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Christian Fiction: Definition, Authors & Books

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Since the time of Jesus' parables, Christians have enjoyed a rich story-telling tradition. Learn more about it in the present day with this lesson on Christian fiction, where you'll also meet some of the genre's prominent writers and their work!

Christian Fiction Defined

Have you ever heard Aslan from C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia referred to as 'Jesus-Allegory Lion?' While many who use that phrase might do so dismissively, they're not too far off! That's because many of the thematic elements and images used by Lewis (a devout Anglican himself) were indeed based on Christian principles. In fact, Lewis' work, with the concepts of honesty, purity, compassion, and self-sacrifice in The Chronicles of Narnia, makes it perhaps one of the best-known examples of Christian fiction, a literary genre dedicated to the narrative representation of Christian theology and ethics.

Many of the earliest of these representations were like The Chronicles of Narnia, using complex imagery to symbolize particular Christian characters and ideas. Dante's Divine Comedy, for instance, or the Medieval morality plays - highly allegorical dramatizations of typically religious ethical principles - relied heavily on densely packed metaphors to convey their messages. While Christian fiction writers today still use their fair share of figurative language, most choose to have the ideas they're discussing represented through situations and stories accessible to most modern readers (i.e., a trip to the grocery store rather than one through Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory).

Even when Christian fiction authors retell biblical stories (as they often do), many of the scenarios the characters find themselves in parallel those one might face in the modern world. Writers of these narratives are careful to make their stories relatable, so as to demonstrate how the principles they're illustrating apply to readers' lives. Despite the many and widely varied denominations of Christianity found in the world today, there are two of these principles that are fundamental to all works of Christian fiction: the divinity of Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture. Therefore, no matter what specific context (i.e., Catholic or Mormon) the author approaches the narrative from, it should at all times express the central ideas of salvation only through belief in God's son, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Bible as God's word and law to humanity.

So, despite the version of the Bible the author might read, the writer of Christian fiction is charged with the duty of conveying at least these basic building blocks of the Christian faith. Luckily, though, these authors have ways of reaching a wide variety of audiences. Just as with any other major literary genre (i.e., fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), varying reader experiences and interests open a range of narrative possibilities. Take a minute to meet some of Christian fiction's most notable authors and see how they've created works that are able to spread their message to a variety of audiences!

Some Christian Fiction Authors and Their Work

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Many of the stories we might remember from Sunday School may not have much in the way of action and suspense. While a rampaging Samson kicking Philistine butt might be enough for some, other Christian readers like to find something a little more exciting. And when they do, they often turn to eschatological novels, or narratives involving biblical prophesies concerning the End of Days.

Left Behind is the first in a series of 16 such novels co-authored by writer Jerry Jenkins and biblical prophesy researcher Dr. Tim LaHaye. The first installment focuses on the Rapture of the faithful, which Christians believe will occur before the Antichrist's rise to power and the final battle between Good and Evil. Those 'left behind' must contend with the rising threat of the Antichrist and the persecution of those who have been converted during the Tribulation, making for volumes of action-packed and suspenseful reading!

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

For those of us with more laid-back sensibilities, there's always an alternative to be found in Christian fiction, particularly in the subgenre of Amish romance, which comprises narratives centered on notions of simple living, rural heritage, and virtuous love. The specification of 'virtuous' love is critical here as Amish romances (as with most other forms of Christian fiction) tend to avoid topics that are seen in Christian communities as taboo or risqué (i.e., overt sexuality, drug usage, or even foul language).

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