Posted by: Phil Anderson | February 3, 2013

The Oxymoron of Christian Fiction

I am a Christian. I don’t try to hide the fact, and I’m happy to talk about it. I do accounting work for a Christian publisher, so I have contact with people who publish Christian books. But I don’t generally write Christian fiction, and here’s why.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, being a fiction writer is a lot like being God. I have sovereign control over the settings, characters, and events that I create and write about. And in Christian fiction, characters acknowledge the existence of and demonstrate faith in God. But what God?

Let’s say there’s a character who’s a farmer, and he prays for rain for his crops. In the next chapter it rains, and he offers thanks to God for the rain. Who made it rain? It wasn’t really God, it was the author.

Inevitably in Christian fiction, there is a character who places their faith in God for salvation. But who are they praying to? Not the author/god this time; he hasn’t sent his son to die for the sins of his characters. But the real God didn’t send Jesus Christ to die for fictional people either. The closer we look the more obvious it becomes that in any piece of Christian fiction, God has become another character in the story, whether overt or not. The author controls what God does and doesn’t do, and who God saves and doesn’t save. To me that’s a scary position to put myself in as a writer.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. Historical fiction uses real people as characters all the time. When I wrote a short story that included Harry Houdini as a character (maybe I’ll share it sometime) I learned all I could about him. I found out about his appearance, his life history, his personality, and the escapes and illusions he performed in his act. But no matter how much research I did, the Harry Houdini character in my story could never be a 100% accurate portrayal of the real Harry Houdini. In the same way, the depiction of God in any piece of Christian fiction can never be a completely accurate picture of the true God; he’s too mysterious and beyond comprehension.

That’s not to say that I completely separate my faith and my writing. That wouldn’t be possible, since what I believe is part of who I am and how I think and view the world. In the rare instance that I do write something overtly Christian, I do so with the utmost care and caution. And like C. S. Lewis I find myself tending toward allegory, where I can illustrate Christian themes without presuming to portray the unfathomable God.

I’m not denigrating Christian fiction at all. It can be encouraging and challenging to see the Christian experience from another point of view. But writers and readers alike should recognize that the God in a work of fiction is that author’s interpretation. The only way to know the one true God is to read the book that he wrote.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. […] few weeks ago I wrote about my aversion to Christian fiction. However I am a writer, and as a Christian my purpose is to please God. So how do I reconcile the […]

  2. […] Christian entertainment is similar to why I don’t write Christian fiction myself, a topic I blogged about last year. God is beyond our ability to describe or portray, and my perspective or view of God may […]

  3. […] The Oxymoron of Christian Fiction […]

  4. […] Fantasy” is a strange combination of market and genre. It’s similar to the oxymoron of Christian fiction that I wrote about a couple of years ago, but it’s also very […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: