Christian Fiction—Art or Tract?—Part 3


Gina Dalfonzo, contributor at The Point, a blog connected to Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint and Prison Fellowship Ministry, left this comment to Christian Fiction—Art or Tract?—Part 1:

Actually, if you read Lewis’s account about the writing of the Narnia books, it seems pretty close to approach “A.” Which doesn’t necessarily mean that he was trying to do away with the message, but that perhaps he was thinking about the message in a very different way than Christian fiction writers do today.

The “A” to which she refers comes from this part of the post:

“The art crowd” has decided that to avoid preaching and propaganda, Christian authors should just do away with the message all together. Let’s just “do” fiction, good, artistic fiction, and somehow a) our worldview will seep into the story; or b) the beauty of our work will reflect God’s beauty.

In response to Gina, I’d say that Lewis undoubtedly thought about the message of his fiction differently than authors who came after him. But I also think he understood “Christian worldview” as something different from many writers today.

It seems, from what I’ve read, that a number of bloggers/authors say, in essence, I’m a Christian, therefore my view of the world is Christian. I can, in turn, write a story of my choosing, and my view of the world will show itself. Therefore my story is written with a Christian worldview.

I don’t think Lewis would ever ascribe to anything close to that position. He was one of the great minds of the Twentieth Century, a philosopher, theologian, and poet. His fiction is an outgrowth of what he believed, no doubt. And he was very purposeful in formulating his belief system.

But he was also very purposeful in his fiction. Nothing was “a happy accident” in his writing. I’ve been mesmerized by how many of the themes in his fiction crop up as belief tenets in his non-fiction. Then I came across these words from Surprised by Joy, his autobiographical account of his coming to faith in Christ:

[Speaking of a heroic poem he started as a boy] Up to then, if my lines rhymed and scanned and got on with the story, I asked no more. Now, at the beginning of the fourth [book], I began to try to convey some of the intense excitement I was feeling, to look for expressions which would not merely state but suggest … I had learned what writing means.

Here is the “underlying” element I mentioned in Part 2 of this short series of blog posts. It is the act of “suggesting” rather than the “stating.” But how can you suggest that which you have not yourself laid hold of? And by “lay hold of” I mean passionately own.

This is not the repetition of a sound bite played over the airwaves. This is belief that comes from study, from letting the truth of Scripture invade my life to the point that it first changes me—my goals, my character, my reactions.

When I passionately own a particular truth element, then of course I will write about it because it is as much a part of me as where I grew up or who my parents were. These are things that I can’t change, that affected me to my core, and are apart of me without my trying to make it so.

That being said, it’s important to also understand, those “who I am” elements can and should grow. Too often in the past, Christian fiction began and ended with the truth element, You must be born again. Of course that is true, but being a Christian is about life in Christ, not just birth.

Consequently, true Christian worldview fiction will, in my opinion, have a strong truth message—an outgrowth of the author’s own spiritual walk—one woven into the story with suggestions rather than statements.

Not a tract, definitely. Possibly art.

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