Observations on Fantasy Literature


Harry PotterThis post is not a reflection on the Bible, but I thought that I would share some thoughts about fantasy literature.

I had a cold / flu over the weekend, so spent a lot of time on the couch with the TV remote in my hand. Normally I prefer reading but I lacked sufficient brain function so opted for TV. Besides sports, a Harry Potter movie marathon caught my attention.

I realize that in the Christian community, Harry Potter can be a divisive topic. I have read the books and watched most of the extant movies to see what all of the fuss was about. The intent of this post is not to debate the merits and demerits of the Harry Potter books and movies, it is to make some observations about fantasy literature in general.

The first observation is that there is always a conflict between good and evil. The evil may be personified as we see in the White Witch, Lord Foul, Sauron or Lord Voldemort. Or, the evil may be impersonal such as we see in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. But in each case there is a desired good outcome endangered by the potential of a bad outcome.

The second observation is that in each of the fantasy series I have read, there is someone or something in the background arranging events toward a good outcome. Most of the time, this arranger is not personalized or overtly declared, but the reader has a sense of “it was meant to be.” For example, Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In other cases the arranger is declared as we seen in Lewis’ Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia.

The third observation is that good always wins even though the desired outcome was in jeopardy throughout the story. The hero or heroes are on the brink of disaster much of the way, but in the end the journey or conquest is accomplished and good wins out.

Many books in the fantasy literature genre have been sold, so there are others beside me to like to read stories where the good guys win. But how do you explain this from a naturalistic perspective? If naturalism is correct, why should good win in the end and why should I care? Why should Ghandi be preferred to Hitler if we are the products of time and chance?

Tim Keller, in his book The Reason for God, presents the idea that while we cannot provide tangible proof of the existence of God, we can demonstrate that there are many clues that point to his existence. It seems to me that the desire of humanity  for good to win out is one such clue. We seem to like the idea that good is “meant to be.”

Good is only “meant to be” if there is someone sufficiently wise enough to define that good and powerful enough to make it happen. I have found such a person in the God of the Bible.