I do not claim my ‘view’ is ‘correct’. I do not claim that it is suitable to every Christian. I do not claim that my view is what works best in your relationship with God. But this is my view and it may help someone. How? Well, I was wondering about reading/thinking/watching fantasy/sci-fi works and Christianity for quite some time. If you’re like me, then this might be a good read. Also, if you are like me, you may want to skip most of this text. I wrote a few questions in the conclusion, you can simply skip there and answer to these questions.
First, lets make it clear what are the terms ‘ Fantasy and science fiction ‘.
Science fiction is a genre of fiction with imaginative but more or less plausible content such as settings in the future, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific-innovations is one purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”. Science fiction has been used by authors as a device to discuss philosophical ideas such as identity, desire, morality and social structure.
Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is similar to, but differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genre of science fiction by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific themes, though there is a great deal of overlap between the two, both of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.
In popular culture, the fantasy genre is predominantly of the medievalist form, especially since the worldwide success of The Lord of the Rings and related books by J. R. R. Tolkien. Fantasy has also included wizards, sorcerers, witchcraft, etc., in events which avoid horror. In its broadest sense, however, fantasy comprises works by many writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians, from ancient myths and legends to many recent works embraced by a wide audience today.
What does fiction mean to me?
So, what does fiction mean to me? Main thing that differs fiction from other genres (drama, romance, novels) is the fact, that fiction (usually) has “its own universe”, with its own set of rules and laws – whatever it’s a creatures (werewolves) or new physics laws (telekinesis, mind-reading, magic, dark holes, the force) or even entirely new systems (souls, magic, new government(s) or social structures). Fictional universes are usually inspired and based off our universe. It means that fictional works can sometimes take place in similar universes to the one we live in, but fictional activities (ghosts, new physics laws, new things) can be “hidden” (Harry Potter) or hard to reach (Journey to the Center of Earth); fiction could also take place in an entirely different universe with loads of fantastical creatures and/or races (a’la Lord of the Rings), or in the far future of our universe (Dune, The foundation), fiction could also take place in the alternate timeline of our world (Fallout).
When thinking on fiction (any kind), I usually think of works similar to:
Books (A Song of Ice and Fire, The Foundation)
Movies (Waterworld, The Postman, Hunger Games, Star Wars, Harry Potter)
TV shows (Stargate, Fringe, Terra Nova)
Games (Fallout, Sword of the Stars, Dungeons and Dragons)
Chances are that you know the name of at least one of the above mentioned titles. They are all popular and well known titles, all of them have had large viewer- and/or fanbase, huge universes (different from our own, altho usually based on our universe). But didn’t God create already a perfect universe? Why should we want more, different kind of universes, with different rules, laws, views and religions? Why would we want to read about Dystopian-universes, about magic users, about witches, mages, jedis or element benders. Is it not bad for us to think about scientific advances, about universes where man creates life … or life creates man? Would it not be better for us to read amish-like books, where everything is fixed in our universe, where thoughts, ideals and motivations are all God-related or at least within God-created universe. I admit it, those are all good questions and I was thinking about them for quite some time both before and after being baptized.
So do I have to give up science fiction?
Do I have to stay far away from fantasy? Do I have to avoid everything, that is not literally related to God (or common religious practices)? Where does one draw the line of “this is the point where this (literature/fiction) is not for glorifying God but instead insulting Him and His might”. Where is this “point of no return”? When do we cross the “magical” line that separates what I can read, dream and think about from going against Christian morale and beliefs? Can we measure it by the amount of violence in a given fiction? Amount of religious undertones? Amount of sexual references or perhaps sexual behaviour of characters (provided there are any … behaviours)? Amount of characters and their morale behaviours and beliefs when dangerous situations or significant problems arise? Amount of pagan beliefs and views used or new religions created? What is it? Where is the line that one may not cross?
The line that one may not cross … It does exist. It’s drawn to separate what is ‘right’ from what is ‘wrong’, it’s usually quite visible. So, where is that “magic” line? Where can you find the person who drew that line? From whom can you ask questions such as: “is it Okay to watch this move” or “Is this literature against my faith?” … Well, there’s a trick in there – remember the person who drew that line in the first place? That person is you.
So, what do I mean by ‘You’?
Lets start from further away. Lets start from the word “life”. Life is full of choices. Life is full of Shades of Gray – what to one may seem white, may seem black to another. As there is no real possibility to know where “gray” starts to be more “black” and less “white” – where the center line runs – There is also no ‘100% correct path’ to God. Sure, most, if not all, paths have some common denominators – keeping sexual purity, worshiping, keeping prayer routines, reading bible, helping weaker, being active in local church and spreading evangelium/gospel/knowledge of God. Also being in, what is sometimes referred to as, ‘in relationship with God’. But there’s no ‘one and only’ way to doing these things – same religious practices/behaviors just do not work for everyone or everywhere. Everyone is different. God created us different. For an example I do not hold worship (singing praises or songs) on too high place in my life – I’m not musical, then again, Prayer is on high place on my priority list – I value praying highly. This is my way, this is how I care for my relationship with God. There are people who pray far less than I do, but sing far more than I do. Does that make them non-Christian? ‘Wrong’? Does it make me ‘wrong’? I do not believe that. I believe we are created different – with different likes and different values. What is ‘correct way’ for one, might not be for another. Bible confirms this in many places, for few examples:
2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 – Romans 14:2-4
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace 1 Peter 4:10
So, the path to God is different for each and every of us. Sure, we all have similarities with others, but usually we also have our differences. We are made different, enjoy different things, value different things – have different relationship with The Lord – and that final thing is the only thing in this world that matters. So could it be acceptable to read and enjoy sci-fi /fantasy works? For me this quote in the bible helped me to make my decision:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31
Do I glorify God through reading such literature? Viewing (and enjoying) such movies? Fantasizing about worlds that do not exist? Maybe even writing a book or few about some of these worlds? Do I devalue Gods work and respect pagan religions instead of giving proper glory to All-Mighty? Do I enjoy something, that does not go together with His Word? These are few of the questions that I recommend you to ask from yourself.
To me reading/viewing/imaging/thinking about fictional works is (usually) glorifying God. How? Because when I think of fantastic worlds or new creations, I end up thinking of how wonderful, inspiring and interesting things my mind can imagine or create. How many details and variations I can go through and even tho world is ‘fixed’ for us, I can still go far beyond of what exist in this world, thanks to my imagination. Thinking or reading about magical worlds or scientific creations does not make think of ‘why did God not create this’ or “Why God created us or something else with X flaws”, but instead, it makes think what kind of willpower, imagination and creativity God gave us. What kind of power and responsibility. Why should I want to control The Force or power of elements, when I do not even have enough willpower to study on all A+’s? When I look around in a large mall, I see textiles, stones, a plastic – everything that God created and creativity that He gave to mankind. We are able to shape glass, metal, rock and even cloth to forms far beyond “basic” things – yet He created it all. God gave us “legos” or building blocks and creativity to shape them – to shape rock into metal, to pour sand into glass and to craft paper, ink and imagination into books. When I read fantasy, I like to think along, to imagine the world what Author has shown to me, see the problems of that world, see the blessings of that world. It does not make me think that ‘our world sucks’ or ‘this is sooooo much better than what God created’. Instead it makes me think about what God has created and value things He has given us. He has given us creativity – we are not dull logical computers – each one of us is individual. And we have our own imagination, our own dreams, our own wishes, our own imagination. And He deserves praise for giving us such great tools. For giving us mind that can create entire new worlds using His building blocks as base and shaping them to our liking. But even then are we never capable of reaching His wiseness. We are only using tools He has given us. But we have not invented new tools – we have just (and always will) use His creations. We can never create tools, but we can use tools He has given to create such works. Works that allow us to create our own worlds, where we could do things what we can do in this world. But does this world ‘suck’? Sure, we do not heal instantly, but most of us do not bleed to our death from a small cut. Sure, we have no magical powers, but we do not have renegade-do-evil wizards running around either – I’d say that’s a pretty good thing. Sure, our government sucks (government always sucks), but it’s still far better than Dystopian paradise where people are ruled by harsh logic. We do not have life on other planets (we may have, but as far as we know right now, there is none) but we can barely keep life on ours, we should focus on our planet first and then on others. We can learn to respect Him through everything – Christian can find a message from God from even the most non-religious movies. Be it the “Book of Eli” or “The Terminator“. We can always learn, always see things through our faith. And yes, there’s always bad things, bad messages. But this is the world – choice is ours and our eyes and thoughts are ours – we choose what to see, what to think.
But do we choose to think of God and praise Him? We should. In everything we do. Even when fantasizing about new worlds, watching movies about magic or reading books about non-religious world. Or we can simply ignore Him. What do we see when look at a wall – do we see a totem to worship the mason or will we see the magnificent creation of God? The Choice is ours. Our eyes are ours. Our minds are ours. But do we choose to praise Him with what is “ours”? For in the end, we will be his, one way or another.
The final argument
I’d like to bring one final example of benefits of reading sci-fi/fantasy – thanks to my knowledge of fantasy and sci fi I can relate to several youth group members, sure it’s just 2 out of 20, but I believe my knowledge allows God to work in their hearts. Why? Because they keep away from God, Church and religion in general – following the “punk” tradition. But they do come to Youth nights, claiming that they came there because of me. I can relate to them, speak with them, I understand them – not entirely, but on knowledge about fantasy level. Other members of youth group do not have much in common with them, I do. Sure, it might be useless work – they may never be converted, but I am here for them, and through youth events and through me, God can work in their hearts, like he did in ours.
(too long, did not read)
Questions to ask from yourself:
Does reading/watching/fantasizing about fantasy/sci fi give you more reasons to worship/praise/thank God?
Do you spend faaar too much time on fantasy/sci fi? – Is it a false idol or just a way to relax for you? Could you give it up for a year, what about five? Would the time you spend on fantasy be better spent on doing Religious work (with yourself or with others)?
Do the pagan roots, traditions and new “rules” or “systems” make you think that this world is not as good as it could be (in a sense of creation not in the sense of hatred/people) ?
Does focusing on these kinds of creation makes God, His power, or His Honor, care or love for us seem “a little weaker” than it was before?
Will you, ever, in your life, have any use of this kind of knowledge. knowledge should not be hidden – a warrior can worship god and do his work by training together with non-Christian warriors. A poet can worship God by associating with poets who do not worship God. Do you imagine ever, putting your knowledge of this genre in His use?
If any these questions make you doubt, about what you are enjoying, then I strongly recommend to think about this topic. I give you no “do”s and “do not”s, You are the one who has to decide. Because it is your faith. It’s your relations with God. I can no decide for you. You know yourself better. And God knows you the best.