By Arthur Kettelhut – Undergraduate Paper (Looking back at this paper in grad school, it is quite atrocious!).

One aspect of fantasy and the power of the imagination is the ability to activate our moral dreams. When we encounter fantasy literature that finds a basis in morality, we find stimulation in contemplating higher-minded issues affecting life. We find immersion in a world of absolutes that, as Baggett suggests: “We dream of better things and desire to grow.”[1]

            We also encounter realities that offer our minds to dwell in the extremes of imaginative environments. Ideal worlds lift our consciousness to the lofty possibility of what heaven on earth would look like. Conversely, we can compare hellish worlds, devoid of reason, and Kafkaesque plots the characters find themselves immersed. For the Christian, we can envision a reality in which God’s grace shines on all creation, and we live in communion with God as he intended. The author Martin Oren describes, “as paradise, the new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of what Eden was.”[2]

            These visions of juxtaposing realities can offer the modern reader the opportunity to contemplate reasonable objective moral standards. The imaginative can offer our collective moral education a crucial role in moral development.[3] Through stories, we best learn the correct response to situations. As Lewis believed, “the classical model of moral education – stressing the threefold process of instruction, role modeling, and habitual response” is a well-established methodology to moral education.[4] We learn by ingesting high tales of moral extremes before the conscious mind understands the underlying moral order. As Emily Dickinson offers in poetry, “There is no frigate like a book.”[5]

             Fantasy can also stimulate our imaginations to seek Christianity. In fantasy literature, we know other worlds could exist, more is possible, and what the world would look like when we reach for something truly inspirational. In all the fantastic realities we read, we come to seek the definitive source of what is sacred. God put in all our hearts the desire to commune with him even if we are only marginally aware.

            We need not be concerned with conflicting accounts of heroes, goodness, and truths we encounter in non-Christian sources. Indeed, “Tolkien argues such parallels are precisely what one would expect if Christianity were true.”[6] We can awaken the dormant spirit of our innate desire to seek truth, goodness, and beauty through fantastic encounters. By immersing ourselves in modern stories of morality, the magnificence of the Kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus relate to us in a more personal manner.

            The failed worlds created in stories and myths also teach us that humanity cannot create heaven on earth. Our stories are “woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is God.”[7] The details of fantasy are “precise and profound metaphors of the human condition.”[8]

            When we encounter victory and defeat in characters in modern stories, we can parallel their triumphs more emotively than before. It may be challenging for current readers of the Bible to relate to the first-century world. Still, by connecting viscerally through fantasy, we link to biblical stories in their defeats and triumphs. Still, ancient tales can aid our understanding as well. We must translate fantasy’s details into known realities and experiences.[9] This translation requires a greater interpretive act, thus assisting in our comprehension of their lessons.

              [1] David Baggett et al., eds., C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Second edition. (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University Press, 2017), 302

              [2] Martin, Oren R. Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 34. New Studies in Biblical Theology. England; Downers Grove, IL: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2015.

              [3] (Baggett et al. 2017), 303

              [4] Ibid

              [5] Ryken, Leland, and Glenda Faye Mathes. Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021.

              [6] (Baggett et al. 2017), 307

              [7] Ibid, 308

              [8] Ursula Le Guin, The Language of the Night (New York: Putnam, 1979), 57-58

              [9] Ryken, Leland, and Glenda Faye Mathes. Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021.