@julia I have struggled with this in my fantasy as well, but at the end of the day a few considerations have given me a better idea of how to approach this:
First, you can’t avoid this question. After trying to dance around this question for a few years, I realized that I cannot simply avoid this issue altogether by writing my fantasy in such a way that no deity comes into it at all. To do so would be to create characters that are not fully human, because they do not interact with the divine on any level (whether belief of some kind, or denial of one).
Second, while God should be there, He doesn’t have to be The Biggest Thing in your story. I know that sounds wrong, but keep reading. The reason I say it that way is because my temptation is to think that if I have God in my fantasy, then it needs to be super clear and I need to be super careful that I don’t give anyone the wrong impression and everything needs to…
Think of Tolkien’s works. The idea or concept of God is remarkably lacking in both the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And yet with that said, he managed to write one of the most thoroughly Christian fantasies out there to this day (personal opinion alert). While religion is a big part of being human, and what our characters believe about it one way or the other goes a long way towards making them who they are, it can be easy to get caught up in making sure that our portrayals of God in our fantasy universes are perfect. But if our themes are thoroughly saturated in Christian truths, there won’t be a hole in our writing, even if we don’t directly address or include God by name.
Now. I have to be sure to clarify that the world of Middle-Earth definitely has a God. If you have read the Silmarillion, you know that the beginning of that book contains some of the most beautiful and rich imageries about God, creation, and history that I have ever come across in a non-devotional setting. It is simply stunning. And that is the greater context out of which The Lord of the Rings springs – which is what gives it its power. Tolkien didn’t write without a God in his fantasy. Perhaps He was never mentioned by name in the Lord of the Rings, but He is present throughout. It could even by argued that by not directly mentioning God, Tolkien was more free to explore Christian themes through masterful storytelling; I believe he did so in such a way that pointed to God almost more clearly than if he had written it explicitly into the story.
Ultimately, whether you choose to describe/focus on God in your fantasy works or not, He must be present in your mind as the writer. Even if it never enters your stories, go back in your mind and imagine the creation of your world as if God did it. The God of this world, in all His perfections. Because remember, we are sub-creators. We are not creating our own little worlds, over which we are gods. Rather, we are exercising our imaginations within the context of an already well-established reality: God’s reality. And so nothing in our worlds should make any sense without Him; just as He holds together the fabric of our existence, so, in a way, He ought to hold together the fabric of our imagined realities. The existence of right and wrong, the horror and twisting nature of evil, the theme of self-sacrifice, the theme of purpose/fore-ordination, hope, good triumphing over impossible forces of evil, the power and nature of love, all of these and many more are themes and truths that make no sense in a world without God.
At the end of the day, the level to which you include God directly in your stories depends on the story itself: the themes you are trying to address, the characters within the story, and the cultural/religious setting of your story.
But one thing is certain: every story that every Christian writes should be written with God in the backdrop – even if He is visible only in silhouette. I believe that the best storytelling has the potential to give readers an experience of the truth that shouts more loudly about the fact of God’s existence than the clearest sermonizing portrayal of Him ever could.
Sorry to soapbox. Hope that helps!?
myths don't die