Help! Representing God in Fantasy Fiction?

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  • #51724
    Grace
    @h-jones

      Friends and neighbors!

      I has question.

      So, okay… so a bit ago I made an inquiry on worldbuilding, and was greatly assisted by @kate ‘s amazing worldbuilding reference she had set up. (Here it is by the way! It’s truly amazing!! Hope you don’t mind me advertising, Kate, haha. ^^’) Upon looking it over, I took note of the “religion” segment – and while I’m pretty sure that “religion” doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be an actual religion, I still thought to meself, Hmm… religion. I wonder, how would I represent God in a fictitious, particularly a fictitious fantasy, story?

      I’ve read up a little on it (and by a little I mean… very little P:) and have taken notes of others’ opinions, but other than that I haven’t thought about it much. I mean, I have an opinion, but it’s pretty uninformed. xD So I was wondering, what do you think about representing God in fantasy fiction? How would one go about it?

      In order to perhaps help one better understand my question, I’ll offer an example:

      In the fantasy world I’m building, I was thinking that the “god” (so to speak) could be a kind of deity in two or more stages (two that I’ve thought of); the Creator, and the Bear. The Creator kind of speaks for itself, but the Bear is actually, like, the son of the Creator who was once a man but sacrificed himself to save someone (someones?) and came back to life as a bear. Now he kind of just wanders around in the forest, only being seen when he wants to be seen, defending the innocent and saving the lost (meaning, lost in the forest).

      Obviously there’s some symbolism there (the son of the Creator comes back to life after sacrificing himself as Jesus did; the Bear protects and saves “lost” people), but I still feel like I’m treading on dangerous ground, I guess? If that makes any sense at all. ^^’ Like, is it okay to use a fictional deity to represent God? Is it right? C. S. Lewis did it, though he didn’t directly say that Aslan was a god or a god-figure. I was planning on doing that in my story, more or less. Heavily insinuated and/or outright saying such was the case. What do you think about that?

      I know there’s probably a lot of theology that goes behind it, but I still want to know what y’all think.

      Thanks a million!

      Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

      #51755
      Buddy J.
      @wordsmith

      @h-jones

      Hey!

      Although it might be certainly tacky, I don’t think it’s dangerous ground. What I would say is that it’s okay to use a fictional deity of God, and he doesn’t have to be just like the God of Life. And I say this for at least one reasons. If we look at the parables in scripture, we see that Jesus uses representations of God, and they’re not just like God, they are representations to a degree. Authors have a certain amount of metaphorical creative license in this matter, and I wouldn’t worry to much about it. In doing this your beliefs about God will come through, and you can re work it. You can have friends look at it and ask their opinion.

      But above all, please don’t worry about getting everything just like the God of the bible. I don’t think that’s necessary and will be harder on you than is healthy.

      If you want examples of people who did this well, C.S. Lewis (yes he did 😉 ) and J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m sure there are others, but I can’t think of them at the time.

      -Wordsmith- Author of short stories, Reader of many books, Student in writing, and Lumenite!

      #51757
      Buddy J.
      @wordsmith

      @h-jones

      Hope that’s helpful.

      -Wordsmith- Author of short stories, Reader of many books, Student in writing, and Lumenite!

      #51803
      Grace
      @literatureforthelight

      @h-jones I have things to say on this, but until I can have a bit more time to flesh my thoughts out, I’ll tag @daeus-lamb who recently gave me some advice on this topic.

      INFJ // The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

      #51896
      Daeus Lamb
      @daeus-lamb

      @wordsmith That’s a good point. I’d actually never thought about it that way.

      @h-jones I think it’s reasonable to make a distinction that a fantasy version of the one true God isn’t supposed to be logically equivalent to our Yahweh. I believe readers will understand this fantasy God simply represents your view of him. In this case, writing an allegorical God is similar to preaching a sermon and no more (or less) dangerous.

      Well, maybe a little more dangerous because you’re dealing with imagery and a slightly different world history.  You do have to be careful for sure.

      As for your idea, something like it might work though I do have one suggestion.

      If you stalked the topic about symbolism vs allegory, one thing @karthmin brought up is that with allegory the reader expects everything to correlate between your story and the real Christian history. They may draw parallels where maybe a parallel isn’t supposed to exist and may get a warped view of your theology.

      In contrast, symbolism doesn’t draw exact parallels with reality. The destruction of the one ring at mount doom is (I can only assume though I don’t know for certain Tolkien intended it) a symbolism of Christ’s sacrifice. But nobody would call it allegory. It represents the idea of Christ’s sacrifice more than the event. It is distant enough from the real details that no one would draw exact parallels.

      With your story, the creator is an obvious allegory. The Son seems to straddle between allegory and symbolism. He is the Son of God, but he (I’m guessing) didn’t die for the sins of the world (though he did die for some people) and he rose again but he didn’t ascend into heaven. He’s also a bear which doesn’t have quite the same symbolic properties of a lion.

      So my suggestion would be to lean one way or another. Make it more allegorical (like Lewis) or more symbolic (like Tolkien). What you might be looking for is actually something like a Tom Bombadil figure. (Just guessing.)

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      #51916
      Buddy J.
      @wordsmith

      @daeus-lamb

      I would like to clarify something… I don’t think we can say that writing allegory is like writing a sermon. We are writing fantasy… even in allegory the fantasy is still that, a fantasy. What we want is not something that directly mimics our world and our God, just with a fantastical cover on it, but something that takes the beautiful landscape of fantasy, and turns it into a picture that speaks for itself. We want the allegory to flow through the art, not staple the them together.

      Have you read the Christian Storyteller’s Manifesto? It’s amazing! And my favorite line is this:  We resolve to be teachable, weighing the advice of others because we always have room to grow, and to be humble, acknowledging that we are not writing the greatest story but merely pointing readers to it

      I would also like to bring up this one while were at it: We resolve to fearlessly embrace and wisely exercise imagination as a gift from God, trusting Him to use it, not by limiting our creativity but by benevolently directing it. 

      So I guess my point is this: Let’s not get caught up in how do I make this perfect and matching. Let’s look at where does the light shine through? We are weavers, taking threads already given to us. Those threads are imbued with the beautiful color. We’re only arranging them, with a gift of creativity.

      So with that I think I’ll just post a link to the Manifesto, ’cause why not? Christian Storytellers Manifesto

      -Wordsmith- Author of short stories, Reader of many books, Student in writing, and Lumenite!

      #51971

      @h-jones thanks for the ‘advertisement’. XD

      INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

      #51989
      EricaWordsmith
      @ericawordsmith

        @h-jones

        So first of all, this is a topic that really interests me, I had to deal with it earlier this year when I started rewriting my series. I decided to go with a threefold supreme power that is a representation of the trinity. The name I came up with for it was derived from a word that meant fellowship.

        So, I actually agree a lot with what @wordsmith was saying (how could I not? We’re supposed to agree since we have are the two weird wordsmiths running around here). One of the first big things that I think you should think about when coming up with an allegorical/symbolic figure for God is what aspect(s) do you want to portray? His justice? His love? His holiness? Because, if you think about it, God is so infinite that our finite minds can’t even get our brains around it, how would we manage to write an accurate representation? I think the main things to keep in mind is that God is all-powerful, sovereign, just, kind, loving, holy, and the creator. He has no equal. I think the more that you research about him in scripture, the more you find to write about, and the more you realize how awesome he really is. Then you can better know how to write a little snippit of something that could point others to him.

        Another thing for me is that whatever I write about in representation of darkness (demons, Satan, etc), I need to make sure that it is clear that the God-figure is infinitely more powerful, and it is through his power that people are saved from any shadow. Like, my main character is “shadowed” by a wolf who was a part of the “shadow”. The poison is removed from her wound, but the “shadow” can still “smell her out” from a distance until it is healed. It is only by the power/prayer of a different character who openly acknowledges that the healing is from the God of that world, that my character is healed of the “shadowing”. Anything that the black forces can do MUST be accurate as well, and true to the fact that God is never the loser, but always the victor. I would say look at the lyrics to A Might Fortress is Our God for some thought on this particular idea.

        Anyway, I think in your story, you are using everything from the lost in the forest, to the bear saving very symbolically. I think that as long as you keep the bear very much not a teddy bear (he is not a tame bear), and keep in mind the big points you want to portray about God, you are on a really unique and potentially powerful idea!!! Keep it up!!!

        P.S. @wordsmith got tired of his funny ninja pose rather quickly 😉

        Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!

        #52017
        Linyang Zhang
        @devastate-lasting

        On that note, I would like to ask, is it okay to portray through a story what God isn’t? Like I have a character whom I would have to describe as as my ‘Christ-figure’, except he’s completely evil.

        "Moving on and on and on we go,
        Shining lights above blown away..."

        #52019
        Daeus Lamb
        @daeus-lamb

        @wordsmith Oh, yes. I do agree. I think. I would say that our stories may only display aspects of God and we are not writing a systematic theology by any means. But at the same time, especially the more allegorical you are, people may interpret your symbols as specific theological ideas. So, there’s room to be creative, but you can’t just write something that makes sense to you — you also have to consider how the reader may interpret it.

        @devastate-lasting I think it’s possible. How does your scenario work?

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        #52024
        Linyang Zhang
        @devastate-lasting

        @daeus-lamb So basically this character is the Crown Prince of basically everyone. His personal motivation and goal is to show the Magic Users that the reason why they can’t have a happy ending is because of their wicked deeds. He plans to do so by performing evil acts so that when he’s punished, he will be an example to all, so that no one will sin anymore. However, in the end, he’s told that this wasn’t the way to reforming everyone, and that if he hadn’t chosen this path, there might have been a chance for peace and happiness.

        "Moving on and on and on we go,
        Shining lights above blown away..."

        #52090
        Daeus Lamb
        @daeus-lamb

        @devastate-lasting Whoa. Interesting. How is he a Christ figure exactly?

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        #52096
        Buddy J.
        @wordsmith

        @daeus-lamb

        Yes… the more allegorical the more thoughtful I think we need to be, but I don’t think that means we need to try and make it more exactly alike. Does that make sense?

        -Wordsmith- Author of short stories, Reader of many books, Student in writing, and Lumenite!

        #52098
        EricaWordsmith
        @ericawordsmith

          @devastate-living

          I would have to say I would be really squeamish reading anything that portrayed Christ as anything but perfect holiness. I mean, I have a very hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that humans who see destruction would turn from it, even if in that sort of situation. I think of it in the way that people who use drugs or smoke and know that they are going to destroy their health from that addiction. Do they stop because they see the problem? The only glimmering of an idea in that is that it would be a very chilling story about how if Christ wasn’t the perfect and holy son of God there would be no redemption. I would still be very squeamish about it though. Because in the end, that is not a portrayal at all of Christ. The Bible says that there can be no sin in God, that is just utter impossibility. So how can Jesus, who is fully God be evil? It just doesn’t come together in my mind.

          Tek an ohta! Tek an cala!

          #52280
          Grace
          @h-jones

            @wordsmith

            @h-jones Although it might be certainly tacky …

            Thanks, man. xDDDDDDD Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

            But seriously, your advice is great and much appreciated! Thank you! 🙂

            @daeus-lamb Ah, yes… I was thinking about that. Considering the world is kind of in an Arctic-themed area with lots of bears and seals and whatnot, a lot of what I write could kind of be interpreted as a like, Indian/Inuit-ish type theology if someone thinks that way. That’s particularly made me feel like I was walking on dangerous ground, ’cause I don’t want someone to think I’m writing about some Indian god or something. P: But then I sort of thought, well, I bet the “lion” symbolic thing from the Bible was probably because the “lion” was the most powerful creature to walk around in the Israeli region, which is probably why they associated God with that animal, and if the whole shebang were perhaps to take place in North America, would God be associated with a bear? Or whatever. xD That still doesn’t help at all, though, that’s just sort of what why brain process was, and now that I write it, it seems rather pointless. xDDD

            So, I suppose I should either scrap the idea or be very careful and specific, in some ways, to what I’m referring to. Which would be the God of the Bible. Yahweh. <3 I wonder how I would go about that?

            And no, the character Bear person thing didn’t die for the sins of anyone. xD Oh, but it probably should be a sacrificial death! Aha! That would point the way to God a little more so than just dying for someone, probably. Hmm. *intense brainstorming*

            @ericawordsmith You’re advice is so great!! Ah, I love it, thank you. 😀 (Also, oh my word, your story sounds super cool. :O) Good stuff to think about.

            @devastate-lasting The story sounds… interesting. Wouldn’t call the character a Christ-figure though, for pretty much every reason @ericwordsmith listed. I would call him a misguided, wanna-be Christ figure. xDDD Maybe the person who ends up pointing out to the character that he took the wrong path should be the Christ-figure in your story! 🙂 Especially since, while Christ is King, he didn’t assume that role while on Earth. But obviously I don’t have much experience in this department, so feel free to ignore what I say. xD

            • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by Grace.

            Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

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