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A Question of Faith

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Androxine Vortex, Aug 7, 2012.

  1. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    This problem has been bugging me the past few days and I wanted to share it with you and maybe get some help. This is a very personal and religious issue so please be respectful of my beliefs.

    I am a Christian. I have been one for a long time. I have asked Jesus to be my Savior and for Him to forgive my sins. I also love writing. Ever since I could first read and write I made my own books and stories. It has always been my favorite hobby my entire life.

    I took a look at some of my stories the other day and began to question them. Nearly all of them involve magic. The Bible specifically prohibits magic; no if, and or buts. But because I create a character that uses magic, I am in no way trying to promote my reader to go out and practice sorcery! Look at C.S. Lewis; he was a devout Christian but used magic in his stories. But his stories were also a metaphor for Christ.

    I feel somewhat conflicted about writing fantasy. I love mythology and fantasy and in all of my fantasy novels (nearly all of them) they are heavily involved with pantheons that I created and magic systems and lots of war and violence. My stories aren't necessarily a metaphor for God such as Lewis's were. But I know that these things are purely fictional. They aren't real! I write these stories for entertainment purposes only.

    This is my take on it: Alcohol is fine, just don't become drunk. Money is fine, just don't become greedy. Fantasy literature is fine, just don't lose sight of what is real. It's all about self-control. Jesus Himself drank wine, but he didn't become drunk. I write these novels that involve imaginary gods and magic but I know that they aren't real and am not trying to convince my readers that they are.

    I have prayed hard about this for days. It is always on my mind. My stories have angels and demons and gods and divine figures and magic but in no way am I (intentionally) trying to denounce Jesus. LOTR was written by a Christian and it has a lot of "darkness" in it but in the end, good triumphs. Not all of mine end that way where everything is fine and dandy. The one story is about a renegade god that actually brings about the complete destruction of the world. Has anyone else had this issue? There is no definitive answer to this. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you can not write fantasy literature. I think it comes down to what I think God is trying to tell me. But I have been really struggling with this.
     
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  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    This is an issue I looked into for different reasons.

    Put simply, all of the miracles attributed to Jesus, without exception, were in the popular mind of the day, considered to be within the capability of a competent pagan or jewish magician.

    In terms of magical ability, the old line Egyptians and Babylonians (and their successors) were considered to be the flat out best (most competent) magicians. 'Magi' - aka 'magician' is a term we get from...well, call it Persia. But the jewish rabbi's were no slouch in that department either; a couple of them, contemporaries of Jesus no less, were also credited with ressurecting the dead, among other miracles.

    At the outset, christianity was viewed by the Roman Authorities - when they thought of it at all - as a sort of magical cult, and was legally treated in those terms.

    The stigmatazation of magic didn't occur until later, for rather obvious reasons - a magic using prophet turning up out of nowhere was a threat to the church heirarchy. Eventually, magic using priests within the heirarchy also came to be seen as problems - unless they were saints.

    The overall idea, for a long, long while, was that magic was forbidden to everybody *except* the priests (in Judaism at least). Initially, this mentality carried over into christianity.
     
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    I too am a Christian, firm in my beliefs. They are often reflected in my stories.
    I too, write fantasy. Your question was a question that occurred to me. I prayed and spoke with my pastor, and moved forward with writing and finding a publisher and getting published.

    I will focus on my novels, but much the same can be applied to my short stories published.

    My works involve themes such as good vs. evil, where loyalty, friendship and faith are a part of the mix. The language and content are reflected in my beliefs, thus there are not any F bombs and erotica-like sex scenes (actually there are no sex scenes--it's just not what I write and not part of the plot).

    I have had one person in my church provide a list of Bible passages and attempt to disuade me writing/having my work published because one of the good guys was a wizard/sorcerer type. While I listened and respected her opinion, I did not agree.

    It is a decision you have to be comfortable with. In truth, there are plenty of genres other than fantasy that you could write, and even some subgenres of fantasy that you could write.

    For me, my writing is stories told for entertainment. They pretend to be nothing else, and I do not pretend them to be anything else. In truth, with Flank Hawk, there is a positive faith message contained as a sub-plot. It's just part of the story being told.

    As you said, there is no definitive answer, only the one that works for you, just as there was one answer that worked for me.

    Continue to pray. Confide and discuss it with those who you respect and trust for additional insight. Then move forward, whatever direction you are led.
     
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  4. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    I agree with Terry. C.S. Lewis was my introduction to fantasy and to reading in general. As a Christian, I don't see anything wrong with writing stories that have magical or pagan elements.
     
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  5. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    And even though they involve angels and demons, not once do I EVER directly mention Jesus. So there is NO connection between my works and the Bible. I do agree that it has to be something that I am comfortable with. I do feel comfortable with it but every so often I keep asking myself again. I don't involve my stories with unnecessary profanity or erotica at all either, just lots of violence like in LOTR.

    I discussed this with my mother and she said that she watches Harry Potter and LOTR and loves them even though they involve magic. She is a strong Christian and she said that it is something that I have to discover myself with God. I kind of already knew that no one here could really give me a definite answer because the Scripture isn't clear about it. I just wanted to see if anyone else had this problem.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  6. In general, there's nothing wrong with writing stories containing characters who believe things different than you. In fact it's pretty boring when a book only contains characters who are author surrogates (or worse, straw men).

    I don't personally believe in the existence of any deities, but my fiction frequently contains characters who do--because that's the world they grew up in. (It would be difficult to write a fantasy world full of nothing but atheists.) As far as they're concerned, the Caretaker (for example) is real and is running things. It's interesting to explore how characters behave and process things based on that, even though I don't think remotely the same way they do.
     
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    At the risk of entering a religious debate (which I will not respond to) I say one thing.

    Understand that the bible we know in modern times is very different from the many different texts that revolved around early Christianity. It was the emperor Constantine that brought together the leaders of many different opposing sects of Christianity together to form the Council of Nicea. There, these men argued & debated, to decide what books were divine and which would be excluded from the bible. Since that time it has gone through many revisions and translations. Who knows what was said about magic in those texts as we don't really know all of them that were excluded.

    My point is only this, make any decisions based off your personal relationship with whatever God or Gods you serve and be comfortable with your own belief.

    Another point, killing is a considered a sin. Would that keep you from writing a crime story where someone is murdered? So why is magic different?

    For myself, I am not religious but I fully support people's personal spiritual beliefs & needs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Google a book called Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton and look up the chapter labeled The Ethics of Elfland. It will help.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2012
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  9. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    Not being a Christian (UU, at this point in my life) but someone who has spent a whole lot of time studying the Semites and related peoples, I can only say this:

    There is magic in the Bible. A lot of it. Some of it is condemned (when Saul has the Witch of Endor bring up the ghost of Samuel) and some of it is ordained directly (the destruction of the walls of Jericho). Seeing it just requires a particularly broad definition of magic.
     
  10. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    If I were God, I wouldn't mind my worshipers writing fiction set in worlds where I didn't exist and "pagan" magic was everywhere. It's only fiction after all.
     
  11. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    I'm from a different religious background- I practice druidry, but have also been confronted with certain 'questions of faith'.

    I've questioned the legitimacy of writing fantasy because it has no connection to my local land, its gods, my ancestors or the community. This was one of a number of reasons I gave up writing my fantasy novel for a while to focus on poems and stories about my local area. It was a shamanic experience combined with my feeling of incompleteness that led me back to making the commitment to completing my novel.

    In druidry we believe in 'Awen' 'divine inspiration.' I've been spending alot of time meditating on the nature of Awen, which I've come to learn flows through all of nature, humans, their creations and into fantasy worlds. I don't know very much about Christianity, but this might be a but like the holy spirit? A few weeks ago I came across the term 'anti-Awen' in a book. Because my novel is quite dark, I began to think 'what if I'm channeling anti-Awen?' I've put this doubt aside as even if that's the case, it's still a part of the divine whole.

    I think it's important to work with what you're inspired to write because inspiration flows from a divine source, whatever religious tradition you're from.

    Another way I've thought about is, if writing my fantasy novel was wrong, wouldn't the gods have shown their disapproval. When I've consulted them, they've been encouraging, even though I'm writing about something that's got nothing to do with them and their land. In the same way, if Jesus disapproved wouldn't he let you know? I'm not sure whether it's a practice in Christianity to communicate directly with God and Jesus, but if it is why don't you ask them for their opinions?
     
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    If something brings you and others joy and harms no one else, why would it be wrong? Like others have said, make this decision based on your own relationship with God, not what someone else tells you it should be. I think if God has anything to say on the subject, he'll say it to you directly not through someone else.
     
  13. The Dark One

    The Dark One Inkling

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    Dear Androxine

    I think that just by asking your question on this forum you are asking for some alternative input. The trouble is, religious debates (I understand) are forbidden. Indeed, on one interpretation I might even suggest that the moderators should have banned your question for fear of the responses it might have inspired.

    Nevertheless, you pose an interesting question. On a different thread (can't remember which one) I speculated about this very question. I've long wondered how people of commited monotheistic persuasion could possibly accommodate fantasy/magic within their personal cosmology - not so much because two belief systems (one personally held, one personally invented) might be inconsistent - but because of what they have in common. The instant you acknowledge one form of supernature as fictional - for whatever reason - it must logically expose all forms of supernature to the same charge of potential fictionality. In other words, the age-old question of faith.

    The moderators might regard even this polite attempt to engage with your question as out of bounds, which would be a shame. You asked the question on the forum so no doubt you're prepared for some robust responses. Surely we can discuss these subjects without getting offensive?
     
  14. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Archmage

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    I don't believe I am violating any terms of service with this thread (http://mythicscribes.com/forums/news-announcements/2101-guidelines-discussing-religion.html)
    I am pretty sure that most of us here are adults (and if not then I'm sure you can be mature) Like Lorna; we have different beliefs but she responded to this thread to genuinely help me. And just because she believes something that I necessarily don't, I'm not going to just dismiss anything she says. You have free will to say or do anything you want.

    Like I said before, I'm not coming here asking anyone for "the answer." This is a completely personal decision and experience. I just wanted to see if others have had this problem.
     
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Good topic of conversation.

    I know that there are a lot of ultra conservatives who think Harry Potter is "evil" because it involves witchcraft. In my view, these people are quite misguided. Be careful of those who want to use Christianity to control your actions. Some people just want to be able to tell other people what to do, and they use Christianity for that purpose.

    The underlying question, however, is valid. Are we, as Christians, defying a Bible edict by portraying magic use in books?

    My understanding, and I'm not saying I'm an ultimate authority on the Bible, is that the passages in question are a warning to stay away from the occult. The Bible states that there are things involving demons and other powers that we do not understand and are meant to stay away from. Would it be against Christian values to portray the pursuit of the occult in a positive light? I think so. Would it be against Christian values to portray the pursuit of the occult in a book if the matter were handled in a way highlighting the dangers? I think you're good on that one.

    However, in our fantasy writing, our "magic" systems have nothing to do with the occult. We are creating a completely different world. The magic is something that exists only in our minds in the fantasy world we create. There's no difference in creating a fantasy world with magic and creating a scifi world with technology so advanced that we can't understand its functioning.

    In this case, I think we're not breaking any of the intent of the Bible.

    That's my theory.
     
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  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I hope we're not violating any terms of service with this discussion. I would think that, as long as we keep the discussion abstract, we would be okay (discuss belief in general instead of a particular belief). If I'm out of line in that thinking, I apologize. Believe me, I have absolutely no desire to get into a heavy religious debate on a fantasy fiction writing forum unless it involves the actual creation of a fantasy religion for a story.

    Your question is an interesting one, however.

    Though I understand your point, I don't quite follow your logic.

    We live on the planet Earth. If I write a scifi story about a planet of my imagining called jtw4ioe, the fact that I imagined a planet does not invalidate the existance of the, presumably, real planet on which we live.

    Before you object strenuously, I do understand that religion is different. However, there's no difference from me making up a religion for my fantasy world and the fact that there are a bunch of religious beliefs currently in existence in the real world. It's just as easy for me to reject my fantasy religion as it is for me to reject all but one here on Earth.

    You specifically say that it must expose my belief to the same charge of potential fictionality. I think, possibly, you may be misunderstanding the nature of belief. The whole point of faith is that there is the question of potential fictionality. If there were no question, then faith wouldn't be required. How does the creation of a fictional religion alter the equation at all? People who believe in a particular religion have weighed that potential fictionality and came down on the side that the religion is a fact.

    Edit: re-reading this made me chuckle as I remembered the babblefish in Hitchhiker's Guide. If you'll remember: the existence of the fish made half the population argue that it proved God's existence and the other half argue that the existence of such proof disproved Him.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    A point of view from a non-Christian.

    First, I think it is important to remember that you, the author, are not necessarily an advocate for the things that happen in your story. However, my understanding is that Christians are also meant at all times to be an example to others, so from a Christian perspective, maybe an author is seen as advocate. In the latter case, two possibilities:

    1. I've read opinions that something like Narnia differs from Potter in that the former is another world, where magic is part of the normal order, while the latter takes place in our world and shows magic in a positive light in our world. The opinion I read stated that this made Potter wrong, from a Christian point of view, but works like Narnia, LOTR, and the like were OK from a Christian point of view because they don't purport to support or show in a good light magic taking place in our world; and

    2. You can simply make those practicing magic to be the bad guys. In Narnia, for example, who uses magic apart from Aslan (who is divine?). The White Witch. And she is evil. In later books, Lucy gets in trouble for using it, and the guy in The Magician's Nephew doesn't exactly bring about good things with it. So it seems like Lewis draws a pretty clear dividing line and it is this: magic is not for humans to use. Maybe I'm misremembering how it goes - if so let me know.
     
  18. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Hey guys,

    Discussing religion is not off limits here. As long as the discussion is carried out in a spirit of mutual respect and genuine inquiry, it's perfectly fine.

    I think that some people are confusing our policy on religion with our ban on contemporary political debate. Now that topic is off-limits.
     
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  19. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Being a Christian, I think I'll chip in here.

    Yes, magic is prohibited in the Bible. There's no way around it. But have you given thought as to why it's prohibited? Because once you do, the relationship between Christianity and magic/fantasy becomes quite clear. If you look at the works of CS Lewis and Tolkien, their stories are fantasy stories but they are not occult stories. Any occultic elements they may contain are merely artifacts of the lore and myth that they used as raw material for making their own stories and worlds.

    What's more, their stories are not about the occult or real-world sorcery at all. They're about other worlds. This changes quite a bit. Tolkien and Lewis both said that their works were not allegory, but rather sort of speculative, speaking to the question of "how might God operate in other worlds and dimensions?"

    That brings us back to the question, "why does the Bible speak against magic?" If you look very closely, it becomes obvious that the magic the Bible condemns is linked to one of two things: pagan worship (bad for obvious reasons) and involvement of demonic sprits (bad for even more obvious reasons). In our world, the things termed "magic" and "sorcery" are inherently dangerous to the human soul because they put you into contact with powers and spirits that seek your eternal destruction.

    However, who says that this must be the case in other worlds? Why should God have to do things the same way all the time? In our world, magic of the kind we see in LOTR or Narnia doesn't really exist and the occult is merely a way for people to console themselves with the illusion of having power when in reality they are being manipulated by powers themselves. But in other worlds, like Middle Earth and Narnia, magic and wonder is woven into the very fabric of the world. In those places God, using either the name Eru Illuvatar or Aslan, has created a world in which real, true, and magical things do exist. And because they exist in that sense, because magic is written into the very genetic code of those worlds, using it is no more wrong than it is for us to harness electricity or use cell phones in ours.

    Do you see the difference?

    TL;DR- I agree with BWFoster.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012
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  20. ShortHair

    ShortHair Sage

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    I see no conflict between fantasy and Christianity. Humans worshiped all sorts of deities before the coming of Jesus. Whether those deities actually existed is irrelevant. The God of Abraham is all powerful, whatever name He is known by. He can exist in any universe you create, even if some of the inhabitants aren't yet aware of His existence.

    That's the way the Flying Spaghetti Monster explained it to me, anyway.
     
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