Friday, June 7, 2013

Thoughts on Christian Horror: Five Ways to Use Fear

Is there such a thing as Christian horror? Can Christians write horror stories, or is horror always a bad thing? In this series, I am exploring those questions.

The horror genre is meant to inspire fear. Fear of hideous creatures on the hunt. Fear of supernatural attackers. Fear of the serial killer who might live next door. Can inspiring fear ever be a good thing?

Horror tends to focus on using fear to thrill readers, allowing them to feel the excitement of dark and twisted things without actually experiencing them. Many horror authors and filmmakers like to exploit this to its fullest, often managing to find new devious ways to entertain horror fans.

The horror genre can easily veer into excess, with graphic violence and sadistic ideas which promote empty sickening thrills and dark worldviews. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Christian authors can also use horror to promote good kinds of fear.

You might be wondering: How can fear be good? I’ve thought of five ways that using fear in stories can be good.

#1 Fear of the Lord

For Christians, the fear of the Lord is more a reverent fear than terror, but it is fear none-the-less. For unbelievers, especially those who commit the worst sins imaginable, the wrath of God and His punishment of such sinners will be a fearsome thing with nothing to temper it. Think of God bringing the plagues upon Egypt and finally drowning the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites in the Red Sea. Christian horror can teach people the fear of the Lord by showing aspects of His holiness, power, love, and judgment.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. -- Psalm 111:10a

#2 Fear of the Wages of Sin

Sin is something to fear. If we are Christians, we do not have to fear sin damning our souls to hell for all eternity, for Jesus has saved us. But for those who are unsaved, their sin will destroy them and drag them down to hellfire and brimstone. And for everyone, saved or unsaved, the world groans as the results of sin cause disease and crime and death. Christians who sin can bring down terrible harm upon themselves, even though their souls will ultimately be saved.

The all-too-real horror of families torn apart by alcoholism is but one of many sins to fear. Reminding people of the wages of sin is important, and since it offers many potential ideas for Christian horror authors, I will probably explore that topic in greater detail in the next article in this series.

The wages of sin is death. -- Romans 6:23a

#3 Fear of Hell

Hell is a troubling thought, even to the Christians who are saved from it. It is a place of eternal torment, where sinners suffer without end. The fear of hell and the judgment of God can help point the lost to salvation, while Christians can be reassured that they need not fear hell, since they are saved through the blood of Christ.

If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. -- Revelation 20:15

#4 Fear of Dark Forces

Many people struggle with anxiety in their daily lives. Murderers, monsters, demons, sharks, hurricanes, diseases, and many other scary things can be effective tools to encourage people to trust in God instead of being afraid, by showing people overcoming these dangers with God's help.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. -- Psalm 23:4a

#5 Fear of Foolishness

Just as seeing someone get burned will likely teach a child not to touch a fire, seeing someone reap the dark consequences of foolish behavior is a good way to warn people away from such behavior. Foolishness leads people to do many destructive things in real life, and horror can help remind them to be wise and therefore safer. Proverbs, in the Bible, warns of many horrific things that happen to those who live foolishly.

The simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. -- Proverbs 1:32

When Jesus spoke in parables, many of them could be considered horror stories, since He used fear to warn the listeners away from various evils. His stories often involved a sinner being sent to hell or executed for evil deeds.

Jesus was not doing this to thrill the listeners. He was telling them these things out of love, encouraging them to turn away from the darkness that would devour them and look to the light that would save them.

And that is what horror should do: Use fear to warn people about the dark things of the world, and remind them to look to the light. Jesus is mighty beyond our comprehension, and He can overcome sin, hell, dark forces, and foolishness, if we will repent and look to Him. Do you agree?

Can you think of other ways that fear can be used for good?

The next article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: The Wages of Sin

The previous article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: Living in a Nightmare


  1. Well, as you know, Jonathan, I do not like reading horror, not because I think it cannot be useful, but because it is neither beneficial, nor useful for me. That said, I think you did a wonderful job pointing out how Christians can use horror to achieve an end. :)

  2. This is a very good article, Jonathan. I've often heard people say that horror is wrong for Christians because Christians should not be afraid, but the Bible does teach that there are some things we /should/ be afraid of. It's just that Jesus can save us. So it seems Christian horror can point past the fear to salvation. :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  3. A good post Mr. Jonathan!

    Another thing to think about is that horror teaches us to overcome fear. Really it is like any other fiction: there is a problem for the good guys to overcome. In horror fiction the problem is a horror (though I suppose there are horror stories where the bad guys are the victims of the horror).

    So most stories are horror stories to the some extent; Pilgrim's Progress, The Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, etcetera.
    Horrors are real. The Bible is a book of history which often speaks of horrors, and does not skip them.

    For those who say we should not fear, I say, we should not fear in the face of horror, so that is no reason to avoid horror stories.

    For those who will say horror is useless, I ask, why do we include anything bad in our stories? There is a correct response to everything, and the response is excersized by fiction. Dark things, even more than nice things, strengthen us.

    Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
    Ecclesiastes 7:3

    1. Thank you, Patrick!

      I agree about horror teaching us to overcome fear.

      “For those who will say horror is useless, I ask, why do we include anything bad in our stories?”


  4. Good article, Jonathan!
    And creepy picture of the skull. o.O