What is “Christian” Fiction?

Here’s a question that’s been running through my mind the past several weeks: What exactly is Christian fiction? 

At first glance, it may seem like an easy question, but look again.  How do we define what is “Christian” and what is secular? 

The question surfaced in my mind in response to a novel I read recently written by a Christian author and published by a Christian publishing house.  The only difficulty (for me) was that there was nothing “Christian” about the book at all.  No Christian themes, dialogue, characters, no message of redemption or grace or call to holiness.

And, honestly, it bothered me.

I know there is a trend in the CBA to avoid “preachy” writing—and that’s good.  But I question if we’ve taken the trend too far, avoiding the very things that make us the Christian Booksellers Association to embrace “edginess” with gratuitous violence and R-rated themes.  Now, before you go thinking I’m a prude, let me just say that I’m not opposed at all to telling the truth in fiction.  It’s an imperative.  And I’m not at all opposed to secular fiction (my favorite author, hands down, is Dean Koontz).  But if we’re going to call something Christian fiction, if it’s written by a Christian, published by Christians, should there be something “Christian” about it?

So what is Christian fiction?  Is it merely the absence of profanity and sex?  Are we satisfied with being labeled for what we’re not rather than for what we are?

My fear is that if we continue to write for what we’re not, we’ll be stuck in some hinterland between true Christian fiction and true secular fiction, too timid to be fully Christian and too convicted to be fully secular.

On second thought, maybe I am a prude because I believe that the ability to write and weave a story that captivates the heart and mind is a gift from God.  And if the ability to create is a gift from the Creator than I have not only a responsibility but the privilege to use that gift to honor Him, to enhance His reputation, and to further His kingdom. 

Isn’t that what it’s all about, really?

Let’s have some discussion on this.  It’s something every writer has to wrestle with at some point.  What do you think?  What makes Christian fiction so Christian?  And do we, as Christian authors, have a responsibility to further the Kingdom and/or enhance God’s reputation through our writing?

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