Any attempt to write Christian fantasy must be anchored in the truths of the Bible, be they applied to this world or to an imaginary world, and must focus on the spirit of Christianity rather than any outward show of it–unless, of course, you’re writing about the vanity of outward show.

This being only a blog post, I’ll have to take up the subject again later on. And I’m curious to see what my readers have to say about it. Is there any Christian fantasy you’ve really liked–and why did you like it? Or is there any that you couldn’t stand–and what turned you off about it?

6 comments on “What is ‘Christian Fantasy’?

  1. A Christian fantasy I have immensely enjoyed is Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga. It has a “Maker” who represents God, but the books are anything but preachy. I do not like most modern allegories, as many authors do not work with them well. (Except for a couple, like John White’s The Archives of Anthropos, or the Miller brothers’ Hunter Brown series.) But most modern allegories have no thought or effort put into them to create meaningful retellings of the gospel.

    1. Thanks, I hadn’t read any of those yet. There’s so much out there, and I haven’t managed to stumble over many books that proved to be worthwhile.

  2. I have a problem with a lot of Christian “fantasy” Things that are Magical are at odds with the gospel. I like Frank Periti Dont like C.S Lewis, I dont consider Roman Catholic to be Christian. Although Lewis’ scene in Narnia of the Lion’s self sacrifice seems rather Orthodox. Using Satanic creatures like a Pan as good guys seems wrong . And wizards and witches as good guys seems a stretch.
    My 2 cents

    1. There’s a lot to be said on both sides of this argument. Tolkien warned Lewis not to include bits of Greek mythology in his stories. But cut the guy some slack: he was a former atheist and a university professor. Those are huge disadvantages to overcome.

      As for Roman Catholics not being Christians–well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but John Calvin and Martin Luther wouldn’t agree with you there.

  3. When Christian fantasy is about how God helped a little girl to find her lost bunny, I’m not interested. But with an engaging epic like the Bell Mountain series, I am all in. I’ve read the Narnia books, but I like Bell Mountain much better.

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