The Doctrinal Issue of Supernatural Fiction


The painting depicts God addressing a devil, w...

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, here’s the question: Does Christian supernatural fiction need to be doctrinally sound? Or maybe a better question would be can it be doctrinally sound?

Now, I know there are many flavors of Christians who read my work–Brethren, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Fundamentalists, Baptists, Charismatics, to name a few–and each one has a slightly different twist on Christian doctrine. I’m not here to fight over the gifts of the spirit or pre-trib vs. post-trib. We can leave that for another day.

I want to talk about the doctrine of the supernatural and how it plays into the realm of the natural. One of the things Christian supernatural fiction is taken to task over is that it is not doctrinally sound, that it is unrealistic and contradicts what the Bible teaches. Really? Does it? I guess, like anything else, it depends.

Let’s get one thing clear, just because we don’t understand something or don’t experience it on a regular basis doesn’t make it contradictory to what the Bible teaches.

Humor me for a moment while I tackle an issue I’ve dealt with in my own books. In The Hunted there is a beast, a monster if you will, that is the manifestation of evil. Call it a demon if you like. Then, in Darlington Woods, there are the darklings, demon-like creatures with a thirst for blood and death. They’ve both been called unrealistic and I’ve had to defend them by reminding people it’s fiction, it’s not meant to be real. But are they really that unrealistic?

Here’s my line of thought. Can fallen angels take on the form of humans like the good angels can? Genesis 6 seems to hint at that when it mentions the “sons of God” (if you take that interpretation). Can Satan and his minions take on other forms? Well, in Genesis 1 Satan came to Eve in the form of a serpent so it sure seems like it’s possible. So what’s to prevent them from taking on the form of a lion-like monster or a darkling?

Other questions: Can Satan control people? Sure he can. Judas Iscariot is a sad example. Can Satan control the weather? Yes. Job can attest to that. Can people receive visions and messages in their dreams? The Bible is full of such examples. Can God work through people in the form of miracles and supernatural power? Again, examples in Scripture are abundant.

Now, I know there are arguments on both sides about miracles and visions and such today and I respect the views of both sides. But what I deal with in my books is possibility. Is it possible that a demon can take on the form of a darkling or some other monster? Is it possible for a comatose boy to transmit messages from God? Is it possible for a man to be so controlled by Satan it’s as if he’s one with the prince of darkness?

I believe the answer to each of these questions is yes, it is possible. And I doubt that exploring these topics, these possibilities in fiction is doctrinally unsound. Trust me, the last thing I want to write is anything that could be called heresy or blasphemy. If I ever challenge the deity of Christ or the way of salvation in my books please, please call me on it. If I ever exalt man above God, take me to task. If I ever portray God as anything but the Father of Light and source of all goodness, give me a tongue-lashing. And if I ever fail to point my stories to God, to show the power of His words, the comfort of His touch, and the possibilities of His children, take my computer away and never let me write another book.

We’ve talked about this before, that the Bible is full of the supernatural, of miracles and wonderful strangeness, of evil in its cruelest and most vile forms. Can it still happen today? Is it possible? What do you think?

Advertisements

About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on September 15, 2010, in Christian Fiction, Scripture, Writing Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. And what are you doing up at 4 am Mike? :-)…. I think you’re right on, bro. Satan controlled people in Jesus’ time, and the Bible says Satan can appear as an angel of light…. if those 2 things are true, then what is stopping him from doing the same today. Yes, your books might SEEM far-fetched, but in the light of the power Satan had – and still has – are they really? I think not. It is something we don’t know much about, and it is scary to think about, but that doesn’t mean what you have written is not possible. Far from it, it is very possible. Satan is out to get us, and will do whatever he can to destroy us, and only God knows what he can and cannot do. So keep writing as you do….. I think you’re right on.

    Like

  2. For me, the issue isn’t so much as to how well you’re portraying evil, which I gather you must be doing that quite well to garner such criticism, but rather how well you portray the power of God over that evil. As I have still not gotten a book of yours to read yet (but shall soon), I cannot speak on anything you’ve specifically written, but in general. I think that when the power of God is on the scene evil has to flee. That’s Biblical. Yet, the person’s Faith that has access to this power may have some room for maturity, so there may be some Faith issues where they might trust God for salvation but not for deliverance of demons. That’s also Biblical. Yet, with other characters you can show that they are already mature and when they show up on the scene the evil ones can leave shrieking or whatever you choose. Basically, just as important as showing how evil can be truly evil and scary if you aren’t secure in your Faith in God and what He can do through you, so is the accurate display of what God can do to counteract the evil and the human’s spiritual growth in Faith so that God can use them to their fullest. Hope these comments help, Mike. 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks for the input and comments. I’d be interested in your thoughts after you read a few of my books, David. I think there is so much about the spiritual realm that we don’t and can’t understand. That is why we much walk by faith!

      Like

      • I was just on Amazon to try to order a copy of “Scream” and couldn’t seem to find a dealer that took PayPal. Do you happen to know where I can get “Scream” using PayPal?

        Like

  3. I tend to think Christians let theology unnecessarily limit our storytelling and imagination; we impose theology to our creative detriment. While I’m not sure where the line between fact and fiction should be drawn, for most Christians, I think it’s drawn too conservatively. If we want to be sticklers, we can impose all kinds of historical and theological “facts” upon our fiction. Take for instance, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, about a fantastic bus ride from Hell to Heaven. Well, Scripture seems to suggest there’s a “great gulf fixed” (Lk. 16:26) between Heaven and Hell. So doesn’t that render Lewis’ entire device unbiblical?

    The fact that the conceptual springboard for the story has no biblical foundation does not stop me from enjoying the tale in the least. Why? Because it’s fiction, for one. Secondly, the truths it elucidates are entirely biblical. In my opinion, Mike, your example is evidence of how Christians use theology to restrict, rather than free their storytellers. We’re so worried about whether sorcery is fictionally tolerable, that we forget that Moses once turned a rod into a snake. We’re so worried about whether ghosts are doctrinally justified that we forget about the Witch of Endor summoning the prophet Samuel from the afterlife.

    My opinion: If a story does not blatantly contradict core Christian doctrines, deny biblical history, or blaspheme what Scripture deems sacred, then the fictional elements are up for grabs. Either way, there’s a difference between art and theology. And being liberal toward art is a lot safer than being liberal toward theology. Thanks Mike!

    Like

    • Mike, I was hoping you’d chime in. You always have something insightful to say on this topic. The challenge is always where art and theology intersect. For many, it seems the idea is “be as liberal as you want with your art, just don’t tramp on my doctrine.” Where all that intersects . . . I haven’t figured that part out totally, still working on it. I do know I don’t want to write anything contradictory to what Scripture teaches (i.e. having someone die and become an angel). I’m with you, though. I’d rather be liberal with art than theology.

      Like

  4. Great that you brought this topic up today. A friend, who thinks he may want to write, dropped by the house yesterday and was asking questions along these lines. The line for me is when a story is not clearly fictional but offers entirely fictional views of God and His nature. Not going to name any but there a couple that immediately come to mind.

    To be fair to some authors though, there are Christians out there who take stories far beyond anything intended by the author. When Peretti’s Darkness novels came out there were churches in our town almost making his version of spiritual warfare a part of their doctrinal statement. Some common sense all the way is called for.

    Like

    • Thanks for the comment, Tim. That also happened with the popular book, THE SHACK. The author had to constantly remind people that it’s just a story, not a theological manifesto. We need to keep things in perspective. Many authors are not theologians and often if something is askew, no harm is intended.

      Like

      • I by no means want to hijack this conversation but The Shack is one I felt blurred the line a little too much. Had it been portrayed in a Lewis manner as pure allegory I would have been more than comfortable with it. Please, no “you’re a Shack hater” from anyone. Just my own lack of comfort with the story.

        Like

  5. Mike, I don’t think you can go wrong with this attitude!

    If I ever challenge the deity of Christ or the way of salvation in my books please, please call me on it. If I ever exalt man above God, take me to task. If I ever portray God as anything but the Father of Light and source of all goodness, give me a tongue-lashing. And if I ever fail to point my stories to God, to show the power of His words, the comfort of His touch, and the possibilities of His children, take my computer away and never let me write another book.

    Write on, brother!

    If we live chasing every shadow from behind every bush we see…that’s every bit as wrong as not admitting that shadows exist. Evil IS real, and we need to be busy about putting on the whole armor of God and let Him guide our steps. There is a balance, and I think it is exhibited beautifully in your stories!

    Like

  6. Tim, are you at least a fan of the “other” Shaq? An LSU alum? 🙂

    Like

  7. Thanks, Mike.
    I like the approach as “possibility.”
    When we restrict what is possible to our own experience or restricted imagination, we are sufficiently indoctrinated and destined to go no further.
    Grace to you…
    M.

    Like

  8. David James :
    I was just on Amazon to try to order a copy of “Scream” and couldn’t seem to find a dealer that took PayPal. Do you happen to know where I can get “Scream” using PayPal?

    David: You can get one on Ebay. Here’s the link.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Scream-Mike-Dellosso-Paperback-2009-/341619534439

    Like

  9. Loved this post! Doctrine is supposed to be based on truth. Ideally, doctrines are formed from someone’s belief on finding a truth. Does this not completely contradict the meaning of the word fiction? I have heard criticism about many of the the newer fiction books out there based on the very reasoning that fiction has to be doctrinally sound. It has never made sense to me and it was refreshing to hear someone else’s point of view. When we start devaluing God and the sacrifice He made for all of us…well, then we a treading on sacred ground. But if not, fiction is imagination at work and let us allow our imaginations work the way the Good Lord intended.

    Like

  10. Wow, good post Mike! I feel the same way. If the Bible doesn’t specifically say that something isn’t true, then I’m not gonna say it. Like ghosts and stuff. I think it’s fascinating the things the Bible hints at but doesn’t go into. Remember how when Jesus died on the cross, people saw prophets and saints that had come out of their graves? Or in the old testament when King Saul met with the medium to talk to that prophet…God tells us to stay away from those things, not because they’re not real, but because they’re dangerous and evil.

    Fascinating post! I hope I get to read one of your books someday.

    Like

  11. Well, I always thought of it this way: With God, anything is possible. So as long as it doesn’t contradict the Bible, anything God has done or said He would not do, I think fictionally, giving a character supernatural power, or allowing him to do something supernatural is completely possible. I’ve never seen it happen, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? As Christians, our whole lives are based on something we can not physically see. Perhaps, in the story, God is just allowing the character to perceive something we can not. Which, beside the “thriller” part, is what is striven for, right? As a writer, you are trying to show specific truths that your book is based on. Perhaps a certain view on a bible verse. Perhaps, like in your book SCREAM (which is the only one of your books I’ve had the pleasure of reading thus far) you are trying to make the reader think of something long and hard, and make the correct decision in the end.

    As for the “monsters” and stuff, it’s back the the “believing isn’t always seeing” point I threw out earlier. Just because we don’t ever see it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The bible says that there ARE monsters out there, just they are spiritual, and we can not see them. But yes, in agreement with you, Satan did it in the Bible, so why not now?

    As I was writing this, a thought struck me. Could it be possible that we see no demonic monsters today because Jesus took away their power on the cross? I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting thought.

    Back to the main point, yes, I think the stuff I’ve read in your Christian is completely possible.I’ve only read Scream, but, with God, all things are possible. As for monsters, while I haven’t read “Darlington Woods” yet, but I’ve read other Christian fiction with monsters and found no problem with them.

    In conclusion to this LONG comment, I agree with you.

    Like

Silver Lining Sharings

True tales of inspiration

The Accidental Missionary

A regular guy tryin' to figure it out

ajmumblin

All the things I say in my mind, just not out loud (yet)

Spooks, Spectres, and Spilled Milk // RAENA J ROOD

One mother's venture into terror and toddlers . . .

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

Whispers in the Wind

Musings of a writer's life

MIKE DELLOSSO

wide-eyed fiction

JoJo's Corner

Read. Write. Love. Repeat.

Ambling & Rambling

Scattered thoughts and general musings

Parenting And Stuff

Not a "how to be a great parent" blog

Lynn Rush

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

Bibliophile's Retreat

Bookish Musings, Banter & More

www.KevenNewsome.com

The intersection of faith and fiction.

Life Worth Serving

Life is messy...Yet Worth Serving

A Little Bit of Everything

Slices of life from a mom, army wife, craft maker, writer, etc.

%d bloggers like this: