Christian Fiction Grows Up

The boom in religious lit has produced Christian novels with less saccharine, more sin--and more room to articulate the Gospel.


08/14/2007 01:30:30 AM

Unorginal, shallow, or "chirpy inspirationalism" are certainly not phrases that some to mind when I read, say, Crime and Punishment. In fact, it's fair to say that a huge percentage of the great works in English literature alone have been created by Christian writers, "DNA" notwithstanding.


09/03/2004 05:38:35 PM

My favorite Christian author is Terri Blackstock. Her characters struggle with realistic feelings while dealing with crises in their lives. I tend to read mysteries and suspense novels, both secular and Christian. Terri's plots are engaging and her characters are real.


08/31/2004 10:28:57 AM

I too recommend Susan Howatch, especially The Wonder Worker. Her work is not formulaic. Characters and situations are well-drawn, realistic, engaging with some suspense/mystery also. Try them. Another neglected author is Elizabeth Goudge, an English writer from the '50s and '60s. A contemporary of C.S.Lewis, her Christianity is mystical, yet practical at the same time. Best titles are The Dean's Watch and The Scent of Water. And her series about a difficult love triangle embedded in an English family before, during and after WWII is superb. The trilagy: The Bird in the Tree, Pilgram's Inn and The Heart of the Family. No pat answers, no Rapture, just complex people going through spiritual growth as they live their regular lives. And she never once uses the name of Jesus! Her depictions of England circa WWII are vivid and warm.If you liked The Shell Seekers, try Goudge.


08/27/2004 10:40:14 PM

This whirlwind of fantasy is being driven not out of a love for God, rather out of fear. As a race we cannot face what we have done to the earth and its creatures. Thus we must engage more fully in the fantasy we have created to not to have to face it. It won't work. The frenzy is on and one day it will explode in our faces, just as it would explode in the face of a man who was indoctrinated into the fantasy of Santal Clause and finally at age 70 come to the realization that that is all it avoid REALITY.


08/27/2004 09:50:13 PM

Christian writing will always be limited by the same things that limit Christian music and Christian art – lack of original thought, preference for chirpy inspirationalism over honesty and doubt, and the us-versus-the-world persecution complex that marks the Christian ghetto. These characteristics lie deep in the very DNA of Christianity and doom its adherents to creating nothing more than lesser, often laughable, works.


08/27/2004 04:52:43 PM

What's so hard about making Christian writing? Just splash the word JEEZUS liberally over the entire contents and the genre is forever defined.


08/25/2004 05:27:27 PM

s a former church ;ibrarian I can say that current Christian fiction is not what it could be . There is no new CS Lewis or John Bunyan . Writting today seems to have decended to the form of common lowest denominator which is not going to produce good fiction. I have looked at Perretti and LaHayes series and they leave me empty. Janette Oke is the Christian fiction writers answer to Harlequin romance. And they are all way too preachy. And some are scarey beyond anything I have read. OK so is the book of Revelation .


08/23/2004 12:22:59 PM

As an avid reader and a Christian, I have read a lot of books both secular and Christian. There are excellent authors out there and there are atrocious authors out there. If a story is a good story and also includes scripture and hints on successfully living a Christian life, I consider that a real bonus. However if it is a mediocre story, whether or not there is a Christian emphasis, it is still a mediocre story. I consider Lori Wick an excellent author because she not only tells a good story, she also gives excellent coverage of how living the Christian life in the real world is not only possible but believable.


08/23/2004 10:08:45 AM

I have not read the left behind series and doubt that I will....however I have read the Susan Howatch books (the miracle worker). Very London, UK centric but for me deep, powerfull and a fantastic read. I think it is a shame that she does not seem to be better known here (in US)


08/23/2004 07:06:10 AM

I 'm glad people are noticing, finally, that fiction can be Christian and not fit the tiny cubbyhole it used to be relegated to. I have long been inspired by the Christian message in the stories of Flannery O'Connor, Iris Murdoch, Anne Tyler, Tolkien and Cs Lewis just to name a few. I have long been offended by the idea that "Christian Fiction" is copmprised of romance novels and Bible history fantasies. And while I was somewhat insulted by the poorly-written, theologically microscopic "Left Behind" books, Jan Karon's novels are a welcome respite, a mental vacation, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. Thanks for a well written column and keep looking for the message of believers in more fiction. It's out there.


08/21/2004 11:23:28 PM

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08/21/2004 02:06:09 PM

Well, the Dark Ages, had someone keeping learning alive...Irish monks writing by candlelight, copying the Greek the name of God and Scholarship...Christianity has a great story to it--divinity suffering and the nobility of the scaffold...why not use those stories to create others...If you are a writer, you use what you got, eh?


08/20/2004 02:33:56 PM

And as for religion and comedy--don't get me started.


08/20/2004 02:32:56 PM

kaveh5-- You say, "religion rules out the possibility of real comedy or real tragedy": what about the religion of the Greeks, who, if they didn't invent tragedy, were pretty good at it? Another problem with your thesis is the number of tragic heroes in the Bible: Moses, who can never enter the promised land despite having led his people to its very edge. Jesus, who dies despite his innocence. They may be in the kingdom now, but wow, did they take a spill from a great height. Which is, of course, what tragedy means. There is an element of tragedy which requires a godhead--what else is the tragic hero's flaw but to take on godlike properties, make them jealous and then tumble?


08/20/2004 11:19:56 AM

I don't care for Christian fiction for the same reason I don't care for Christian rock--most of it isn't very good. Also, it is either too sappy, or too preachy, or both. I think that the Left Behind books, in particular, are a profane mockery of authentic Christianity, with their fire-and-brimstone theology. If evangelical pop culture is ever going to succeed in a big way, it is going to have to come up with an original, quality product, and stop ripping off mainstream culture.


08/19/2004 11:37:15 PM

(cont'd from below) Even C.S. Lewis--who some people here may be surprised to find out I actually like--had to hedge his own Christianity when he wrote "'Til We Have Faces" and make 'gods many' rather than a single god (or even a trinity) the ultimate arbiters of the story.


08/19/2004 11:31:37 PM

"For if you can't portray sin, how can you portray the saving power of the Gospel?" ..or, for that matter, if you can't portray sin, how can you portray REAL LIFE? All of this is beating around the bush of course: monotheistic religion is simply incompatible with good storytelling (no; the Bible is NOT a good collection of stories) because religion rules out the possibility of real comedy or real tragedy. Because there is always the constant and, indeed, literal possibility of deus ex machina in religion, it rules out the possibility of good storytelling in the sense of events leading up to an unforeseen but amusing, surprising or wisely bitter (ironic) conclusion.


08/19/2004 11:23:34 PM

"Last month's National Endowment for the Arts study ... showed that the only category of books whose sales have increased over the past year are religious books..." Sort of like the beginning of the Dark Ages, eh?