I’ve been writing on the Biblical Boundary Problem that Christian Speculative Fiction has developed since many of us tossed out the unrealistic standards associated with CBA/ECLA publishing houses.
In doing so, I identified two groups of authors by the fact that they either emphasize the Christian or speculation parts of the Christian speculative fiction equation. Those who veer more toward the speculation end of things, we dubbed Prima Speculative; those who felt more that speculation must bow to doctrine we dubbed Prima Scriptura.
Some folks supposed that I was suggesting that these two schools were a mutually exclusive, but I think of them more as two ends of a spectrum rather than two camps. To clear matters up a bit, I wanted to look at the the eight categories that authors of Christian speculative fiction generally fall into. Each differs not only by whether they concentrate on the speculative or Christian aspects of Christian speculative fiction, but also by what moral standards they hold their writing to and by their level of dedication to excellence.
- Ad evangelium – Of those who hold to a Prima Scriptura philosophy, this group is the most dedicated. The core of Scripture is the Gospel and they believe that their writing should focus on explicitly preaching the Gospel. The weaknesses of this camp is that the majority tend to hold to CBA/ECLA standards as Scriptural, and the adoption of these standards limits their audience primarily to other Christians rather than the world who needs the Gospel. Much of this category’s works are also guilty of poor craftsmanship, such as sermon-in-a-blanket novels, This category also produces modern-day parables to preach the Gospel. Examples of Christian speculative fiction in this category include Joshua by Joseph Girzone, Eli by Bill Myers, the Oath by Frank Peretti, and A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker.
- Ad apologium – Closely related to Ad evangelium, but less focused on the Gospel itself rather than answering questions that serve as stumbling blocks to hearing the Gospel, As one might guess from the name, Ad apologium consists largely of apologetics fiction. In my experience, less apologetics fiction authors tend to hold to CBA/ECLA standards than Ad evangelium, but this is actually ok since apologetics are meant not only to remove objections to the faith but to strengthen the faith of believers. Likewise, more apologetics authors seems more invested in improving their craft, but sometimes apologetical exchanges in these books, which most often take the form of dialogue, seem wooden and formal and less natural to the characters involved. Apologetics fiction authors can also be guilt of utilizing flat characters that are merely caricatures of their opponents, things they would immediately recognize as straw men if they were debating. Apologetics fiction authors seem particularly taken with speculative fiction, and those who are dedicated to both crafting great stories in addition to answering Biblical arguments are well worth reading. Examples of Christian speculative fiction in this category include authors C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and his Space Trilogy, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker in general, Julie Cave, Tim Chaffey & Joe Westbrook, and Keith A. Robinson, to name a few.
- Ad apocalyptica – More of a subset of Ad apologia. This category focuses solely on expounding upon End-times prophecy or an apocalyptic future consistent with the Bible’s revelation. Examples of this category include the Left Behind series (Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins), the Christ Clone trilogy (James BeauSeigneur), The Last Christian by David Gregory, Sean T. Smith’s grittier Wrath series.
- Ad ecclesia – Basically inspirational fiction written for Christians. Most of these works adhere to CBA/ECLA standards. Includes much Christian spiritual warfare and speculative Biblical history novels. There tends to be a lot Scripture tossed into the mix in these novels. Examples of this category include The Pilgrim’s Progress, Matthew Christian Harding’s Peleg Chronicles trilogy, JC Lamont’s Chronicles of Time series, and K. G. Powderly’s Windows of Heaven series.
- Ad mythos – Exploring Christian themes and archetypes through mythopoeia. Examples would include CS Lewis’ Narnia series, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Robert Mullins’ Well of the Worlds series.
- Ad innoxios – This is where the pendulum begins to swing into Prima speculativa. These novels seek to be Christian only in the sense that they contain little or no objectionable material. They are basically safe alternatives to secular fare without anything that would label them specifically Christian, except perhaps a Christian worldview. Examples of Christian speculative fiction in this genre include historical time-slip novels, but because the point of these novels is to be inoffensive, much of speci-fic is automatically of-limits. For example, were it not for the abundance of quoted Scripture in his Peleg Chronicles, Matthew Christian Harding’s books would fall into this category, precisely because he set out to write novels that were free of humanism, evolution and magic.
- Ad authentica – This Christian fiction may be overtly Christian or otherwise, but its defining focus is on authenticity. In other words, it stands at direct odds against Ad innoxios. A lot of edgy Christian fiction fits into this category.
- Ad artem – Tends to be nearly indistinguishable from secular fare. This is the quintessential “Christian who happens to write” category.