Christian Fiction – For What Purpose?

I’m flitting from topic to topic this week.

Today I want to explore a statement I heard on the radio—one I wish I had verbatim. The essence is this: Two opposite positions lure the church—1) the pull to be absorbed by the culture and 2) the pull to separate from the culture. The first puts the church shoulder to shoulder with the rest of society but leaves us with nothing to say because we look exactly the same as everyone else. The second affords us a message because of our holy lives, but we know no one we can share the message with.

I think those ideas have relevance to individual believers and to Christian fiction as well.

One current writing trend in fiction published by Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) houses is to almost ignore Christianity and Christians and the matter of belief in Jesus Christ in favor of writing from a Christian worldview. The problem is, when you ignore Christianity, Christians, and Christ, the Christian worldview doesn’t look so different from the rest of society.

I can think of several books I’ve read—mystery, suspense, even fantasy—that would blend in nicely with stories not written from a Christian worldview. Might they find a readership? If they are written well enough, quite possibly. But to what end? That readers have one more thrilling story to read?

It disturbs me that Christian writers would have no higher purpose.

On the other hand, there is the separatist approach—the writing for the choir. Many writers point out that the choir needs admonishment and encouragement; therefore writing stories that only Christians will want to read has a definite place. It’s hard to argue with that point. “Making disciples,” as far as I understand, is more than introducing a person to Jesus Christ.

But if Christian fiction adopts an exclusive model—we write only for us—it seems to me we may default to a position of no impact since only those who believe as we do read our work.

What’s the alternative? As I see it, stories can be about Christ, about faith in Christ, even about Christians and Christianity, and still be interesting and universal and timeless. Christians might read these kinds of stories first, but they would have no hesitation giving the books to their non-Christian friends.

Broken Angel by Sigmund Brouwer is almost that kind of book. I say “almost” because I think it is interesting and relevant, but in raising questions about the Church, the book may reinforce negative views in the mind of a non-Christian rather than pique his interest in spiritual things.

As far as I’m concerned, fantasy, by using types and symbols and allegory, does it best. But you probably knew I was going to say that. 😀

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