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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

What Exactly is a “Christian Novel”? The Face of the Enemy and Others

What Exactly is A "Christian Novel"?

During book readings, book signings, 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 that they overtly practice their faith. And second, my antagonists’ agendas include, either as their main objective or as one of several major objectives, destruction of some core component(s) of the Christian faith. (Often these antagonists present themselves as Christians, and are thereby trying to destroy the faith from the inside.)

And third, I have noted to the audience that Rebecca, and sometimes others in her group, are at times 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 sort of informal prototype for my own stories.

The second frequently asked 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 in conception and plot development than those are, different 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.

In the sixth Rebecca novel – currently underway, but as yet untitled – Rebecca’s early-in-book prayer suggests the same Christian flavor as that implied in the opening sentences of The Face of the Enemy. She prays:

I ask again for Thy protection this day, Father, for me and for our family. Protection from what… I cannot know. I can only ask Thy presence. I can only ask that Thou might hold us… each of us… in Thy hands this day… Amen.

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