I love fantasy. My bookshelves, which I share with my fantasy-loving mother, are crammed two deep with fantasy books. Some shelves even have books on top of books. If there’s a limit to the number of books one can keep on a Nook, then I’m sure I’ll discover it and most of those will be fantasies, too.
Yet there seems to be a distinct line for many on what is secular fantasy and what is Christian.
Obviously those stories involving Satan or his demons as the protagonists can’t be considered Christian. The same is true of stories that make obvious reference to the Christian God and His angels as the good guys can’t really be considered entirely secular. Those aren’t the books I’m thinking of.
I’ve read mostly secular fantasy over the years. Some I can honestly say cannot be classified as Christian even with a lot of stretching of the imagination. Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series would be among those.
There are others, though, that I’m not so sure can be classified to my satisfaction.
For instance, in Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey Mysteries the protagonists, who happen to be talking cats, often mull over ideas that echo Christian thoughts.
And what about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nowhere is God specifically mentioned, though Tolkien himself said,
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. “
So, if God is not specifically mentioned, does that make LOTR secular?
And what about magic in fantasy?
Many people draw the line at magic, saying Christian fantasy cannot contain magic in any form unless it’s evil. Others, like John Edgell in his post The Writer of Christian Fantasy Fiction and Magic, set specific guidelines for magic usage.
For instance, Edgell says,
“…if the magic comes from a personal power source, whether outside of or within the one using the magic, that power source determines whether the magic at its essence is good or evil.”
In Edgell’s opinion, magic that comes from nature (he uses a glowing stone as an example) is neither good nor evil and therefore not at issue. However, if one person can use magic and others cannot, then it all depends on where that ability comes from as to whether the story can be Christian or not.
Personally, I look at the ability to use magic in a fantasy as simply a talent or skill similar to the ability to sing or write. It is the use of that talent or skill that makes a character good or evil. In this case, a fantasy written from a Christian worldview, as LOTR seems to be, can be classified as Christian fantasy.
What do you think? What makes a fantasy Christian or secular?