What Exactly is a “Christian Novel?"
During book readings and other kinds of presentations related to my novels, I have often been asked that kind of question. The most common form of the question has been either, “What do you mean by ‘Christian novel’?” or “What makes a novel ‘Christian’?”
Those are two different questions.
It’s been easier to answer the first question than the second. When I’ve been asked, “What do you mean by ‘Christian novel’?” I have answered by saying that, first, my protagonists – that’s Rebecca and her family and their colleagues in my adult novels, and Joanna, Rebecca’s daughter, in my young-adult novels – are themselves believers. And second, I have noted that they sometimes are the recipients of ‘special messages’ – a kind of supercharged prayer experience – that guide them in their decisions and actions against their adversaries.
I have noted, as well, that C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the third novel in his Ransom Trilogy, has those same characteristics, and that that book has always served as a prototype for my own stories.
The second question, “What makes a novel ‘Christian’?” is harder to answer, because my stories and C. S. Lewis’s stories are not the only type of Christian novel. Other authors’ answers to that question are likely to be quite different. For example, the Left Behind series comprises stories that are certainly “Christian.” But it is hard to imagine stories more different than those are, both from mine and from those of C. S. Lewis.
Further, many Christian novels appear to be basically romance novels, with a (potential) man-woman or boy-girl romance usually complicated by contrasting perspectives on beliefs, ethics, and morality, either expressed by the in-love couple or by other significant figures in their lives. All my stories have a background romance, but never are my stories focused mainly on that.
So, there is no single answer to that second question, and your own answer surely informs your decisions regarding what kind of Christian novels you like to read.
Regardless of the best answers to these kinds of questions, I am sure of this. The flavor of my Christian novels is best summarized by the opening sentences of my first novel, The Face of the Enemy. So here they are:
The day that changes our lives forever does not introduce itself by that name. It just comes. We awake, we arise, we move about, we may pray. If we do, we may ask God for His protection.
From what, we do not yet know.
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