Saturday, December 7, 2013

Theology Shouldn't Limit

So, this is not the typical type of blog posts that I am known for writing. Why? Because I haven’t figured this all out yet.  When I write a blog post, I like to have a firm handle on the subject I am addressing.   I like to feel confident that I know what I’m talking about, and I’ve done the research.  Today, I just don’t feel that. 

Then why am I writing this blog post, you might ask?  Because, I want challenge you, along with myself, to look at things differently.  I think we should let our minds grapple with this subject together, and I’d love to interact through the comment section bellow and see what your thoughts are. 
So, if you’re ready, why don’t we begin with this brain picker?
As a Christian fiction writer who specializes in speculative fiction, I often have to do a lot of reflection when I go to implement an unrealistic element into my story.  And I’m not the only one.  I know we often get so caught up in making sure that our stories can’t be linked with “magic”, that we can lose sight of how mysterious and creative our Lord is.
Sometimes, I think we as writers get so legalistic about things, that we forget that the Lord created us with an amazing capacity for creativity and imagination.  Why do we let our theology limit our creativity?  That’s not to suggest that there are no moral, physical, or spiritual boundaries, but rather, I think that the boundaries the Bible frames around us are much bigger than the ones we have set for ourselves.
The more and more I thought about this, the more things in the Bible came to mind. Scripture contains fabulous stories about talking serpents, flaming chariots, angelic warriors, and resurrected men. None of this is portrayed as magic, but amazing wonders that the Lord has allowed to happen in our realm. There is such a thing as heresy and false doctrine, and we would do well to “test all things” (I Thess. 5:21), but we should not limit ourselves and cause spirit quenching. Theology was never meant to strip our world of mystery and wonder, but to deepen those things.
I’ve made reference before to the fact that people say that theology and speculative fiction appear to war against one another, but I’m finding more and more that the tension between Christian theology and speculative fiction is on the believer’s end. Yes, some speculative fiction is contrary to the biblical worldview, incongruous with Christian theology. But a world that is completely stripped of mystery is not only boring, it isn’t biblical, either.
I have had more than one person tell me that the concept of my Diegose are unbiblical (I have a whole argument for that, but won’t go into it because it isn’t the subject at hand). And yet, we have the beautiful picture in Scripture of a fire breathing terror of the sea, the Leviathan (which will actually play nicely into my next blog post, part two of The Dragon Series).  Why are dragons looked upon as unbiblical?  Why is it that people get fussy about Phoenix?  Or Gryphons?
 Scripture is not meant to be limiting. If we have this view, we are looking at Scripture through an unbiblical perspective.  Instead, scripture is meant to make our works fuller, more vibrant, and beautiful.  We can pack incredible mystery into our God glorifying tales, I find.  Just look at some of the tales in the Bible.  If you read stories about David, Joseph, Deborah, Joshua, Moses, Paul/Saul—the stories you find are incredible and riveting, if you are willing to delve into the scriptures.
To be honest…. If your book is stagnant, it isn’t God glorifying. The more and more I look at the arguments, the more and more I am convinced of one thing: Our goal isn’t to teach theology.
And now everyone gasps and throws stones at me, but I’m serious, guys!
No one should look at The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a textbook in systematic theology.  Instead, they should be able to recognize spiritual truths about life, love, and God, in C.S. Lewis’ work, but recognize that it is a fictional story and thus not to be used as a textbook alongside the Bible.
Our goal should be to challenge the man made idea that theology cannot exist in fantasy and Sci-Fi, thus stripping God of His mystery. That is what I feel my purpose should be in writing fantasy. We should prove that God, the Bible, and His goals, plans, and purposes for our lives, can and do coexist together.
Now, in saying all of this, I do not want, in any way, to violate anyone’s conscience or make them think I am saying “anything goes, including magic”.  (I’m using magic as a reference point here because I know it is a BIG issue for a lot of people) Far from it!!! I am passionate about not violating people’s conscience. If you feel something is bordering on unbiblical magic, then by all means, flee. My intent is not to tell you to insert magic into your story (. What I’m asking you to do is truly look at what Scripture has to say about magic vrs natural ability. See if your convictions align with what Scripture shows us is in the realm of possibility. We often restrict the Bible, with our preconceived notions, in ways that it was never meant to constrict us. I am as zealous as anyone that our fantasies not mirror the casual attitude towards magic that the world has. However, I have found that things we call magic, in our zealousness, is in fact not magic at all. Now, I still think there are things that SHOULD NOT be done in fantasy, but I think we get a very narrow minded view of what “can” be done.
Theology should be the wind in our sails, not the rope that ties us to the dock. The Lord does amazing things in our world today. I want to challenge the idea that our writing has to be bland and boring, and that our stories have to be a discourse on theology in order to be relevant (I have actually been told this statement to my face, and told I should stop wasting my time reading fiction).
If you have comments to add, or things to share about this, please feel free!!!  The floor is open.  As I said, I am still exploring the subject. 
May we all seek to grow close to Christ every day as we serve Him with our writing.



  1. Hi Kaitlyn!
    A couple points…

    I’ve thought about this a bit on the home-education front and I would agree that we don’t learn point-by-point theology (or rather doctrinal precision) through literature. But I’ve also come to the conclusion that God does not first and foremost shape His people through theological statements–though those are obviously of huge importance in the church and in our lives as individual Christians both in training us and as a guard against, and definition of, heresy–but what I mean is that He principally forms and molds His people through story. The Bible wasn’t given to us as a theological treatise. It’s His great story from beginning to end and it’s still going on through our lives and in our worship. He instructed the Israelites to train their children by repetition of the story: “This is what God has done, this is where we came from, this is where we’re going, this is where you fit in, this is what you’ve been called to, this is what God has promised.” Our lives are shaped by what God has done–and is still doing–for us; our lives are shaped by creation, fall, and redemption–the great story arc.

    On the fantasy/“magic” train of thought: have you read The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken? One of my top reads, it’s an absolutely fantastic collection of essays packed with some amazing material. ~ I definitely believe all use of “magic” should fall within biblical bounds, but my favorite response when the question comes up is Thomas Howard’s (from the Christian Imagination and speaking on myth and fantasy): “But on the other hand, the people (nearly everybody, in effect) who blithely assume that of course these things didn’t happen may be whistling in the dark. How do they know? Unless you are a doctrinaire materialist and live in a tiny universe whose limits are determined by microscopes, telescopes, and measurements like 186,000 miles a second, you will always wonder what’s going on just outside your lens frame. A Christian, especially, living as he does in a huge universe all ringing with the footfalls of hurrying seraphim, cherubim, archangels, angels, men, and devils, will never be too peremptory concerning what creatures aren’t in on the traffic. He can only demur and say, “Elves? I don’t know much about them. I’ve never come across one (worse luck).” :-)

    Anyhow, there’s my two (or three) cents worth... :-)

    1. I completely agree, Hiedi!! And I find it amusing that people say the Bible does not condone fiction or story telling when in fact, God is the ultimate storyteller, and Christ himself taught through parables!

      I have read The Christian Imagination. It was a really good read, and I loved it! I recommend it highly, and I love that quote! =)

      You can give as many cents as you would like. ;)

    2. Yay!!! A fellow "Christian Imagination" fan! I had an inkling we were kindred spirits and now I'm certain. ;-)

      Btw, thank you for responding so graciously to all the thoughts I've been tossing your way lately... You're absolutely great, Kaitlyn. :-)

    3. Yes! I am so happy that we got a chance to meet, thanks to the Lacy Family. :) I am an Anne of Green Gables fan, by the way, and I have used the term kindred spirits ever since Anne Shirley used them in the books! ;)

      You are most welcome for my responses. I love getting to interact with my readers, so it's fun to hear-- or rather read-- what they have to say! :D


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