SE Podcast #2: Christian Fantasy and Allegory – What We Like and Dislike

February 2, 2019

Welcome to episode 2 of the Story Embers Podcast!


In today’s episode, Josiah DeGraaf, Daeus Lamb, and Brandon Miller explore the ins and outs of Christian fantasy and allegory. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages of writing in either genre and share their favorite (and least favorite) things about this popular area of the Christian fiction market. Listen to their conversation below!



    • Grace Livingston

      Thanks! I’m so glad you’re enjoying them. 😊

  1. T.Young

    Thank you again for starting this series. Two questions though.

    1. Would you therefore consider that the average Christian allegorist has an incorrect understanding of what an allegory is supposed to accomplish? For example that said allegorists confuse a re-telling a section of the Bible with allegories. If so then…
    2. What is the correct genre for re-telling stories from the Bible? Is there one? Or are we to limit our inspiration to morality?

    About the complexity of 1 and 2 Samuel you are on the money. After I finished the Theme Mastery course in 2017 I preached (yes that is the right way to conjugate that…) three sermons on Saul. He is just about the best example of a well-rounded villain I can think of.

    • Josiah DeGraaf

      Hey Timothy! Yes, I would argue that the average Christian allegorist (at least from the allegorists I’ve read) does have an incorrect understanding of what an allegory is supposed to do. Now, I would argue that re-tellings can be allegories as well. However, retellings should only be one sub-genre within allegory–not the whole genre of allegory–and retellings can fall into other camps as well (for example, a lot of Francine River’s romance novels are retellings of Biblical stories). I wrote a longer article about allegories and what they ought to be trying to accomplish at Kingdom Pen a couple years ago if you’re interested: http://kingdompen.org/why-most-modern-christian-allegories-fail-and-how-to-prevent-this/

    • Taylor Clogston

      Josiah, if you see this, the link you shared 403s.

    • Josiah DeGraaf

      Yes–unfortunately, Kingdom Pen is currently down… :/ Not sure if the owner shut the site down or not. Currently waiting to hear back from him about that.

  2. Donna Darling

    Ahhh, so good! I think I’ve found my new favorite podcast. 😀

    • Josiah DeGraaf

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Donna! 😀

  3. Megan

    Hey guys! I haven’t been able to listen to this whole thing yet. I am just wondering if you will be able to release this podcast anywhere other than iTunes? I can’t access iTunes through my Samsung phone, and mainly get podcasts through Google Play, so I’ll struggle to keep up with this. Haha
    Thanks, guys!

    • Josiah DeGraaf

      Hey Megan! Just wanted to let you know that we are currently working on this, have put it out on Stitcher now, and should have it out on Google Play by the end of this week. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  4. K.M. Small

    I think that was my favorite podcast episode that I’ve listened to in a long time 😀 I’m currently wrestling over what to do with a six- book series regarding allegory, or symbolism, or just being explicit with the Christian theme…I’m leaning toward symbolism, but I don’t think I understand it enough to write it for quite a while 😛 Do you know of any articles and/or books that talk about Tolkien’s method?

    • Daeus Lamb

      Hi Audrey,

      I’ve actually never read any book’s or articles about how Tolkien used symbolism. 😮 If you find any good ones, let me know!

      He does talk about it briefly in the introduction to the Silmarillion. Also, I know there are books that explore the Christian themes in LOTR. Perhaps one of those would give you insight into his technique.

      There was also a discussion thread about this on the forum. I believe it was called “allegory vs symbolism”.

      Regarding explicit Christianity, as Brandon said, good stories get read. I don’t think explicit Christian stories are inferior at all. But there’s a time and season for both.

      Allegory, of course, is still just as potent as ever — it’s just done poorly often. I think of The Wingfeather Saga or Fawkes as good modern examples.

      Now some people might call those symbolic, which leads to a good point: there’s a sliding scale between allegory and symbolism. All allegory uses symbols. Allegory is simply when the symbolism clearly mimics a biblical parallel.

      For instance, the creation of the world in the Silmarillion is clearly allegorical. In LOTR, Tom Bombadil certainly is no allegorical counterpart of Jesus, Adam, Moses or any other biblical figure. Nor do his actions mimic any clear biblical event. However, he does represent biblical truths (like how evil has no power over the pure in heart).

      Let’s just pause to notice that Tom Bombadil is one of the greatest characters ever to grace literature.

      Moving on. So I was talking about that sliding scale. The destruction of the ring falls between the allegory of the creation of the world and the symbolism of Tom Bombadil. I would argue that there are distinct parallels between the destruction of the ring and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. However, under this interpretation, Gollum represents Jesus (which totally makes me geek out, but clearly does not match the allegorical model). Also, the biblical parallels are admittedly not obvious. So the destruction of the ring rides the middle line.

      Hopefully this comment isn’t just making things more confusing.

      If you would like a non-Tolkien example of symbolism, Till We Have Faces is an excellent read.

    • K.M. Small

      Wow, thank you for all that! I’ll definitely have to go find that forum thread and read some of those books. Though I’m still pretty new to difference between them, I think allegory is more explicit in its parallels, while symbolism is more “veiled,” so to say. As in, if LoTR had been an allegory, Frodo probably would have thrown himself into the fire of Mount Doom then somehow been resurrected to mirror the death and resurrection of Christ. But what did happen still holds a similar message of sacrifice and the triumph over evil, but in a much more subtle way, thus the symbolism. At least that’s how I see it.

  5. Amy

    I’m really, really late to the game, but after a long writing hiatus, I’ve finally sorted out the ending to my WIP which happens to be allegorical. It just kind of fell into place, which maybe is a God thing? I’m thinking it leads more toward the symbolic, though, after listening to this. I’m also connecting with what you said about magic in our world vs. another world. My story is a slightly-speculative historical fiction set in a pagan culture (yes, I’m wondering what I did to myself there), so it’s a delicate balance and a line I need to tread very carefully. Also, side-note, I think I’m going to have to throw out my futuristic, dystopian David plot bunny.


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