Why I Include
In my Fantasy
I’m a Christian and a pastor’s wife, and I write fantasy. While not all fantasy includes magic, more often than not, it does. The fantasy that I write is not specifically “Christian fiction” in the sense that I’m not targeting just Christian readers. I write fantasy that I hope can be enjoyed by all fantasy lovers, regardless of their faith or beliefs. That said, I certainly don’t write “anti-Christian” fantasy fiction. I try to practice 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I write clean fantasy fiction, and it includes magic. I’m aware that there are some out there that might question why a Christian would include magic in fantasy, even if targeted at a secular audience.
Now before I go any farther, I want to add that I am not criticizing magic-free fantasy, nor am I criticizing Christians that are against magic in fiction. The Bible says in Romans 14:5, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” If someone has a conviction different than my own, I can respect that. This post is to address why I include magic in fantasy for those who might be curious, or for those who may not have given it much thought, or even for those who are opposed to magical fantasy but want to understand the other side. Romans 14:13 charges “that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” So I want to be clear why I choose to write about magic, so other Christians are not confused.
I’m going to assume for the rest of this post, that I am addressing Christians, since magic in fantasy is the norm in mainstream fiction. Of course, anyone is welcome to read this post if they are curious about why I write about magic and how I define it in my books.
I’m not going to get into a debate in this post about whether Christians should or should not read Harry Potter and similar stories. I’ve actually only read the first book of the Harry Potter series, which was entertaining and well-written, but not really my type of fantasy. What I am going to talk about in this first post is why I believe Christians are right to be cautious of certain magical fiction, why this has led Christians to avoid it altogether, and why I, nonetheless, still include magic in my fiction.
To start off, I am going to define magic in a sense that is broader than what most people usually define it, yet I still believe is accurate. Basically, I include magic in my stories in three different types—supernatural, natural, and scientific. I’m going to talk about these three types separately, yet may reference the other types because they are very much interlinked. For this post, I’m going to specifically address supernatural magic.
You might be thinking, Isn’t all magic supernatural? Well maybe. As I said, I define magic rather broadly, and as more than the casting of spells. Much of the magic we see in movies and books is pure, imaginative fiction and cannot be duplicated in real life. Of course there are illusions, which are not magic at all, but tricks done by entertainers or, in some cases, charlatans. Nonetheless, the Bible is clear that there are very real supernatural powers in this world.
Christians are rightfully leery of fiction that glorifies witchcraft. Witchcraft is real, and its practice goes back to ancient times. Of course, most of what “witches” in media and fiction practice is not true witchcraft and completely fabricated. True witchcraft is more sinister than turning someone into a frog. What is the Biblical definition of witchcraft?
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.—Deuteronomy 18:10-11
In short, the Biblical definition of witchcraft is the practice of demonic worship. It was a part of the pagan religions around the nation of Israel, which included not only consulting with “familiar spirits” (demons), but even things as abominable as human sacrifice. While the idols themselves are powerless, as Psalms 115:4-5 says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:” the power behind them is devilish: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.”—1 Corinthians 10:20.
We see from the Bible that witchcraft is a practice of demonic worship that followers of God are commanded to abstain from: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.”—Leviticus 19:31. So one might fairly ask the question: “Why would a Christian include witchcraft or demonic supernatural powers in a fantasy novel?” My answer would be: Because the Bible includes witchcraft and demonic supernatural powers.
In the Exodus we see an example of sorcery by Pharaoh’s magicians.
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.—Exodus 7:11-12
Perhaps the sorcerers created an illusion, but as a general rule, where the Bible speaks plainly, I don’t like to put it into question or else the whole Bible becomes subjective. At the same time, there are places in the Bible where it’s evident the magicians are faking it. Also, I don’t find any evidence in the Bible that Satan has power to create life. Maybe these serpents were demonic manifestations. Whatever the case, Aaron’s serpent ate them, displaying God’s power over that of Egypt. Farther down, we read that the magicians also mimicked the miracle of water being turned into blood as well as being able to bring up frogs. However these acts were being accomplished, what is clear was that the power of Pharaoh’s magicians was limited. The magicians failed to copy the miracle of lice being produced from dust, and all other miracles thereafter.
Another example would be when King Saul sought out the witch of Endor. I love this example because it again shows that the power of demons is far inferior to that of God. Either the witch was only a charlatan or else she expected to pull up a demonic spirit, but she most certainly wasn’t expecting Samuel himself. You see, Samuel was dead. Those who dealt with familiar spirits, like this woman, claimed to allow people to talk to the dead; however, the Bible is clear that the dead are either in heaven or hell. Samuel was a saved man; therefore, in paradise. Only God himself could bring Samuel back. The woman is frightened because this is a power she does not possess, and she believes she was trick by King Saul into exposing herself because Israel was to have nothing to do with witchcraft.
Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.—1 Samuel 28:11-12
Once someone told me that they did not like how The Lord of the Rings presented Sauron as a Satan-like figure. My thought was that the real world has a Satan, and it is actually then more fantastical that a fantasy world would not have a Satan type entity. Where then would be the battle of good versus evil? Fantasy done right exposes the truth that the real battle is not here in the physical world between our neighbors, but in the spiritual world. Fantasy and the magic in fantasy represent the very real spiritual battles going on around us.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.—Ephesians 6:12
But Satan and his demons aren’t the only supernatural powers; they aren’t even the most powerful. He’s nothing more than a copycat. Jesus is the Lion of Judah while Satan is only a roaring lion, who flees from Christians who are submitted to God (James 4:7). God’s power is beyond anything Satan can conjure up; in fact, Satan’s not even a threat to God. The Creator of the universe isn’t worried about the devil. God is outside of time, and Satan is already defeated. So when I represent a supernatural evil or “magic” in my fantasy, I’m going to balance it by a supernatural good.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that God uses “magic.” Only that magic in fantasy can be representative of supernatural powers, good or evil. God does do the miraculous. And to the secular world that might appear like “magic.” Indeed a newly converted Christian, saved out of sorcery, made this mistake and was harshly rebuked because he thought he could purchase the power of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:9-24). Christians today are as much guilty of this idea that God can be bought or coerced into doing our will. They wouldn’t use those terms, but there is this idea prevalent that if we have great enough faith, God must answer our prayer according to our wishes. Instead of humbly making our request known to God, we chant repetitive prayers or make deals with God. God knows what is best for us and may answer our prayer with an emphatic “no.” I like how C. S. Lewis allegorizes this idea in The Silver Chair. Jill asks Eustace how to get to Narnia, and he replies, “by Magic.” So Jill asks if they should draw a circle and recite charms. Eustace answers:
“I believe that was the sort of thing I was thinking of, though I never did it. But now that it comes to the point, I’ve an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don’t think he’d [Aslan] like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him.”
Along the lines of representing “good magic” in fantasy, one might ask about “good witches.” I think it’s right that as Christians we should be cautious of glorifying witchcraft or anything God calls sin. I’m not a fan of the use of the term “witch” for representing anything other than evil, but at the same time, we need to remember that some things are just fiction. Our family enjoyed watching WandaVision with our children. Kids are experts in make-believe, and they can better understand the difference between reality and pretend than adults give them credit. And there is plenty of “realistic” entertainment that concerns me more when it comes down to glorifying things that are not honoring to God. In the end, I think what we allow as entertainment must be a personal decision.
In my fantasy world of Altremon, I chose to represent supernatural powers subtly. In Hidden Knight: A Novel of a Bear, the evil supernatural power is a spiritual being called “Zhi” and his demonic followers are the “Azhimen.” The Azhimen have obtained physical form through possession of the snakekind, and the people of Altremon think of them as physical beings, but the real battle is spiritual. There is also a supernatural good, the Ancient of Days. Like most people in our world, the people of Altremon don’t recognize that the conflict of their world is really the result of a behind-the-scenes spiritual battle. They go through their lives and don’t give much thought to the Ancient of Days.
Beau interrupted, “Who is the Ancient of Days?”
“Another myth of the Prophecies like Zhi,” Kelem said, “that gets us no closer to defeating the Azhimen.”
[Spoiler] gave a reprimanding pop of his jaw. “As King, you should not scorn the Prophecies or the Ancient of Days who gave them.”
I didn’t write this story as an allegory, but I felt my fantasy world better reflected reality with a supernatural good versus evil. It naturally reflects my belief in God, even though it is not meant to be a “preachy” work of fiction. The roles of the supernatural powers in my book may seem passive to the reader, not because they are truly passive, but because the characters in the book can’t really see the real battle. They recognize to some extent the Azhimen are the servants of Zhi:
Abel shrugged. “Whether he [Zhi] exists or not, the Azhimen believe they are following his will.”
They recognize even less that the Ancient of Days is working through them:
“What then? We cannot wait about hoping for a savior.”
“Nor should you,” Jabal said. “Prophecies are not fulfilled by those that await upon fate, but by those that make difficult choices when called upon.”