God(s) in Fantasy
March 7, 2021 at 9:16 pm #125815
I know there was a thread about this a while ago but since my situation is slightly different, I thought I’d start a new thread.
I’m trying to create my world, but I keep getting stuck at the very, very beginning. Who is the god, or gods? Right now, I have two options:
1. Two gods, but they’re equally powerful, good, knowledgeable, etc. They just have different roles. One is a “god” and the other is a “goddess” but they don’t really have gender, you know. This is just how they reveal themselves. The god is the one responsible for planning the creation and events of the world and just generally maintaining it. The goddess deals more with specifics: actually calling the creation into existence and caring personally for the creation (although the god is personal, just in a different sort of way–it’s a bit confusing and I haven’t fully worked it out yet). Anyways, the god and goddess dwelt with the creation before the fall and then they went away and all (though still active in the world). Eventually, the god returns as a sort of redeemer/messiah/Christ-figure and the goddess will then give her spirit to the followers of the god. So you could say they both have aspects of God the Father, and the god has aspects of Christ and the goddess that of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, this is just fantasy and I don’t actually interpret the Trinity or God this way. Which leads me to my second idea…
2. An actual trinity. This one basically works just like the real Trinity, with Father, Son, and Spirit. I do like this idea because it won’t seem as weird to Christian readers and could keep me from being called a heretic, lol. But here’s the thing: while I do like this idea and can think of ways to write it, I also feel a bit uncomfortable writing it. It sort of makes me feel like I’d be putting words in God’s mouth since I’m pretty much copying reality in this aspect. With my first idea, I feel less awkward because that’s not the way our world works. It’s obvious it’s not Christianity, ya know? With the other one, it pretty much copies Christianity.
Basically, my problem with the first idea is that I’m afraid it’s too weird for Christian readers. If I write my world that way, I’d say I’m writing fantasy with Christian themes (fall, sin, savior, etc.). My problem with the second idea is that I feel it’s too close to reality and it makes me a bit uncomfortable because I’m afraid of messing up theology and giving the wrong idea. I’d say the second idea is more Christian fantasy than fantasy with Christian themes, if that makes sense.
Whew, that was long. Anyway, I’d love you guys’ thoughts on this. And also, if you could give me any examples of how other Christian authors have handled this issue, I’d love to know. I’m really only familiar with Tolkein and Lewis.
Also, feel free to ask for any clarification on the world. I left out some pretty major aspects (like all the races and the magic system).
Thank you all in advance!
- This topic was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by sparrowhawke.
Semper ubi sub ubi.March 9, 2021 at 10:31 am #125879Lona@lonathecat
I think your first idea could work just fine. Sin is a natural part of this fallen world and it would be very difficult to write a book that had none of it whatsoever. Redemption, too, I think follows just because there’s sin in the first place and something needs to be able to counteract it.
Ok, so now for some examples. You had mentioned Tolkien, have you read his Silmarillion? In it he has fourteen gods which are under the most powerful god. And honestly … just from that I can’t see any specific connections to the Trinity.
Tolkien also hated allegories, which is kinda funny given how much Christianity people read into his books. Anyways, I’m trying to say that I don’t think your lore has to be strictly Christianity-based for Christians to read it. In fact, I think books get over-analyzed all the time, and books that were just meant to be just books become these portraits of ideal Christian faith or something like that.
*I’m not hating on Christian literature, or hating on finding the Christianity in literature. I simply speak from too many years of analyzing the life out of things in English class.*
And as to your second idea, I agree with you; writing the Trinity would be very weird. Though, I think if you did want to go that way, you’d have to be very careful, since like you said, it’s be putting words in God’s mouth in a way.
Hope this helps some! 🙂March 9, 2021 at 1:23 pm #125887Arindown (Gracie)@arindown
@sparrowhawke I was going to reply earlier, but this is a really hard topic.😆 I think I agree with Lona…the first one seems more plausible.
I think the problem with most writers is not what they have for “gods,” but how they do them. The Chronicles of Narnia dealt with 2 “persons,” Aslan and the King Across the Sea, but it doesn’t seem weird at all. Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga dealt with 1 being (the Maker). There was no “Jesus” character, and the Maker had more New Testament qualities to Him, but Andrew Peterson pulled it off wonderfully.
I think it’s really how you do it, and less what it is. The biggest fear is causing someone to stumble in their faith because of your portrayal of God or a creator.
Not all who wander are lost.March 9, 2021 at 7:08 pm #125905Taylor Clogston@taylorclogston
@sparrowhawke Interesting thread!
My thoughts on your two options:
- This sounds like the heresy of Ashera as a mother-goddess consort to Yahweh.
- If your conscience bothers you, don’t do it. In any event, writing a story with fall, sin, savior probably makes it Christian fiction in and of itself =P
How well do you know the theology of Lewis and Tolkien? An important point as far as they’re concerned is that neither Narnia nor Middle Earth are isolated, built-from-the-ground-up theologies. Narnia is a world parallel to ours in which Aslan is literally Jesus and the Emperor Over the Sea is literally God the Father. Middle Earth is a mythologized history of Great Britain.
Narnia has the idea of sin as something which offends God, which is a distinctly Christian concept. It has an Aslan who appears directly to individuals to convict them of their sin and to deliver them from their sin if they ask it.
Middle Earth does not have the idea of sin as a theological concept. Eru is God, and the “gods” underneath him are best understood in Catholic terms of the hierarchy of angels. (this is also something Lewis used in the Space Trilogy) Only God has the authority to create the world, and the authority to create true life. The gods sung the world into existence, Melkor the literal Satan rebelled and took his angels with him. In Middle Earth, Eru is aloof from humanity and desires the free peoples to forge their own paths in the world. Characters have heroic virtues and tragic flaws, and can perform acts of evil but do not directly “sin.” Tolkien was not writing an allegory with his theology because to him Middle Earth was a lens through which to romanticize the real world. Though, that the Ring is a corrupting burden that is so mighty that one can only bring it to the very brink of destruction and only the work of God can take it from you is a pretty fantastic allegory for salvation, however Tolkien intended it.
A friend of mine went a different direction with his fantasy world. It literally has God the Father (called the God King) and Jesus, if I remember right. It has the Tolkien races of men, dwarves, elves, and orcs, but a major plot element is that all the races are fallen sinners who need God’s salvation to attain righteousness. (the main book is Half Orc Redemption and there’s a novella series called Cryos and Jade that goes along with it.
Check them out, they’re great if you like clean-but-intense Christian adventure fantasy!) The series doesn’t get deep into the theology of the trinity or of the explicit roles and functions of divinity. It’s more like “if Biblical Genesis had led to a Tolkien-style world, what would it be like?”
Lewis believed that all mythology in the world pointed in spite of itself to Christ and could be redeemed by Christ. This was a huge part of Narnia, mostly in Prince Caspian when Bacchus is harmless under Aslan but would have been the girls’ worst nightmare in actual mythology, something explicitly pointed out in the text (and this was something Tolkien hated, because he thought it cheapened real-world mythology!).
This was a part of Lewis’ universalism, which is theology I don’t share, but I do love the idea of looking to man’s longing for the divine and seeing it as imperfect joy. Cheer with the pagan who celebrates the dying of winter and the rebirth of spring, because even if he doesn’t know it, he rejoices at Christ reborn in defiance of death. Something like that.
It’s that mindset which allowed Lewis to write Till We Have Faces, a story about man’s heartbreaking relationship with God told through completely pagan characters and gods. Many people, including me, consider it a Christian story.
My own fantasy doesn’t tend to have literal Christian God (with one big exception where Yeshua-of-Nazareth-Jesus is an actual character with speaking lines), but it reflects my own relationship with God, my worldview regarding the spiritual responsibility of humans, and the longing humans have for the divine which in our reality is only properly attainable through Christ.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 9, 2021 at 7:24 pm #125907
Thank you both for your thoughts on this! You’ve both made me feel a lot better about the first idea. (I really loved it and think it’s the more creative of the two, but I was nervous about how it would be perceived by others.)
I’ve read the first third or so of The Silmarillion, so I do know about how Tolkein set up his gods. I really love the concept of the Valar, and think of them as more angelic than “gods” since he does have Eru Illuvatar. I like some allegories like Pilgrim’s Progress, but imo sometimes Christian fantasy can get a little weird in that department. I agree about over-analyzing books. Of course, any truth in a story is necessarily God’s truth, and some stories make use of Christian ideas, but that doesn’t mean the story is full-on Christian. I can think of stories like Harry Potter and Star Wars that have Christian ideas (e.g., the chosen one), but I wouldn’t call them Christian in the slightest.
That’s what I was thinking. I feel that the closer I portray my god character to the real God, the greater responsibility I have, and that makes me nervous. I feel more free, in a sense, using the first idea, in that I can portray aspects of God without stressing over every tiny detail and theological point. I’m only human after all, and not even a human with a seminary degree or something, lol.
Semper ubi sub ubi.March 9, 2021 at 8:54 pm #125920
Thank you for your thoughts! My hope for this storyworld is do something closer to Tolkein than Lewis, as regards metaphysics anyways.
Do you think the first idea is bad? If I write it, I will want to make it very clear that there is no type of, ahem, marriage relationship between the two deities. I envision depicting them more as siblings than anything else (in fact, the names I have for them originally came from an idea I had about twin warriors).
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by sparrowhawke.
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by sparrowhawke.
Semper ubi sub ubi.March 9, 2021 at 10:19 pm #125935Lona@lonathecat
Yay! Glad you feel good with what you originally wanted. It’s always sad to me when authors don’t write what they want to write just because their readers like something else better.
And you do have a good point about not necessarily “Christian” books still being able to have important truths. I guess I had never thought that books like that could still point to God in their own ways. 🙂March 10, 2021 at 7:01 am #125943Taylor Clogston@taylorclogston
@sparrowhawke I don’t think it’s inherently bad. I have no doubt someone could make it work as well as any other mythological model. But I’d be wary as a reader if I picked up a book (specifically one by someone claiming to be a Christian author) and saw this as the mythology, though, because I’d assume it was trying to subversively push a male/female duality of God and wonder if I was getting some gnostic or LDS propaganda that I don’t recognize in the background.
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaMarch 10, 2021 at 1:45 pm #125953
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.