Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Friday, February 04, 2005

New Christian Fiction

Over the last few days, as I attempted to pull together my ideas (and the ideas of others) for a Christian writers’ blogging community around a “carnival” of blogs concept, I've searched for a good name for said carnival and keep coming up short. Why? Because what we’re trying to do as Christian artists has never been officially labeled. Dave Long called it Emergent Christian Fiction for a time because it followed some of the precepts of the Emergent Church. But he doesn’t like that title anymore. Mick Silva calls it the Christian Writing Revolution, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue that smoothly. “The Carnival of the Christian Writing Revolution”?

Meanwhile, over at the Faith in Fiction on-line forum, they’ve been debating exactly what Emergent Christian Fiction, or whatever you call it, really is. Quite a few opinions floating around. So, here’s mine, taken from Steve Turner’s book, Imagine.

A New Christian Fiction Writer can be defined as a Christian writer whose work falls into one or more rings of a set of concentric circles as defined below and who supports all Christian writers no matter what circle they choose to write in. The rings are as follows:

The outermost ring is composed of “…art that doesn’t suggest an obvious worldview,…” This is easier to see in a non-writing example, such as a sculpture or a nonsense type song, but perhaps some poetry might fall into this category. It's art for art's sake without a message although, that, of course, will always be debated.

The fourth ring “contains work that is an expression of our Christian faith because it dignifies human life and introduces a sense of awe.” This reminds me of the scripture that says the heavens declare the glory of God. If you’re writing about the Grand Canyon, one single flower, or a baby’s birth, and you focus simply on that, you’re still glorifying God and affirming His creations.

The third ring “contains those things that carry an imprint of clear Bible teaching, but which we know are not uniquely Christian.” Certain traits in humankind are universal and understood by people who’ve never read the Bible: peace, love, forgiveness, or reconciliation are the examples Steve gives. This, I don’t think, is the place where you’ll find any CBA fiction, but will find a lot of good general market religious fiction.

The second ring contains issues “inspired by some of the Bible's primary theological themes.” Here we’re talking about issues like original sin, human moral freedom, and the spiritual realm. At this point, in my opinion, we’ve entered the realm of the CBA, although people of other faiths, include atheists, could also tackle these subjects. This may also be the place where “edgier” CBA fiction is found.

The center ring is where “the unique Christian gospel lies” and is the home of most CBA fiction. Here our Christian worldview is on full display as we testify about Jesus and what He’s done for us while weaving our story. A novel in this center circle needs a spiritual thread that runs through it from start to finish as well as a definite evangelical Christian point of view.

These circles are not exclusive. You could be a novelist who writes half in one and half in another. But you won't find a lot of books being published in the CBA that are in rings four and five.