Christian fiction is a hot topic these days and a growing book market. Opinions on Christian fiction range from the ecstatic (from people who are looking for a specific and narrow kind of reading experience) to the disgusted (from people are predisposed to hate things spiritual).
What is Christian fiction, anyway? According to some, it is a story that contains the plan of salvation and centers on someone who undergoes a conversion experience. There are even publishers who require these elements in any book they publish. But if that is Christian fiction, then every novel will have the same, predictable story line. Moreover, there is little or no room for a subtext to enrich the world of the book.
The purpose of that kind of book is to proselytise. Now that is a legitimate activity if the other person is willing to listen, but it is not the stuff of a novel. The text for that already exists and no one can do it better: the four Gospels in the New Testament. If you want to proselytise, talk primarily to people who want to hear, give them a synopsis of the gospel story, and refer them to the Gospels for a full account. It is not likely to work well at all in a novel.
For others, Christian literature is a safe place to read, where the world of the book is the same as the imagined culture of the American Bible Belt minus all its ugly aspects. The world is not really like that, though and that is a problem for the novelist.
What really makes a book a Christian novel is that the author is a believer. Like any author, the Christian author should be able to deal with any topic of universal importance that will contribute something of value to the reader. Major Christian writers include Pascal, Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Sayers. None of them wrote to proselytise and all dealt with issues from the real world in some way or another.
Readers: Read widely. Writers: Write what you are given and be faithful to your calling.
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