This weekend, I had the pleasure of joining a panel of authors live-chatting the subject of Christianity and Speculation. (Thanks to Thea van Diepen for making things happen!) We seemed to represent a fairly broad swath of religious perspectives. So it wasn’t too surprising to discover we all approached the subject from different angles.
On this blog, you will most often find me suggesting that Christian writers allow theology to be too restrictive. We avoid including ghosts, zombies, wizards, and good witches in our stories because they represent something that is not true. I personally think it’s dangerous to superimpose too much theology over fiction. So rather than measuring the moral or spiritual message of a tale, we get caught up in things like counting cusswords and whether vampires are legit archetypes. Which misses the point of storytelling.
Oddly enough, in this weekend’s chat, I found myself defending the need for theological parameters in our writing. Things seemed to turn lively when I brought up the subject of heresy. The example I used was the movie What Dreams May Come, and how I felt the ending sequence — in which two characters are reincarnated as children to work out their bad karma — was a letdown. However, I was in the minority believing that using reincarnation as a fictional mechanism may cross the line.
This is a rather long video, but I encourage you to watch from about the 1:07:00 to 1:17:00 mark to get a feel for the discussion.
So is reincarnation a valid fictional mechanism for a Christian writer? Provided the story is moral or redemptive, what harm is there in employing reincarnation to reach this end?
As I said in the chat group, using reincarnation in a story is not equivalent to using anti-gravity or multiple moons. One has to do with spiritual, redemptive models; the other has to do with fictional worldbuilding. One has to do with Moral laws, the other with Material laws.
Reincarnation is not a biblical concept. The idea that through multiple incarnations one can undo bad karma and work their way to heaven is decidedly heretical. Karma is antithetical to grace and mercy — sometimes we get what we don’t deserve and don’t get what we do deserve — which are at the heart of the Gospel.
While I’d be reluctant to posture myself as an arbitrator of what a Christian writer can and cannot include in their fiction, it seems to me that using reincarnation as a fictional mechanism runs the danger of undermining the very worldview a Christian professes.
So, what do you think. Is there anything wrong with a Christian using reincarnation as a fictional mechanism?