Is Christmas a Fairy Story?


Over a century ago, the proud materialist-secularists of the day taunted the great Christian apologist, G. K. Chesterton, declaring to him that Christianity was built upon fairy stories. Chesterton's response was an even more proud, "Yes indeed!"

G.K. Chesterton

What sounds like blasphemy on Chesterton's part is actually common sense, for as he said in his Orthodoxy, "Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense" – a truth obscured to us because our minds have been captured by the materialist creed.

What is the materialist creed? Modern materialism denies that we have a soul and reduces us to a mere body. In doing so, it assumes that all our actions are determined by physical forces, and therefore denies that we have free will. It therefore declares to be unreal our everyday experience of freely choosing this or that action, and in doing so, removes the possibility of moral action. It reduces love and hate, courage and cowardice to chemistry, and makes of human adventure and human history predetermined paths marked out from the beginning by the laws of nature. And finally, based upon the notion that the universe is a great self-winding, law-driven machine, materialism declares that miracles are impossible and God does not exist.

Fairy stories don't allow such nonsense. They are built upon the everyday experience that we do, in fact, make free choices, and it is the common-sense recognition of the reality of free choice that shatters the entire materialist myth. Unlike the dread, dark materialist story, fairy stories assume the freedom on our part to take this road or that one, to kiss or not to kiss a frog, to uncork a genie's bottle or not, to search for the magic castle or abandon our quest in despair. In short, the fairy tale assumes that life can be an adventure, one that is determined in large part by how and what we choose, rather than predetermined by chemical reactions in our brain or DNA. Fairy stories, unlike materialism, allow for morality, and that's what makes them far greater bearers of truth.

Moreover, a fairy story allows for magic, for wonders that are beyond human reckoning, and happy endings that stretch beyond all notions of human happiness. At any time, at any place, some greater power wielded by some greater Being can burst into our adventure and make everything far more adventurous. Fairy stories, unlike materialism, allow for the miraculous, and that's what makes them far more accurate stories about reality.

Now we have discovered the weak link in the materialist's argument, one that is rooted in its secular desire to rid the world of religion. He has so constructed his view of the universe that in order to get rid of God he must destroy man. He removes God by declaring that the universe is a great machine governed, not by God, but by the iron laws of nature. These iron laws of nature both make God unnecessary and make the miraculous impossible. That is why the secular spirit loves these laws, even worships them as gods.

But these same laws, so cleverly designed to eliminate God and His miracles, also make the most ordinary free human action impossible and reduce human beings to chemically-determined automatons. For a hide-bound materialist, my decision to have wheat rather than white toast is every bit as miraculous as Jesus Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.

That is the weak link in his argument, because the materialist spell (much like the evil spell in fairy stories) is broken simply by the act of choosing.

That is the weak link in his argument, because the materialist spell (much like the evil spell in fairy stories) is broken simply by the act of choosing. If we can choose, and the alleged chains of the "laws of nature," then so can God. Both the moral and the miraculous can happen. If we can truly act, then so can God.

What, then, is to prevent God from bursting into our human adventure, at a very particular time, and a very particular place, and making everything far more adventurous? What prevents Him from quite unexpectedly introducing wonders beyond human reckoning, and happy endings that stretch beyond all notions of human happiness?

What makes the Gospels the greatest fairy stories ever told is that they both contain and surpass all the wonder, all the adventure of any fairy story ever imagined – and on top of all that, they actually happened. God did become man, the Creator did enter creation. The Great Dramatist burst into His own drama at a quite unexpected place and a quite unexpected time, turning everything upside down by viewing the heavens from His place in a manger.




Benjamin Wiker. "Is Christmas a Fairy Story?" tothesource (December 15, 2010).

This article reprinted with permission from tothesource.

Tothesource is a forum for integrating thinking and action within a moral framework that takes into account our contemporary situation. We will report the insights of cultural experts to the specific issues we face believing these sources will embolden people to greater faith and action.


Benjamin Wiker holds a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Vanderbilt University, and has taught at Marquette University, St. Mary's University (MN), Thomas Aquinas College (CA), and Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is the author of 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help, Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists, The Mystery of the Periodic Table, and co-author of Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature and Architects of the Culture of Death. He lives with his wife and seven children in Hopedale, OH.

Copyright © 2010 tothesource

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.