Friday, December 12, 2008

Theological Fiction

There is a term, Theological Fiction, that doesn’t seem to heavily used, but it’s used to describe a subset of Christian Fiction. We can think of theological fiction as being similar to science fiction, but where science fiction is centered around scientific theory, theological fiction is centered around theology. As with science fiction, theological fiction tends to fit within the realm of speculative fiction. Randy Brandt says that “[theological fiction] seeks to teach us something about God and Christianity, not just about people who are influenced by Christianity in some way.” I’m not sure that his definition sufficient, but it works for now.

Much of the Christian Fantasy that is hitting the shelves is Theological Fiction. Compare something like The Shack with a pure work of Fantasy like Inkheart. Young has a clear agenda to change the reader’s view of God. He spends a high percentage of his book having “God” explain what is wrong with traditional Christianity. Of course we could have a book that spends a lot of time explaining what is right about traditional Christianity and it would amount to the same thing. In Inkheart, Funke doesn’t spend much time telling us what she wants us to believe. It is clear that she believes books are important, but we never get the feeling that she wants to force that belief upon us. She presents the idea that someone could read a character out of a book, but the reader isn’t expected to accept that outside the universe of the story. She might want us to believe that how well be craft our words and read the stories determines how alive the story becomes to the audience of a book, but it is by no means forced.

In the Ink World that Funke describes, there are various strange creatures. We recognize some of creatures. She has blue fairies, which we have seen in other books. She also has strange creatures we haven’t seen anywhere else. We don’t need to know what makes these creatures possible, only that they exist in her Ink World. Theological Fiction also has strange creatures, but instead of fairies, elves and luck dragons, Theological Fiction has angels, demons and false prophets. If some other type of creature appears, such as a vampire, the Theological Fiction author explains how it might be possible by having an angel, demon or false prophet disguise himself as whatever fanciful creature it is. The author implies that his story is possible, but we don’t understand the spiritual realm well enough to see it happening in our everyday life. This could become mysticism if we aren’t careful.

There is room for Theological Fiction to improve. I would like to see it move in the direction of good Science Fiction. In good Science Fiction the author does spend much time arguing that something like time travel or transporters are possible, instead he spends his time telling a story that takes place within a world where these things exist. From that we learn about benefits and problems these technologies might cause. In Theological Fiction, I would like to see authors present a story in which a theological view holds true and then reveal the impact that has on the world.


Theological Fiction: Should There Be Boundaries? – Randy Brandt