Does Christianity Stifle the Imagination?

Christian Fantasy God Writing

Through the years, speculative writers have created fantastic tales. At the hands of these storytellers, gleaming threads of imagination are woven together to craft visions that engage and inspire. And yet, the greatest speculations and imaginings of mankind, fashioned into stories that reflect truth and stir wonder, pale in comparison to the things crafted by our Maker.

Scripture describes strange and spectacular things beyond the ken of mankind, yet they are utterly true.

We follow the God who created the Leviathan to frolic in the deep, the one who sent Nebuchadnezzar to live with and act like the beasts of the field in order to deal with the arrogance of his heart, the one who suspended Ezekiel between heaven and earth by his hair to reveal mysteries to him. These things don’t fit with our accounting–they demonstrate just how much God is “other” than us, and how many mysteries of His nature He’s left for us to discover.

We’re honored that He has revealed Truth about His nature and His character in His Word, but at the same time, greater glories and wonders exist in Him than our minds have yet conceived. We have the privilege of being amazed through eternity at the wonders He created–of who He is–unfathomable things into which He permits us to look.

So when I hear the suggestion that writing speculative fiction from a Christian perspective confines the imagination, I must dismiss it. We’re created in the image of a God of endless wonders, and we only have to look at the Truth He has revealed to recognize just how wide a scope for the imagination He has given us.

The Christian Imagination expressed this well:

If the Bible is the Christian writer’s artistic model, then clearly the subject matter of literature is virtually unlimited. History, the supernatural, ordinary human life, the beautiful, the grotesque, redemption and damnation, the moral, the immoral, the earthly and the cosmic, the triumphant and the tragic–all suggest material infinitely pregnant with possibility to pursue the truths of God and the human condition.

Far from being limited, we have countless ways to explore truth and the freedom of opportunity to capture and reflect glimmers of light from above in the form of speculative fiction.

Your thoughts?

Image credit: Tor Kristian

Comments

  • Kessie
    March 14, 2012 - 8:18 pm · Reply

    I don’t think Christianity confines at all. I think Christians are so narrow-minded from being “over-churched” that they can’t see the wonders of their own religion anymore. (Not all Christians, but I know quite a few who are. Look at the people who decry fantasy as ‘satanic’.)

    Also, instead of starting with a good story and letting Biblical themes arise out of it, people seem to start with a sermon and try to disguise it as a story. Just generalizing, of course. Not all books do that, but I’ve read many that do.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 19, 2012 - 5:00 pm · Reply

      Kessie, you’re absolutely right that Christians can become limited in their thinking–not as a result of Christianity, but as a result of legalism that creeps in and chokes out the wonder of Truth. Through fantasy we can help broaden the horizons a bit, I hope. 🙂

      And yes, stories should not be sermons in disguise!

  • Bethany A. Jennings
    March 14, 2012 - 9:51 pm · Reply

    This is one of my favorite topics to ramble about! It is just so amazing to think of how God has made us in His image, and thus we can be creative in our own smaller, mortal way!

    One of my favorite quotes ever (which you may have already seen on my blog) is this one:

    “The Christian should be the person who is alive, whose imagination absolutely boils, which moves, which produces something a bit different from God’s world because God made us to be creative.” – Francis Schaeffer

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 19, 2012 - 5:02 pm · Reply

      It is amazing, and I hope I never take the privilege of creativity (or the even more wondrous fact that I’m created in God’s image) for granted.

      I love the quote that you shared–it’s very true. 🙂

  • sally apokedak
    March 15, 2012 - 9:20 am · Reply

    I don’t think Christianity stifles the imagination, but I think it stifles falsehood. We are not free to imagine things that are false. I don’t like books that take liberty with biblical characters. I don’t like books that imagine angels to be like humans.

    I don’t mind “It’s a Wonderful Life” because we all know angels aren’t humans trying to get their wings. That story is not about the angel. Like A Christmas Carol, it’s about teaching the man something about the worth of his life. But I think we need to be careful when we’re writing about real beings. I think we have to create images that are true to life. How do we do that for angels when we know so little about them? I’d rather read about wizards and orks, than angels and demons.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 19, 2012 - 5:04 pm · Reply

      Good point, Sally, and one I should have perhaps fleshed out in my post. I fully agree that we must stifle falsehood, and in one sense that’s a boundary on our imaginations…and yet there’s so much we’re free to explore and so much inspiration in truth.

      I’m also troubled by the seemingly flippant treatment of real supernatural beings, especially when it takes place among Christians. It disturbs me when angels are depicted as having crushes on pretty girls or identity crises, or when demons are presented as positive love interests. It’s alarmingly far from Biblical truth.

  • Maria Tatham
    March 15, 2012 - 12:15 pm · Reply

    Great topic, Sarah! This is wonderfully true and well put:
    “Scripture describes strange and spectacular things beyond the ken of mankind, yet they are utterly true.” Oh, yes, think of Nebuchadnezzar and Ezekiel!!
    You know folks who are against the Lord will always find something to say about His people, including about our writing, to hurt us, such as, that the Christian imagination is limited.
    As Sally said, in some ways we must be. But is there any real loss? We can’t go to a poisoned well to drink or pass that stuff around; can only drink as much as we want from living waters and celebrate the well. Poor us?
    Kessie, yes, sometimes we Christians can’t see the wonders of our own faith. I think Christians are really afraid of fellow Christians blundering and mishandling the truth. And too, sometimes we do.
    Bethany, love the Schaeffer quote!

    • Sarah Sawyer
      March 19, 2012 - 5:06 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Maria! The list of strange and amazing things in the Bible could go on and on, and I love the evidence of a creative God.

      You’ve shared a great analogy with the poisoned well, and I agree with you that it’s little loss to shun falsehood. Why should we want to embrace it when truth is so beautiful and so compelling?

Leave a Reply to Kessie. Cancel Reply