[This is one part of a multi-part series. Please start at the beginning: https://randallfcurtis.com/2016/01/02/the-dangers-of-fantasy/).
It is difficult to write off an entire genre as sinful, but there are certain inherently sinful components generally characteristic of works of fantasy. The two most common are idolatry and magic.
The majority of fantasy worlds assume the existence of other gods within the secondary reality of the story world. Within the secondary world these gods rule and are worshiped. The books by Rick Riordan are the most obvious contemporary example. Riordan writes books in which the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods still exist today. These are some of the very gods the authors of the Bible had in mind when condemning idolatry.
There are fantasy worlds in which there is no god, but atheism is hardly an improvement over outright idolatry. Also, there are fantasy worlds in which there is a god who bears great resemblance to the biblical God. In Tolkien’s world the god is Eru Ilúvatar. However, Tolkien’s god is rarely directly active in the world, and he is surrounded by a pantheon of lesser gods. Even Lewis’ Aslan fails to live up to his resemblance to Jesus – at times appearing weak or ignorant of some fact. And Aslan apparently rules over a variety of alternate universes.
The majority of fantasy worlds also assume some form of magic or supernatural power. In some works of fantasy the type of magic depicted is very similar to pagan magical practices throughout history. In others fantasy worlds, the magic is unique. In Tolkien’s world, for instance, Gandalf’s use of magic is very limited. At times he even seems hesitant to apply the use of the term “magic.” It could be Gandalf is one of the lesser beings in the hierarchical pantheon of supernatural beings. His power at times appears more similar to that of angels than that of a magician. However, Gandalf does speak of knowing magical spells and runes. Even more disturbing is the way Aragorn in an act of necromancy summons an army of the dead.
At this point in my discussion, many people would think, Give me a break! It’s just fiction! It’s a flight of fancy! None of these authors (except L. Ron Hubbard) are claiming that the false gods in their books are real or that the magic in their books are real.
I am not certain how fiction gives anyone an excuse for glorifying idolatry and the practice of magic. It is difficult to find two sins for which God expresses more abhorrence in Scripture. God hates idolatry. God hates the practice of magic. In the Old Testament law, both were punishable by death. If God hates these sins so much, then why would we want to create secondary worlds in which these sins are OK?
To put it in perspective, let me use an example of a sin that we find particularly abhorrent in our culture today: child molestation. Let’s say that I wrote a fantasy novel in which child molestation is assumed to be normal, legitimate, and morally good. Would such a novel be tolerated in Christian circles? I think not. Do you think God would approve of such a novel? I think not. Do you think God would give more of his approval to a novel which assumes idolatry? I doubt it. From a divine perspective, idolatry is about the worst thing there is. Shouldn’t we share God’s perspective on it?