Something I’ve pondered in the past--and something that I haven’t 100% answered for myself, so this post is more about me thinking out loud than offering any answers--is how theologically sound does Christian speculative fiction need to be? If you’re not familiar with the term “speculative fiction”, I mean science fiction, fantasy, and *gasp* horror--you know, that “weird” stuff.
As a writer of said weird stuff I’m always questioning when I can embellish or stretch something the Bible says and when I can’t. In my work, there’s sometimes been a question if something is theologically sound or not, but then the question is: Am I writing theology or fiction? Fiction, especially speculative fiction, is about asking the question “What if?” Can that “what if” sometimes be something that could be construed to be doctrinally false (or sketchy)?
Take the popular subject of angels. The Bible speaks little on the subject, and it doesn’t offer a manual on what an angel thinks about during the course of his day. What do they look like--not when they’re appearing to humans, but in heaven? Do they speak or communicate telepathically? Do they have souls (though I think the Bible possibly points to the fact that maybe they don’t)? What do they think of humans? What do they think of God? Since the Bible speaks so little of these details that writers like to fantasize about, pretty much anything we write about angels is going to be based on personal interpretation or imagination, and therefore can’t be presented as Biblical truth. Which, I might point out, is one reason some writers won't write about angels.
But the discussion doesn’t end with angels! What about aliens, sentient squid building underwater cities, or wizened dragons? Where do these things fit in the Bible? More importantly, should they? You might say, “Well, of course not, those things are made up.” So how do we tackle this issue with things that are found in the Bible, such as angels, demons, and God?
For that matter, how can we ever be truly “theologically sound”? Sound according to whose theology? Coming from a Baptist upbringing, my interpretation of the Scripture is going to be shaded differently than a Methodist, or a Catholic, or a Pentecostal writer.
In my writing, I want to be as accurate to my understanding of the Bible as I can be--for my own conscious’ sake. But, I also recognize that sometimes I wander off the beaten path--doctrinally speaking--and embellish something found in Scripture for the sake of the story and for the sake of bringing to light Biblical truths. But is it possible to unnecessarily tether ourselves to real-life doctrine in a world of make-believe fiction? How far can we stretch? How far should we? Can someone write a story about Christ being a clone, or about the Devil being a romantic swashbuckling hero--if it's to prove a point--and still be considered “Christian fiction”? For the record, I don’t want to write those stories, I’m just asking the hypothetical here for the sake of discussion. Can God illuminate truth through the absurd or even through what some might consider the profane?
Maybe the question lies in, what are we writing for? Are we writing to educate what the Bible actually says, or are we writing strictly to entertain? Of course, this answer will probably vary from story to story.
How much must speculative fiction adhere to real world Truth in order to remain “Christian fiction”? Is there a line to cross when it turns from fiction to heresy? Where is that line?