The Realms of Talithia


musings on writing and all things medieval

God vs God-character

As a Christian, should I write God into my stories?

This is a question many Christian writers ask, especially those who write speculative fiction, and I’m not the first to explore it. Should God show up in what we write, and if so, how? What about Christian themes? Are they enough? Christian writers do not agree on what the answer to these questions should be. Some would argue that if you are a Christian writer, you must present God very clearly in your fiction. Others would not.

For me, when it comes to speculative fiction—and every Christian author must find their own way down this path, not to be judged by other authors who choose elsewise—I employ Christian themes, but God is not a character in my stories.

It's not because I'm ashamed of being a Christian—if I were, I simply wouldn't be one, because who needs the hassle and the vitriol that comes with being a Christian in this world?

I don't present God in my fiction, because it strikes me as sacrilegious. God is not a character that I can play with and manipulate and get inside His head and have Him do what I think He ought to be doing or what I think He might do if He were part of my fantasy world (given that He doesn’t do what I think He should do in the real world, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to figure out what He’d do in any other world). Furthermore, the God-character I would present in my fiction may very well not be the God of the Bible. Rather, the God-character would be my interpretation of the God of the Bible. I am not so arrogant as to deny at least the possibility that they are different, for we all—to borrow the expression—create God in our own image. A cursory examination of the hundreds of Protestant denominations will bear this out, as each denomination is convinced that it holds the truest view of God based on its own interpretation of Scripture. Though I am not Catholic, the Church was not wrong when it warned of the pitfalls the Reformation would bring.

And so it has. On the theology of the Eucharist, there are teachings (among others) that the bread and wine** is:

  • merely a symbol,

  • the literal body and blood of Christ,

  • bread and wine in which Christ is spiritually present, and

  • bread and wine which is the true body and blood of Christ while remaining bread and wine.

These can't all be true. The bread and wine cannot simultaneously be both a mere symbol and the literal body and blood of Christ, yet the adherents to each of these teachings are convinced that they alone teach the truth, my own denomination included (to which I happily belong and could argue our position on the subject). But I digress . . ..

My point is that if I tried to put the God of the Bible in my medieval fantasy stories, readers would get my interpretation of God instead, however sincerely I might try to represent Him (to say nothing of the stories’ lack of the essential tenants of Christianity, such as the crucifixion, resurrection, and sacraments). Is a potentially-faulty representation of Him in a medieval fantasy world better than no representation of Him? No, I don’t think so.* If you want to know the God of the Bible, read the Bible. Religion figures prominently in my stories, but the deity is a female who employs a five-fold modalism, a teaching in the real world that was soundly denounced as heresy by the Church in the third and fourth centuries.

I had a delightful time inventing this religion and all the rituals that go along with it, but it's total fiction and fits into a world of total fiction, so if you read one of my stories, please don't think the deity or any other characters are my attempt to represent any Person of the Trinity within my fictitious world. They’re not. That said, most of my stories fall under the classification of noblebright and many of the characters I have created reflect elements of God’s character and virtues that Christians are called upon to demonstrate, such as mercy, grace, love, etc. Also, Christian themes of sacrifice and redemption are often present.

My faith is in Christ. If you want to know what that generally looks like, read the three Creeds that Christians have recited for over 1,700 years: the Apostles Creed (below), the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy catholic Church;
The communion of Saints;
The forgiveness of sins;
The resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.

*if I were to write a story set in the real world, I would not object to presenting Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (or Christianity) in the story, because I would present Him through a denominational lens, i.e., the characters would belong to a certain denomination and any presentation of God would adhere to the particular denomination’s teachings, so it would be clear that God is being presented as Baptists or Orthodox or Anglicans teach. It may seem a fine line, but I can’t drop a Baptist church into my medieval fantasy world. I can’t even drop the Catholic church into my medieval fantasy world. The fantasy part of the world changes things too much, in my opinion, to present a true picture of God and Christianity in a way that would work without seeming contrived or out of place. Better to write an apologetics paper and have done with it.

**And this does not even touch on those denominations that teach that Jesus never drank wine and the liquid that represents His blood is grape juice. Why this departure from centuries of church history, teaching, and tradition—to say nothing of Scripture? Because to them, alcohol is an evil to be avoided at all costs; therefore, they deem it utterly impossible that Jesus drank alcohol or would command His people to drink alcohol. They have created God in their own image. I grew up in a denomination that taught exactly that.

J. L. RowanComment