Friday, December 14, 2018

It's Okay to Put Magic in Your Christian Fantasy Stories. Here's Why.

*thumps Bible down in front of you*

See this book? This is a great book. I love it.

But you know what I don't love? The way Christian fiction writers use it as a way to stifle creativity. Some people have the bad habit of throwing together half-baked "Bible-based" rules about what we're allowed to put in our stories. These rules are pretty varied, but some of the more common ones are:

No violence. No swearing. No sexual content. (I talked about all of these issues in this post, in case you care)

And here's the one that really kills me as an author of Christian Fantasy:

No magic.

Yeah. I'm not happy, Bob. Not. Happy. Why? Because it simply isn't true that we Christians are not allowed to write about magic. Let's talk about why.

It's Okay to Put Magic in Your Christian Fantasy Stories. Here's Why.

Why do (some) Christians think magic in Fantasy is bad?

First, it's important to take a look at why people think that magic + fantasy = blasphemy. It's believed that Christians cannot write about magic because the Bible is very, very clear about witchcraft being wrong.

Now, I'm not contesting the fact that the witchcraft in the Bible = very, very bad. There are multiple counts of the Bible coming down hard on witchcraft. There seem to be one main reason for this: Witchcraft/sorcery/magic does not come from God and, as such, we are putting our faith in something other than him when we seek it out. This is never acceptable because we, as Christians, are called to put our trust in him and only him.

This then brings us to our next question:

Is it Biblically true that we can't put magic in Fantasy?

If it is true that magic here on earth is bad, then does it follow that magic in a fantasy setting is evil?

Pfffft. Nope.

Fantasy is make-believe. While it can have very real messages and themes and impacts, the world itself is not real and, thus, does not need to follow the rules of our universe.

While magic is bad here on earth because of what magic is here on earth, there is no reason that magic in a fantasy setting would have to be a carbon copy of earth magic. This means that magic in a fantasy world does not not have to be the same as the witchcraft condemned in the Bible.

Fantasy magic does not have to be a power that relies on demonic forces or trickery. It also does not have to be something that causes people to turn away from God. Does that make sense? Yes? Good.

Let's move on.

Is God cool with us putting magic in our writing? 

Given the logic in the above section, yes. But I can take this argument a little further by countering with my own question: Why wouldn't he be?

We as writers have been blessed with an amazing skillset: We have the ability to create worlds to further glorify our own Creator. How cool is that? Many of us have been given the gift of creativity, and I don't think that God would ever frown upon us for using that creativity to write in a way that helps and encourages others. That includes using magic in our writing.

Is it wrong to borrow witchcraft concepts when creating our own magic systems? 

Okay. So. This question is a bit more complex. It is important to note that there is a difference between borrowing from and copying

For instance: Gandalf from Lord of the Rings is a wizard who uses a staff. 

Magical staffs have roots in pagan practices. Many other fantasy characters use runes, herbs, chanting, crystal balls, etc, all of which are tied to witchcraft. These are all instances of borrowing from, and there isn't anything wrong with this. Here's why: 

While many of the above tools are the same as ones used for witchcraft in our world, they are used in an entirely different manner in the fantasy setting. The rituals are not the same, the purpose is not the same, and the history is not the same.

Also, remember that "borrowing from witchcraft" is largely a misnomer because witchcraft borrowed from/warped things that God had already put in place. For example: Biblical characters like Moses used staffs. Chanting is repetitive in the way that some psalms are repetitive. Herbs are plants, and do have healing properties because God's nice like that.

So while many of these objects/practices sometimes have negative connotations in our world, they don't have to in your world. Just because somebody has used them negatively here on earth does mean you can't use them positively in your fantasy setting. 

You just have to make sure your borrowing doesn't lead you down a bad path. Don't go reading a wiccan handbook or visiting a necromancer in the name of research. There is no need for this, and does cross the line of consorting with witchcraft. This flies in the face of all of those Bible verses that say things along the line of: "Hey, idiot, don't consort with witches." So yeah. Don't be an idiot. 

Copying, on the other hand, would be if you were to take large chunks of magic rituals from our world and transpose them into your fantasy world. This would include copying over specific phrasings, specific shapes, specific belief systems, etc that occur in our world. This would be problematic because you run the risk of glorifying the very thing we as Christians are called to reject. Also, if the copying was very in-depth, it also means you would be giving people the key to practicing witchcraft. Again: that would be promoting something we are not meant to promote. Don't do it.

*takes deep breath* 

Okay. I think I covered everything. Have any additional questions? You're in luck! My next #ChatWithHannah video is all about writing Christian Speculative Fiction. 

Leave your questions using the hashtag on social media or in the comment section below and I'll answer them in my video next week! Or don't use the hashtag and I'll answer you directly by replying to your comment. Whichever one. I look forward to hearing from you!

Related articles: 
10 Tips for Writing Christian Fantasy

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  1. Thank you so much!!! I feel sometimes like, as a Christian fantasy writer, I just wait for people to freak out when I mention that I write and read books with fantasy magic. Nevermind that one of the greatest Christian theologians also used magic in his fantasy books.

  2. I love this!! What about magic that's evil in a fantasy world? Like the unforgivable curses and Horcruxes in Harry Potter, or Sauron's Ring or Saruman's powers in LOTR? actually, could you answer that in your next #ChatWithHannah video?? Personally, I think it's all right as long as you keep your audience in mind and make sure there's a clear line between good and evil, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

  3. Thank you. Yes.

    I actually have what I call the "Natural System" when I approach magic in my worlds - where I categorize my magic based on the source. Supernatural magic, which is power granted by God for special cases; Natural Magic, which is magic written into a world's natural laws (and might merely be a case of physics being different than our own, or slight of hand, this is my broadest category of magic); and Unnatural Magic, which is power granted by the devil - and is usually Natural or Supernatural magic twisted away from its true purpose, as the devil has no power of his own beyond what is granted to him.

    So, yeah. Thank you for this, and my own two cents.

    1. Thank you. Totally agree with this. Of coarse a fantasy world, and I quote "FANTASY world" would have it's own laws of physics. Magic might not even be viewed upon as "magic" in that world.

  4. Thank you for this! It's very difficult for me to hold my tongue when so many Christians are against books like Harry Potter-especially if they love Lord of the Rings or Narnia when those worlds have magic too. Plus, if you really take the time to look at Harry Potter, you'll see that every book has Harry face evil and is only able to overcome it because of a Christ symbol saving him. So it gets very old for me to hear people say Harry Potter is demonic and all that nonsense when really they're some of the best books you can read compared to what else is out in the market.

    I'm glad you're of the same mindset that there are different types of magic and that it's how you use it that counts.

  5. Yes!! Thank you!!

    I remember when I was in the early stages of planning my paranormal/gaslamp fantasy series, I was worried about writing about ghosts because I believed they were unbiblical. Eventually I just decided to set it in an alternate universe where something huge happened differently in the angelic realm and it resulted in the whole supernatural order being thrown into disarray. This opened the door for ghosts and, to my surprise and delight, a whole host of other fun things. Ghost hunters! Vampires! Judeo-Christian folk magic! A whole ghost-based magic system that is basically this universe's equivalent of wizards! All connected easily and logically to this universe's angelic backstory!

    So, basically my advice to Christians is to just be creative, and don't be afraid to explore possibilities! You may be surprised what you can make work in your story to the glory of God! :D

  6. Thank you for this very good post.
    My world has a system of magic that's somewhat analogous to the Holy Spirit. Magical power comes from Rawe (God) and the more connected you are to Rawe, the more powerful magic you can do. This results in equality because everyone, young or old, weak or strong, human or elf, has the same potential to commune with Rawe. If you want to do something evil and contrary to Rawe's will, like mind-control someone, you have to use dark magic, which draws on your own strength instead of Rawe and results in the strong lording it over the weak. I'm sort of showing how God's way of doing things is different from the selfish and power-hungry way the world functions. There are many ways magic can be used in stories to convey important truths and it annoys me when people don't see this, though I can see where they're coming from. Thanks for another helpful and relevant post.

  7. YAAAAAAAYYY!!!! I applaud this post so much!!! I've been thinking on this subject for a really long time, and you made such good points! Thank you thank you thank you!

  8. I love this post, but more importantly, was that a VEGGIE TALES REFERENCE????

  9. Yes! Thank you! I needed this! I so needed this! Everyone needs this! Reading this blog is just so refreshing because you don't just obey the rules because they're there, you look at them, figure out where they came from, and then break most of them because they're stupid.
    I always try to seek out advice to make me a better writer, but I find that often there's a risk of picking up so many rules that it's impossible for me to do anything. If I were to follow everything I've read on the Internet I would be...let's see...taking a whole two months to write a scene-by-scene outline every time I write something, never ever using adverbs (oops, I just used two,) avoiding adjectives as much as possible, never describing anything (a.k.a. always showing, never telling), spending 1,000 dollars on a desk chair, and creating the most generic mind-melting stories every written. To name a few.
    Point is, this blog is a breath of fresh air, especially this post. Writing fantasy without magic ain't easy. Actually, I've seen it done before (by a Christian writer of course). It also included half-dragons, a ring with a whole world inside it, and a lot of King Arthur legend stuff. Try explaining Excalibur without magic. Yeah, by the end it was just...creepy.
    So anyway, thank you for this. I'm going to send it to my friend who likes LOTR and Narnia but doesn't believe in magic in Christian fiction. I think he needs this too.

  10. Thank you!!! As im reading these other comments I'm blown away at how interesting all your stories sound and I appreciate the fresh perspectives! If you don't mind me adding my own: in my current story I actually explore 3 different religious groups and their veiws on magic. There's 2 polytheistic camps that hate each other and see themselves as demigods, which is why they can work magic (not actually true) and my fantasy world Christians who are generally persecuted and see magic as a gift from their (one true) God, The Artist, just like sunlight or fire or water or anything else. One thing I've noticed in the Christian fiction genre is the unwillingness to discuss other religions which is a shame because there's a lot of great stuff to explore! Has anyone else seen this problem or is it just the world history nerd in me?

    Also, what are your opinions on taking a pagan idea and turning it on its head into an allegory. I had an idea for using the Seelie and Unseelie faeries of British mythology as a parallel for angels and demons but wasn't sure if that would be crossing a line. I don't think I'd run the risk of a formuleic plot because I want to focus on the experience of just a few characters (3 sisters who are trying to set a changeling situation straight) but there's a lot of room for ambiguity there.

  11. This is so good. Thank you! I worry that as a Christian, I shouldn't put magic in some of my writing. Thank you again!

  12. It's not just Christians who have this issue with fantasy. I'm Jewish, and when I was a kid, many of my friends were not allowed to read Harry Potter because it had witchcraft in it. Fortunately my parents understood that it was just a story and it taught really good lessons about friendship and bravery and how love is more important than power. I've tried to explain this to people many times but I was never able to articulate it as well as you did, so thank you. I'll be using this argument from now on.

  13. There are stories of magic in the bible.

    There you go. You're allowed to write magic into your own story.


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