Monday, February 20, 2012

February 2012 CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2 The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

There are several places in Mr. Lawhead’s novel that impinge directly upon the metaphysical and theological. Fantasy does that. Especially Christian fantasy wherein it is difficult to avoid conveying at least a minimal message to the reader. Perhaps even a subliminal one. As this is done by using the make-believe to tell us something about what is real, some Christians oppose fantasy: 
It becomes very difficult to separate fantasy from reality, especially in the minds of children. There was an interesting article in The Newhall Signal (newspaper) in light of this. Noting one of the teachings of the popular fantasy games, "Death is usually seen as a temporary state with characters returning 'from beyond' to play again..." -- from Christian Fantasy: Biblical or Oxymoron? 
I’m not sure what a fantasy (roll playing?) game has to do with the fantasy of literature, but the implication is that, especially for children, the ability to discern between fantasy and reality is difficult. In the article cited above, this point is made in the context of a broader assumption that fantasy contributes to a distorted discernment of the real. 
While God told us to continually communicate truth to our children (Deut. 6:5-7), today's culture trains children to see reality through a global, earth-centered filter. This "new" mental framework distorts truth, stretches the meaning of familiar words, and promotes mystical "insights" that are incompatible with Christianity. – ibid.
 I’ve written a brief article defending the case for the literary genre of fantasy and its use in imparting Christian truth, and it is not my intent here to present an apologetic for it.

But however one may come down on the issue, the writer of Christian fantasy has to concede that, by definition, the story must proffer elements of a world-view that simply does not exist. For me, as a writer and supporter of Christian fantasy, not only do I not see that as a contradiction of Christianity and biblical truth (the only kind of truth there is), but that it is well suited to do exactly the oppostie, convey biblical truth in a way that cannot be done through regular fiction or non-fiction. This places a great responsibility on the Christian writer to ensure that the story-world he creates (reflecting his Creator’s image in doing so) does not by negligence promote a non-Christian, pagan perspective of reality.

Freya, a key character of Mr. Lawhead’s novel, who has experienced the ‘reality’ of a fantasy world, struggles with the attitudes of those who would pooh-pooh that which they do not understand and have not experienced. After causing a scene by confronting the veracity of a lecturer’s position who began her talk with the opening words: 
“‘The Matter of Britain’ is the name that we give to the works that form up the early pseudo-histories of Britain...” (p 18)
 Freya wrestles with her conscience and motivation on the matter: 
“Why did she do it. What did it matter what people thought and believed, even if it was a lie? What right did she have to burst the fragile bubble of unreality [italics mine], what does it matter if they live a lie? Ignorance is blessing. It was futile to try to wake people up, so why did she do it? (p 22) 
Interesting this – an illustration of the educated scholar rejecting what cannot be proven historically or in the lab. The fantasy world created by Mr. Lawhead is part of a larger reality that includes both worlds, the one we live in and the one that only a few from our world have had the privilege of experiencing. And those who have not experienced it are unbelievers to the core.

Did Freya have the right ‘to burst the fragile bubble of unreality?’ Absolutely, because she knew the truth, she had experienced it first hand. She not only had the right, but the obligation.

Is this not what the Christian is to do? Is he not obligated to burst the bubble of unreality of those whose eyes have not been opened, and perchance God would use that bursting to open their eyes. Taking it into our arena as Christian writers of fantasy, should there not be at least some motivation to take that special gift God has given us and use it to manifest the real through the fantastic, in particular, the reality of the most fundamental biblical truths that center on Jesus Christ and his gospel?

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Realms Thereunder for review on the February 2012 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

Ross Lawhead's Web Page
List of CSFF Blog Tour Participants
The Realms Thereunder on Amazon


  1. Interesting post. I had forgotten about that scene with Freya until you mentioned it.

    "This places a great responsibility on the Christian writer to ensure that the story-world he creates (reflecting his Creator’s image in doing so) does not by negligence promote a non-Christian, pagan perspective of reality."

    What a great observation! Writing fantasy is both a great privilege and a responsibility.

  2. Thanks for reading! Yes, the scene is almost incidental to the story, yet accentuates the principle not to lightly consider the import of each character, event, or circumstance, no matter how innocuous it may appear.