Biblical or Oxymoron?
- The dictionary defines fable as:
"fantasy/fiction/falsehood dependent for effect on strangeness of setting (as other worlds or times) and of characters (as supernatural or unnatural beings); the setting is usually in a non-existent or unreal world, the characters are fanciful or unreal, or the conflict focuses on physical or scientific principles not yet discovered or contrary to present experience."
- Fantasy is especially dangerous for children. While most children in the 1970s knew enough truth to place divination in the forbidden realm of the occult, today's children -- who often feel more comfortable with occult games than Biblical truth -- see nothing wrong with pagan practices. Fantasy movies, like Disney's The Lion King, are good matches for the new earth-centered paradigm or world view that is transforming childrens' views of reality. While God told us to continually communicate truth to our children (Deut. 6:5-7), today's culture trains children to see reality through a global, earth-centered filter. This "new" mental framework distorts truth, stretches the meaning of familiar words, and promotes mystical "insights" that are incompatible with Christianity. Packaged with entertainment, this message usually bypasses rational resistance, desensitizes opened minds, and fuels general acceptance of pagan spirituality (Berit Kjos, "The Spirit Behind The Lion King," 1/95, The Christian Conscience, pp. 32-34).
- Most true Christians would recognize fantasy, such as the movie Star Wars, as being extremely wicked (in this case, sorcery -- "The Force" being equivalent to black magic and white witchcraft). Yet, apparently, when we call it "Christian," this somehow sanctifies what we do with our minds (imaginations), or what we allow our minds to entertain. For example, one can look in any issue of the Christian Book Distributors Fiction Catalog and find the most outrageous fantasy literature, yet it is all dubbed "Christian." The following is taken from the CBD Fiction Catalog, 9/94 premier edition:
" ... now there's no more compromising for those who love Christian fiction, because you are holding the key to your next escape-from-it-all right in the palm of your hand ... CBD's brand new Fiction Catalog? It's filled with the latest and the best refreshing, thrilling, inspiring, wholesome fiction for you and your family" (p. 2).
Wholesome? The following is a sample of that which CBD considers "wholesome." [Much of this type of writing comes from medieval mysticism, which God hates (cf. Deut. 18: 10-12).]:
(a) Millennium's Dawn, by Ed Stewart (p. 25):
"June 2001. The future never seemed brighter for Dr. Evan Rider and his new bride, Shelby, as they prepare to embark on the honeymoon of their dreams. But the dream quickly becomes a nightmare as a long-buried secret shared by three college friends erupts, engulfing the couple in a sinister plot of blackmail, terror, and betrayal."
(b) Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis (p. 34):
"The unlovely Orual, eldest daughter of the King of Glome, becomes so consumed by her mingled love and jealousy of her beautiful half-sister that she makes a complaint to the gods -- and receives an answer she did not expect. This novel, possibly Lewis' best work and the one he considered his own favorite, is his compelling rework of the myth of Cupid and Psyche." [Sound like something you could want your children to read -- about "the gods"?]
(c) The Song of Albion, by Stephen Lawhead (p. 33):
"Wolves prowl the streets of Oxford. A Green Man haunts the Highlands. A breach has been opened between our world and the Celtic Otherworld and anything, anyone, may now enter [sounds similar to Poltergeist, one of the most wicked movies ever produced]. But it's Lewis Gillies, an American graduate student at Oxford, who reluctantly stumbles through. In the savagely beautiful Otherworld, Lewis finds himself caught in an epic struggle between light and darkness -- a struggle that will determine the fate of his own world. Memorably penned with vivid and poetic imagery, Lawhead's breathtaking reworking of Celtic myth will keep you reading long into the night" [no doubt, and right into the DARKNESS! -- the Celtic civilization is the culture from which we have received much of our modern day Halloween practices.]
- "Well," someone might say, "I'm not doing anything wicked, I'm just reading about wickedness." But does this align with godliness? There are four things about fantasy which must be considered:
I. It is Anti-Truth.
II. It Slips Into Reality.
III. It Does Not Fit True Godliness.
IV. A Love for God Will Oppose It.
I. Fantasy Is Anti-Truth
Isaiah 32:6 describes error against the Lord. All lies are against God (1 John 2:21; John 8:44). Satan is the father of lies. Since fantasy is not true, then it is a lie! We have been duped into thinking there is some spiritual gray realm out there in which something can be neither true nor a lie. It's just called fantasy! But fantasy is made up of lies, deceit, and unreality, all wrapped up in a pretty (or sometimes, not so pretty) package.
How about the popular 1994 Disney occult/New Age "children's animation" film, The Lion King, which some consider wholesome "fantasy." One observer wrote this about The Lion King:
"The Lion King packs a powerful New Age symbolism and philosophy. Its theme, the 'Circle of Life' is a variation on the cycles of nature: life, death and rebirth, particularly as it relates to the theory of evolution. The film presents this theme from the perspective of the nature religion, more so than Disney films of the past -- 'We are all connected in the great circle of life.' The accoutrements of shamanistic ritualism is graphically portrayed in the dedication of the baby Simba to the spirits of the earth" (Media Spotlight, Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 3).
Yet, we have others who claim the name of Christ, like James Dobson's Focus on the Family, who would like to encourage you to go and see this film that is filled with abominable contents. (See the 8/15/94 Parental Guidance magazine, which is published by Focus on the Family.) FOTF claims that The Lion King has only a few slight imperfections, otherwise it is "a wholesome, brilliantly animated picture relating the importance of family and responsibility."
A "few slight imperfections"? How about the character Rafiki speaking of the eternal state of life and his connectedness with it when Simba, as an adult lion, asks the question, "You knew my father." Rafiki's answer: "Correction! I know your father." Recalling that his father had once told him that the stars are former kings who look down on the earth and guide its inhabitants, Simba looks up at the stars and cries out to his father, "You said you'd always be with me, but you aren't." Shortly thereafter his father appears to him [spiritism; cf. Deut. 18:10ff] in a cloud and reminds him of his responsibility to assume his rightful place in the circle of life. -- "Look inside yourself, Simba," he says. "You are more than what you have become."
Besides the spiritism in the film, ask yourself a question -- "Do animals talk?" Just on this fantasy alone (animals talking) it is a lie.
II. Fantasy Subtly Slips Into Reality.
It becomes very difficult to separate fantasy from reality, especially in the minds of children. There was an interesting article in The Newhall Signal (newspaper) in light of this. Noting one of the teachings of the popular fantasy games, "Death is usually seen as a temporary state with characters returning 'from beyond' to play again" (7/22/87, The Newhall Signal, "Fantasy Games Linked to Real Deaths," p. 16).
Notice a few more books in the CBD Catalog:
(a) A Skeleton in God's Closet, by Paul L. Maier (p. 25):
"Move over, Indiana Jones! In this novel, Harvard archaeologist Dr. John Weber has just discovered a shocking secret -- Jesus' bones. The evidence [an obvious denial of the resurrection] seems incontestable. When word of the discovery leaks out, pandemonium ensues and millions abandon their Christian faith. But which is the hoax -- the archaeological find or the Resurrection itself?" [How can this be edifying?]
(b) The Guardian, by Jane Hamilton (p. 25):
"A new frontier for Christian fiction! Tabris [a guardian angel] has been given a second chance. As a guardian angel, he was found guilty of committing the one unforgivable act against his human charge and against God. Yet God, with mercy and grace, has forgiven Tabris and given him one more assignment -- one more human being to protect. Why? Find out in this celestial parable that will illuminate the indefinable love God has for his creation -- you, me, even angels. " (Emphasis added.) [See the jump from fantasy to reality -- cf. Heb. 2:16 -- any angel who has ever sinned is a demon. Sinning angels are never forgiven, but doomed eternally!]
(c) Darien: The Guardian Angel of Jesus, by Roger Elwood (p. 22):
"The ultimate adventure with an unforgettable guardian angel! Of all the guardian angels in heaven, God chose only one to protect Christ during His time on earth. He chose Darien. (That's the Darien who questioned God's decision to throw Lucifer from heaven and was sent to earth to witness Lucifer's destruction of the world in the novel Angel Walk.) You can imagine that Darien has quite a tale to tell, protecting God's own son -- and he tells it with poignancy and originality. Through this angel's eyes, you'll go on a fascinating and even disturbing journey from the time of Lucifer's rebellion, to creation, to the miracles of Jesus' birth and life. If the stories of Christ's life have become just matter-of-fact Sunday school lessons to you, then here's the breath of fresh air you need!" [Notice the move from fantasy into reality? How are lies, deceit, and fantasy going to freshen one's love for the Word of God?]
This move from fantasy to reality, by definition, affects one's view of reality. Remember when Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out? People believed it! Fantasy gets people to fantasize about reality. It is a slippery slide into lies unknowingly.
III. Fantasy Does Not Fit True Godliness
What is godliness (1 Tim. 6:3; Prov. 3:5-6; 28:14)? Romans 1:18 teaches that God's wrath is against "ungodliness." And as shown above, fantasy is ungodliness. Diving into fantasy, which, by its very nature is against the Truth, is a denial of God, what He says, and the Truth of His Word. How can a lie be used for evangelism, worship, or anything else godly? By its very nature, fantasy removes the person from the Truth (reality) and moves them into a realm away from God. This ungodliness is well depicted in the CBD Fiction Catalog, where it says on page 2:
"It's been said that reading fiction is one of the best ways to 'escape' from the cares of everyday life. Since the beginning of time, great thinkers and writers (even Jesus himself) have been inspired to create allegories, parables and epics, as well as the good, old-fashioned novel itself. What a tragedy to think we have to settle for fiction that merely grabs our attention, but lacks the values and spiritual insight we could carry with us when we return to the 'real world.'" [Again, the move from fantasy to reality.]
Is this what the Lord wants us to do -- "escape" from reality? No! Fantasy is an attack on the very core of one's being as a follower of Christ! And what about the claim that Jesus' parables and the allegories in Scripture, or figurative speech, are parallel to the use of fantasy? No! The Bible's parables, allegories, and figurative speech are not about fantasy at all. They are all about Truth!
IV. A Love For God Will Oppose Fantasy
God would not have His children take refuge in unreality. A love for God is equal to a love for the Truth (John 14:6). Matthew 22:34-40 teaches to love the Lord with all your mind (imagination). What does the Lord say in Ephesians 4:25? -- Speak the Truth to one another! Do we ever stop speaking the truth and speak fantasy to one another, or write fantasy to one another? Is this how God would have us live? Notice Ephesians 4:29. What's the goal? Build each other up in the TRUTH! (not in fantasy). If a Christian is loving the Lord with all his MIND (imagination), he will be dwelling on truth, reality, His Word, and Him, NOT FAIRY TALES AND FANTASY!
Fantasy typically is filled with evil. What should be the Christian's perspective of evil (Rom. 16:19)? If we love the Lord with all our MINDS, then we will not only avoid taking any pleasure in fantasy, but we will hate it. Because fantasy is anti-reality, it is against godliness, it opens the door to deceit, and is an affront to the very core of your being as a Christian. And what is that? -- Taking refuge in God, not escaping reality (Psalm 73:25-28).
- In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ("For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths"), the Greek word translated myths means tales, stories, or fables (untrue stories). So what about Pilgrim's Progress and other so-called Christian stories like it?
Pilgrim's Progress (by John Bunyan) is claimed by many to be a good illustration of the truth -- the truth of a Christian's pilgrimage in this life. Some would say, "The Bible uses (a) parables, (b) allegories, (c) figurative language, symbolism, etc., and (d) dreams and visions, so what's wrong with Pilgrim's Progress doing the same? A few examples follow:
(a) Parables are not fables.
Matt. 12: 33-35 (using a real idea, expressing another real idea)
Matt. 13:3-9/18-23 (real/real)
Matt. 13:24-30/13:37-43 (real/real)
Matt. 13:31-32 (real/real)
Matt. 13:33 (real/real)
Matt. 13:44 (real/real)
Matt. 13:45-46 (real/real - He does not fly out of the realm of reality)
Matt. 13:47-50 (real/real)
(b) Allegory is symbolic, not mythical -- Gal. 4:22-31 (real/real)
(c) Figurative is not mythical -- John 6:53-63 -- Jesus does not fly out of the realm of reality. In fact, He uses such explicitly (real) language that people are having a hard time understanding Him. Yet, He explains that He is speaking in a figurative way (John 6:63).
(d) Dreams and Visions are not untrue stories -- Daniel 7:1ff; 8:17 refers to truth; 8:26 ("is true"); 9:21 (writing of Truth). These are not untrue stories (fables). Ezekiel 1 &10 -- these are real creatures!
So what about Pilgrim's Progress? There are serious problems in what that book teaches. For example, Christian leaves his armor behind and eventually his sword for the rest of his journey. This does not at all square with Ephesians 6.
Of course, someone would say, "It just a story." Exactly. It is a story that is supposed to illustrate truth, and when it fails to do this, it falls short and becomes an untrue story (fable), which is not doing a good job (at times) in illustrating truth. No doubt, there are many aspects about the story that are interesting and thought-provoking, but that does not excuse the twisting of truth into a lie. Here are some more problems:
(a) Is it a myth? Yes. "But, it is a 'Christian' myth!" Is this supposed to make it okay? No, it makes it worse! That's what Paul was talking about in 2 Tim. 4:4? Pagan myths? No -- "Christian" myths! That's why it is so dangerous.
(b) Another possible danger with Pilgrim's Progress is that the Christian life could be seen through the eyes of the story rather than solely through the Word of God. Romans says to transform our minds (12:1). Only the Word of God can do that, not "Christian" fantasy. A Christian's affection should be upon God's Word and His truth, not the fables of men. This type of Christian fable can pull our affections away from the Word.
(c) Has the Word of God become so dull, dry, drab, or undesirable to us that we would even think we would need such a book as Pilgrim's Progress to spur us on in the faith?
- A few more Scriptures indicate our concern with "Christian" fantasy:
(a) 2 Peter 1:16 -- We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
(b) Titus 1:14 -- and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.
(c) 1 Timothy 1:4 -- nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work -- which is by faith.
(d) 1 Timothy 4:7 -- Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
- Considering the present distress (2 Tim. 3:1), how can fantasy, no matter how supposedly good it may be, be found profitable? We need to concentrate on reality -- the truth of the Word of God -- and leave the fantasizing to those who are perishing (especially in light of the prevailing ignorance of the Word). And, especially when Paul describes the "against the true church" as those who will "be turned aside to fables," we ought to hold fast to the truth -- the Word of God (1 Thess. 5:21).
An Example from a "Christian" College
A recent FrontLine magazine (Vol. 6, No. 4) with a cover theme, "The Christian and the Arts," carried a lead article titled "The God of All Beauty." The article is very disturbing because it lists so many Scripture references [out of context/misapplied], but the author's rationalizations fail to give due consideration to Pauline Epistle truths for this Church Age and the warnings about this world/age. Two other articles in this FrontLine issue are by Donna Lynn Hess of Bob Jones University (BJU), one on fantasy and the other on selecting reading material for children.
The first article refers favorably to C.S. Lewis, a devotee and author of occult fantasy with unbiblical metaphors; yet Hess claims that this kind of fantasy is useful in helping children "develop valuable literary skills" and in developing an understanding of "similar literary elements used in Scripture." In the second article by Hess, she states: "As Christian parents, we recognize the need for choosing books in which the theme is morally sound. But it is just as important to be sure that this theme is artfully expressed"; she also says that it's okay to expose children to stories with themes "antithetical to Christian beliefs" in order to "help inoculate them against the false ideas, attitudes and behaviors these writers promote."
BJU's ShowForth video division ("The video source you can trust.") also markets three video productions of C.S. Lewis' fiction, and a documentary biography of Lewis himself. ShowForth's catalog layout (p. 7), under "Inspirational," lists C.S. Lewis as one of the "Warriors of the Word" along with C.H. Spurgeon. Considering Lewis' many theological errors, it is dangerously deceptive to place him in such august company. A pastor knowledgeable in the unbiblical teachings of Lewis wrote to BJU documenting Lewis's errors. BJU responded with an involved, articulate, but off-the-mark defense for using "fantasy" as a teaching tool.
In the articles in FrontLine, as well in articles sent out by ShowForth, Hess gives an unusually broad description to the term "fantasy," and does not give adequate consideration to the whole counsel of God. "Fantasy" should not be used, as BJU does, to describe the figures of speech and literary techniques found in God's Word. More serious study ought be made of the nature of God, the condemnation of all forms of spiritism throughout Scripture, the recurring theme of sober/sound mind (especially in the New Testament), and the disassociation in the Epistles with "fables" (myths) in presenting God's message.
In these times we live in, we believe pastors and parents must exercise extreme caution regarding the literary use of fantasy. But caution is apparently not in BJU's vocabulary concerning this matter. BJU Press has published Medallion, a popular fantasy reader for elementary age home-schoolers. There are strange similarities between Medallion and two explicitly pagan books -- one a sixth-grade reader for public schools called The Dark is Rising, and a Wiccan manual by Starhawk called The Spiral Dance. In response to a review of Medallion by Berit Kjos, BJU trivializes the similarities, and states, "It appears that what this critique requires of Medallion rules out all fantasy for the Christian. We hold that no story can mix fantasy with the supernatural facts of Scripture without dangerously trivializing Biblical truth by associating scriptural realities with a dream world." [Couldn't have stated the truth more clearly if we had tried!] Contrary to the scholarly opinion of BJU's Literature and Language departments, "Christian" fantasy parallels the occultic literature for children, using similar images, story-lines, symbols, and characters. Literary fantasy, rather than being neutral, has occultic roots. (This paragraph was excerpted and/or adapted from the 10/96, The Christian Conscience, "Pagan Story for Christian Children," pp. 40-42; see page 41 for a detailed comparison of Medallion and The Dark is Rising.)