Faith & Fiction

Hello LGG Readers,
My name is Lyn Perry, founder of Residential Aliens zine, and I was supposed to post a topic for discussion back in September. Sorry about my tardiness. I hope this entry will spark some interest.

At another forum I peruse, someone asked about the interplay between faith and fiction - with a bit of a query as to whether the two could even co-exist! Well, I replied there but thought I'd give the topic an airing here as well.

There seems, to me, to be three approaches to connecting faith and fiction (probably points on a continuum, but categorized here for clarity). My nomenclature, so these categories are not standardized, I'm sure. I'm thinking broadly here as well, but most of us will connect it to Christian faith fiction since this is a fairly recognizable sub-genre (as opposed to Baha'i literature, which I'm sure exists but isn't on most people's radars, lol).

So for what it's worth - and open to feedback...

1) Faith-infused writing is intentionally and recognizably religious oriented literature. The characters are identified as people of faith, they pray, they read their sacred texts, they make decisions based on their religious convictions. And the reader is usually of the same persuasion and likely shares the world view of the author. Since Frank Creed just released Flashpoint, I think this is a good example of a faith-infused novel. Grace Bridges' Faith Awakened as well.

In fact, most Christian fiction in the Christian bookstores today probably falls into this category. (I would also posit that some atheistic evolutionists and anti-religionists write from a "faith-infused" position - Philip Pullman for example. So in my view, there is no such thing as a simply secular book because secularism itself is a world view based on certain presuppositions that are arrived at by faith.)

2) Faith-based writing is intentionally founded upon a particular religious perspective but is typically written in such a way that the truths the author is trying to communicate are woven into a story that appeals to the broader reading audience. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are often mentioned as examples of authors who write from a Christian world view but don't put their characters into specifically religious situations.

Some great literature is found here. It "crossed over" before we even considered that to be an option. In other words, this type of fiction really arose first, before the faith-infused approach. Other examples include The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, or more recently works by Walker Percy or Madeleine L'Engle.

3) Faith-informed writing takes into account one's religious world-view which serves as a filter by which the story is told. But the author, in this case, isn't necessarily bound by the strictures of his or her faith perspective. That is, the message or story may or may not have religious themes - and that is more the function of the narrative than the author's intention.

Again, although all three categories might be gradations of a theme, I consider Orson Scott Card a faith-informed author. Although he doesn't purport to write from an evangelical Christian perspective, his religious world view shapes his fiction. I would also argue that most secular authors fit this category. Consciously or not, one's perspective on life will reveal itself in one's writing.

Well, that should be enough to get us thinking. What are your thoughts? Do you have any other examples or contra arguments? Thanks for reading and commenting.
Lyn Perry


Joe Chiappetta said...

I would put parables in your number two category. Then Jesus would be the originator of this form, rather than the concept that this genre "crossing over" from the secular world as you suggested. We can even date trace this form earlier than the first century. I am thinking of Nathan's parable to David about the sin with Bathsheba.

This was a good thinking board for me. Thanks.

Lisa Holloway said...

Nice breakdown.

In the realm of Christian speculative fiction--particularly the darker stuff like cyberpunk and horror--writers are really walking down the road less traveled. It's easier for people to look at books that are basically fictional depictions of semi-real-life and imagine it including religion.

But then you go off the beaten track...and it's as if a light bulb goes on, because many people have not even considered that such a thing as Christian sci-fi/cyberpunk/horror even existed.

Grace Bridges said...

Interesting. It seems like your categories line up with the identity of God within the story:

1) God is God
2) God is a God-like entity (eg Aslan)
3) God is in the background.

I think you're right that these are points on a continuum, and there can be any number of points in between. This is great clarification.

Andrea Graham said...

I believe Orson Card is a Mormon; they will usually tell you they are Christians, but the Christ of Mormonism is very different than ours. But your Joe Mormon may not realize that. Nor is it unheard of for someone to research, conclude the traditional Jesus is the correct one and Mormonism doctrine is wrong, but remain in the Mormon church because they often out Christian Christians in works and love.

But I'm going off topic. I agree with the basic premise--one's beliefs and world view infuse one's writing, intentionally or not, at least to some degree. Writers more than any other put themselves out their in their art, intentionally or no.

David said...

Just a call out to you all to view Frank Creed's FLASHPOINT, which is on tour this week over at CFRB (http://cfrblog.blogspot.com) If you really want to join the party, that's the way to do it.

David Brollier

cathikin said...

I like the way you have clarified the three categories. Well described. Thank you.