This is a topic that is increasingly popular among Christians, non-Christians, publishers, writers, and many other bookish people out there. Is there a correct ‘level’ of faith &/ or Christian subject matter to put in a book? Is it possible, as a Christian writer, to write a fiction novel that satisfies the heart of the Christian reader, while also feeding the soul and answering some of the faith questions of the unbeliever? I know this is sensitive stuff. Please trust me when I say I don’t want to offend anyone– Christian or non-Christian. I guess I’ve always had a curious mind, and more than anything, I would love to hear what other people think about this topic as well.
There are many facets to this conversation. So, let’s break it down. One view is that if, as a writer or publisher, you are trying to reach the unbeliever then subtlety needs to be your friend. Let’s think C.S. Lewis, and even current Christian writers like Melanie Dickerson who writes updated versions of classic fairytales, Anne Elisabeth Stengl who writes fantasy allegories, and Ted Dekker who writes supernatural thrillers. None of them have what I would call an overt Christian message, but the themes and faith elements are there– if you’re looking. I mean, come on, who can disagree that Aslan in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe is Jesus?
I guess the question then becomes, is that enough? People may or not agree with me using Scripture here, but if we are talking about Christian writers, I think it begs the use of John 12.
Can we assume that non-believers and the world in general are going to understand a veiled message of Christianity, if they don’t necessarily understand the proclaimed message of Christ? As in the passage above, I don’t think we can assume that, but I also think that many nonbelievers could possibly see what these writers are trying to point them towards and possibly even find salvation because of it. But it’s almost like they would perhaps have that eternal longing stirred in their hearts and minds, and then have to search out why and what that was all about, and then hopefully find their way to Christ. If that makes sense??
On the other hand, authors such as Tim Lahaye & Jerry B. Jenkins who have written one of the most epic series about the biblical end times, and Karen Kingsbury who is the master of the Christian Romance genre, are all outspoken about faith and biblical teachings in their fiction. In this case, we need to ask, will a non-Christian even pick up a book like that due to its overt Christian themes and language?
The answer to how much or how little ‘faith’ to put in fiction may, in fact, lie in yet another question for the authors and publishers that distribute these books: Who is your audience?
If your aim is at the Christian reader and market, preachin’ to the choir so to speak, then the Christian themes probably don’t need to be toned down in any significant way. Though I will say, even Christian’s don’t want to be thumped in the head with preaching in their fiction.
If a writer &/or publisher is trying to get into the hands of the unbeliever, well in my opinion, they have a tricky balancing act. Funny enough this has been a hot topic for quite awhile in my ACFW loop emails. I could be talking out of turn, but it seems like the concensus is that it depends on the writer and the story as to how much faith issues or themes can be addressed in the so-called ‘crossover’ book (as in a book that is going to be promoted in both the secular and Christian markets.) In one book a writer may skillfully include Christian themes that still point back to the source of our hope, salvation through Jesus Christ, but do it in such a way that won’t make the unbeliever upset or annoyed to the point of throwing the book across the room, never to be touched again.
In another book, that same amount of faith topic may be applied and be completely contrived, irritating, &/or upsetting in nature. I think we also have to account for different personalities for everyone, believer and non-believer. To one person a book may very well be the best thing they ever read, and to the person right next to them the absolute worst, making them think that other person was crazy!
So, my take on this: How much Faith should be in Fiction? Well, sorry this isn’t meant to be a copout, but… I guess, it just all depends.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions!
Below are a couple of interesting articles I came across while doing research. I am not saying I agree or endorse them, only that they were thought-provoking.