Friday, May 25, 2007

Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic

The Wikipedia article on Biblical Speculative Fiction mentions two stages in its history (at least in the evangelical Protestant sphere): the early phase in which a salvation message is spotlighted, though it is technically not necessary to the plot proper, and a later, more miraculous, phase in which divine intervention is fundamental to the plot. (The example given for the latter is Frank Peretti's work.)

I would suggest a three-part scheme--Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic--not relating to the theological distinctives of those groups but to their style. Thus,

Baptist--emphasis on a formalistic, scripture-intensive presentation. God answers prayer, but he acts in ways that appear mostly coincidental. No miracles, thank you! The spiritual dimension mostly explains character motivation, so the story could technically be re-written as a moral, secular piece.

Pentecostal--more emphasis on the individual's experience of God, though doctrinal issues are still important. God answers prayer, even if it involves direct, miraculous intervention. Demonic forces are also more vividly portrayed. The spiritual dimension is crucial to the story.

Charismatic--less emphasis on the specific teaching of a specific denomination, more openness to other views, especially Catholic. Unity of the Body of Christ is often a theme. Again, the spiritual aspect is fundamental to the story.

As an example of this most recent phase, in the anthology Light at the Edge of Darkness, not only is one of the writers (Steve Doyle) Catholic, other writers, such as Adam and Andrea Graham and Stephen Rice (yeah, that's me), offer positive portrayals of Catholics that probably wouldn't have occurred in earlier Protestant fiction.

Another example is the increased cooperation across denominational lines in promotional efforts. Thus, Karina L. Fabian, one of the editors of the Catholic sci-fi anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God, has helped promote various Christian authors, especially through her chatroom interviews on FabChat. A quick Google of her anthology will show how many other groups have returned the favor. Would that have happened even ten years ago? I think not.

The question is, will this truly prove to be a new phase, or will we return to the more insular writing of the past? That question remains unanswered, but in Biblical Speculative Fiction, there is always hope--Light at the Edge of Darkness.

1 comment:

Fantasythyme said...

This is a good review of Light at the Edge of Darkness. You mentioned many of the collection highlights, and left a pretty detailed description.


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