Christ figures can be found all throughout literature. Why is this the case? Joe Carter, writing for The Gospel Coalition, claims that all of literature is “Christ-haunted.” Even in the stories we create, we mere sub-creators cannot write the one great Creator out of our lives. This is especially common in the genre of fantasy. The Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia all stand as clear examples.
Recently, while in class with the other Fellows, we spent some time discussing the ideas of order and chaos, specifically in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1 we are introduced to a world in which material already exists. We are told that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). According to John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, “In the ancient world the cosmic seas were populated with creatures that operated against the ordered system.” An example of one such monster exists in the Bible: Leviathan. Isaiah 27:1 gives us a description of the monster and foretells its fate:
In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
This sounds eerily similar to another monster in scripture: the red dragon in Revelation 13. This dragon is almost certainly Satan, the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve into disobedience. In Genesis, God promised that an ancestor of Eve would eventually destroy Satan (Genesis 3:15).
What does all of this have to do with fantasy literature? It seems that the idea of slaying dragons is a biblical one, and modern fantasy’s basis for such a motif comes from the Old English poem “Beowulf.” Beowulf is a Scandinavian warrior who comes to the land of King Hrothgar to help him dispose of a heinous monster Grendel. The poem recounts the story of how he defeats Grendel in hand-to-hand combat, slays Grendel’s mother, and later becomes King of the Geats. Oddly enough, his final act is to sacrifice himself to slay a dangerous dragon. The king sacrificed himself to defeat the serpent of chaos. Sound familiar?
Jon Bloom argues that we love great stories like The Lord of the Rings in stories “because in them we hear echoes of the Great Story, the story of God’s redemption of fallen humanity. The narrative arc that our hearts recognize as glorious is the narrative arc of the Bible.” Fantasy literature is wonderful. However, as we dream about knights slaying fire breathing dragons, we should consider the reality that those stories are pointing us to. The reality that a good God created order out of chaos. An evil being, Satan, brought disorder back into the world, but he does not get the last word. Our Father has sent a righteous King to fight on our behalf. The great battle did not happen in a dungeon or a cave but was fought and won at the cross. Our King sacrificed himself so that our lives would be put back in order, so that we would be in a right relationship with the Father.
My life got a little chaotic when I moved to Salt Lake City. I was thrown into a place I did not know, with people I did not know, to do a lot of stuff I was unsure about. But Christ brings order to my soul, he restores me every day with his mercy and grace. As I go to work, engage with the Fellows, and form relationships in a new place, I look forward to the day that my King deals the final blow to the dragon and this chaotic world is restored to order.
*Joe Carter, “Why Every Story and All of Literature is Christ-Haunted,” The Gospel Coalition (August 17, 2019), https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/every-story-literature-christ-haunted/.
*John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 65.
*Jon Bloom, “What Makes Any Story Great?” Desiring God (September 13, 2019), https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-makes-any-story-great.
Salt Lake Fellows Collaborative