I love the freedom allegory gives us as writers. If you can find a connection between a garbage can and human existence, you have the seeds of a great story - all thanks to this one little metaphor based tool.
However, there is a risk in using allegories in writing, especially if those allegories are supposedly Biblically based. This danger was introduced to me in the form of a question: "How can I make my allegorical representation of God unique from other's representations of Him?"
When I heard the word unique all I could think was, "You can't. God is God so He'll end up looking like God. Right?" But others responded with ideas that, while interesting, started to sound less and less like the God of the Bible, and more like some new being. In other words, in their zeal for uniqueness, they were accidentally creating a new god to replace the true God.
Now, I know for a fact that these writers didn't mean any harm. In fact, I'm sure they only wanted to glorify God and bring readers into Christian fiction through engaging stories. However, I saw a potential for disaster in the question.
A certain series that I love went down this path in its most recent books.
This author had a very believable allegorical representation of God and Christ in their work throughout the first series, but in their second series set in the same fictional world, they rewrote the allegory so that the Christ figure wasn't Christ anymore, but was more of a prophet that had a significant calling. I think they did this because they wanted to expand their story world and couldn't make the expansion believable without the change. Unfortunately, it left the feeling that the Christ figure from the first series was just another prophet, not anything extraordinary. And in doing so, they made it seem like they believed the real Jesus was just a prophet. Which, is a lie the devil has been trying to push for thousands of years.
Do you see the problem?
The thing is, God is God. He has been introduced to us faithfully through the Bible, His own word. Meaning, we already know what He is like and deciding that we can ignore those traits because they don't fit in our story world or because others have already used them in their stories, is a danger to the truth. After all, how far away from the source material can we get before the story we're writing starts to be about another person entirely?
If we're writing historical fiction based on true events and want our characters to come to life, this could be a good thing. We don’t have to worry as much about creating a truthful representation of the person. But when it comes to God, and leading others to a deeper understanding of Him, this could be devastating.
This post isn't to discourage anyone. In fact, it's just the opposite. I've seen writers give up on amazing ideas because they couldn't find a way to fit God into the actual story world they were creating. But the thing is, do our stories even need to directly reference God? Can't He be found in the moral or theme? Can't we create worlds where evil is obvious and therefore create worlds where good needs to exist? And in so doing show the world why God is so important? I think we can.
And more importantly, I think we need to focus on how much our readers, and all of the people in our lives, can see God in us, personally. If our characters learn it is wrong to steal, but our readers see us stealing, won't the morals of our stories be called into question no matter how the "God" we created for that story is represented? Our own behavior has far more influence on our testimony than any other factor and we should always keep that in mind as we move forward to create compelling stories.
With allegories, the writer's imagination is the only limit (and we have a lot of imagination). So, let's use this amazing tool for the glory of God to the best of our abilities and come up with great stories to share with the world.
What do you think about allegory? Do you use a lot of it in your own writing? What's the best Biblical allegory you've ever read? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments below!