I’ve been asked to write about Christian fiction for the Realm Makers Conference blog hop. For this post, I’ve chosen to write about something every one of us asks: what makes Christian fiction?
About a year ago, I downloaded a story from a Christian publishing house. This is not just a publishing house that is run by Christians, but its fiction has been very definitely Christian. Any reasonable reader would come to this conclusion. The story was set in a world that I have read and enjoyed. The author is an active Christian and his other books I have read have been evangelical without being preachy (not that I mind preachy, just trying to describe the works).
I was excited to see this new work. I read it eagerly, then I sat back and thought, “Wait a minute. What makes this story Christian?” None of the main characters were people of open faith (there’s one I’m curious about). I think some monks were mentioned almost in passing. I don’t think a deity was even mentioned, certainly not as important to the story. None of the characters had questions about God that were addressed either explicitly or implicitly. Most importantly, I had not learned anything about God in my reading of it.
So I asked the same question about my own works. What makes the Shylocke Averyson stories Christian? He doesn’t come to salvation in “Sunset over Gunther.” In fact, he goes from indifferent to God to hatred of Him in the course of the story. But in the process, he has come to understand some very important things about God. The only Child of the Son character on the page is a young boy who has less than 5 lines. He doesn’t mention faith, he’s just happy that Shylocke hasn’t killed him.
But the stories are Christian. At the end of the story, Shylocke has moved in his feelings toward the God of Aviterr. He has provided a negative example for the reader. The reader sees how Shylocke’s attempts to be the hero have resulted in his failures. He has tried to be strong in himself and failed. And the story sets him up for further episodes with additional explicit Christian characters that will try to bring him further in.
The same can be said of “The Strong Survive.” Granish is not saved at the end, but he has seen that his worldview is seriously lacking in some very important aspects. He has seen that the Children of the Son do not have these lacks, but he isn’t convinced they are the completely right either. But he has heard the gospel and is better for his time with the Children.
Stories like CS Lewis’ Til We Have Faces might have similar critics of what I have said about the first book. The Queen is vengeful and selfish for almost the entire story. The gods are those of myth (with a caveat that a greater one is coming). But the Queen learns in the end. She sees that her actions were misguided and selfish.
In the end, I decided that the only criteria I could apply that fit all works was subjective. For a work to be Christian fiction and not just fiction written by a Christian, it must be different. You have to ask “If this book were written by a non-Christian, how would it be different?” The answer should be “in significant ways no matter how much text is different.” If that is so, the work is Christian fiction.
What are your thoughts about what makes a book Christian?
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