[This is one part of a multi-part series. Please start at the beginning: https://randallfcurtis.com/2016/01/02/the-dangers-of-fantasy/).
Stories clearly have a role in the communication of truth. The Bible is full of stories. Even Jesus taught with stories. Can we justify fantasy from the storytelling of Scripture?
Before we go any further, I must point out that the vast majority of stories in Scripture are true and historical. When God seeks to teach us using stories, he most often uses non-fiction stories. These historical stories are told honestly, briefly, and selectively. Human beings are neither glorified nor excused. God is at the center of the action from the beginning to the end.
However, there are quite a few fictional stories in the Bible. Again, these stories are brief. Jesus employs parables – which mostly fall into the categories of allegory or extended metaphor. The parable of the prodigal son is perhaps his most complex story. It is still pretty simple, and it is allegorical.
There are other fables and allegories. Jotham tells a fable in Judges 9 – complete with talking plants. Nathan accuses David by means of an allegory about neighbors and sheep. The opening of Proverbs makes use of some extended metaphors for Folly and Wisdom.
The book of Job is probably best categorized as a type of fictionalized history. I believe that the opening and closing of the book recount historical events, but the meat of the book is a poetical disputation between Job and his friends. Although the general ideas of their arguments may be historical, the poetic retelling is probably retold with considerable license. The genre of Job would be closer to the dialogues of Plato than to any fictional genre today.
So the Bible selects the most didactic fictional genres to communicate truth. These genres are usually avoided by anyone seeking to write “great” literature. Fantasy authors especially will studiously avoid employing any obvious allegory. Allegory can break the spell of secondary belief (a/k/a, suspension of disbelief).
Perhaps it is helpful to think of fantasy authors on a spectrum from Tolkien to Bunyan. In the middle of the spectrum is Lewis. Most readers and critics of fantasy tend towards approving of the Tolkien end of the spectrum. Lewis might be tolerated, but he is often considered to be poor art. Bunyan is another matter. I think most people today would not consider Bunyan to be much of writer of fiction. It is interesting that the storytelling of the Bible resembles Bunyan far more than the other two.
The New Testament especially focuses on the clarity of communication. Paul declares clarity and openness to be a foundational principle of God-honoring communication (2 Cor. 4:1-5). Therefore, the New Testament emphasizes direct verbal communication: preaching, teaching, personal testimony, etc. The New Testament also employs genres that strongly embed truth within historical reality: gospel, history, and epistle. Even the book of Revelation includes epistles.
So as a Christian, when seeking a proper vehicle for the communication of truth, is a fantasy novel a legitimate or profitable choice? I wonder if Jesus or Paul would ever have written a fantasy novel. Somehow I doubt it. Sure a fantasy novel can convey themes, but there is usually a more effective means to convey the same truths.
And as a Christian seeking truth, is a fantasy novel the best place to find it? Why drink from a murky cesspool when there is a clean, untainted well available?