Fantasy/ Science fiction is the most popular genre in America, and has been the best selling category of literature for some time. Why is this? Why do fantasy fans love it so much? Why does this genre have such power to grip people? And does this power make these books (and movies) good to read?
These are the questions I have asked myself over and over, but the answer is not difficult. The secret of the power of fantasy does not lie in the fantastic creatures, wild quests, melting scenes, or bloody conflicts of the stories, but in their limitless capacity. Put simply, the answer to the above questions is twofold:
1. Fantasy creates a world in which there are no limits, and...
2. It is a world in which God is not.
Of course, if these answers are correct, they also solve the last question: "Are these books good to read?" No!
Now, at first glance, the two statements above may be rather shocking to the lover of fantasy, or those who view them as allegories of spiritual truth, but if you take time to consider the nature of fantasy, you will see that both these premises are necessary it is very existence.
1: Fantasy can only exist in a setting with no limits. (By no limits, I am specifically referring here to the laws of nature.) If a fantasy story is limited by the same laws of nature which limit us, it is no longer fantasy. This limitlessness is very handy for writing or imagining a story. If your hero is falling off a cliff, for instance, well, just make some sort of fairy pop up suddenly and send him rocketing back up. Or, better yet, have the heroine or some lovely elf find him apparently dead at the bottom, give him some magic cordial, and bring him back to perfect health and strength. A necessary part of fantasy is magic in some form or other - generally referred to as "white magic." Now, magic overcomes all limits. There truly are no limits in a fantasy story except those imposed by the imagination of the author.
2: A world without limits is what we naturally desire. This is why fantasy provides a perfect escape for the author, reader, or day-dreamer. When you are immersed in a fantasy story, living in the lives of the characters, you are unlimited except by your own - or the author's - imagination and writing ability. The problems of your real life can be left behind, or overcome in your imagination, and you can mentally accomplish the most impossible feats with ease - just add a dash of white magic to the mix.
Now, it is also necessarily a world in which God is not in control.
1: God is not in fantasy. Usually there is some undefined, rather vague "Good", or far-off, almighty king in a fantasy story, who never actually puts in an appearance, but there is no real God, living and ruling over the world in the story. The powerful, absent kingly figure or undefined Good is put into the story because people naturally worship something and the story would be out of balance if there was not some supernatural being in the background somewhere, but generally the mighty king never makes an actual appearance, and the Good is defined by the author's imagination. Remember, there are no limits and no rules in fantasy, generally speaking.
2: God cannot be in fantasy. Think about this statement: God cannot be in fantasy - at least, not fantasy marketed to Christians. That powerful kingly figure is usually enough to salve the conscience with the idea that the whole story is an allegory, but think about the problems caused by there being no God. There is no standard of right and wrong; there are no limits; there is no call to holiness; there is no one powerful enough to simply speak the word and the evil forces will be instantly quelled. (Besides, that would be boring!) Now, think about the problems if there is a God: It will be either idolatry or blasphemy.
Idolatry of creating a god: The Lord says, in Isaiah 45:5: I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me... A false god cannot be made in literature. God must be presented either in a clear allegory (such as the Lord Jesus' parables or, on a much lower level, King Shaddai in John Bunyan's Holy War), or He must be entirely left out.
Blasphemy of including the God of the Bible in a fantasy story: I hope no Christian would compare The Lord of the Rings, or similar books with the Bible for an instant. If you look at the big picture and consider the incomparable difference between a fantasy story, written for pleasure, and the Lord Who created heaven and Earth, and is infinitely holy, just, and pure, surely you would not dare to insert Him into a purely fictional story. It would simply be blasphemous.
Now, in conclusion, think about this for a moment: Our culture is trying to escape from God. The unsaved person wants to be accountable to no one but themselves, to be ruled by no one but themselves, and to serve no one but themselves. Evolution is taught in our schools in an effort to get rid of the Creator; the 10 Commandments have been removed from many of our public areas in an effort to get rid of His rules; and even the most obvious perversion of God's design for men and women is flagrantly practiced everywhere - why? Because people want to be gods unto themselves. This is why fantasy is so wildly popular: because it enables each person who steps into that world, and lives through the lives of those characters, and embellishes those well-written, gripping stories with their own imagination to become a god of their own fantasy world.
I'm not saying that everyone consciously thinks this, but when you really boil down fantasy to its essence and try to discover what makes it so appealing, this plays a major role in its popularity. Is this what we should feed our minds and souls with, as Christians? Is this something we should expose our children to? Please, consider the essential nature of fantasy and all that comes along with it, and prayerfully seek the Lord's will in this matter.