1. Yes!

    I was just re-reading a Tale of Two Cities, and while that’s never been called a “Christian” book, it hit me how it’s way more Christian than a large number of “Inspirational fiction” out there.

    One of the most beautiful passages Dickens ever wrote is the night Sydney Carton is wandering around Paris, holding onto the one truth that this “losing play I’m going to make” really is the the wining hand. Because “I Am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live.”

    • It’s been decades since I read A Tale of Two Cities, but it’s always been my favorite of Dickens’s work. I believe he was a Christ-follower, so it makes sense that his faith would shine through. That sort of thing was more acceptable in his day; now, we’re sometimes afraid to be open about these things, as Austin pointed out in his comment below, for fear of making people’s hackles rise. Thanks, Joanna, for prompting me to add “Tale” to my sprawling TBRA list (To Be Read Again).

  2. Peter Rust says:


    I’m curious how you would label the Narnia series, particularly the books after the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. There is certainly some gospel truth in them — though not a lot — and it is conveyed through the fantasy world and fantasy characters, rather than being quite as blatant as it could be. The stories seem to be written for a non-Christian audience — perhaps even the “tortured souls” you mention (though some people are offended by anything).

    • I’d put it in the “Christian” category, Peter, because Aslan is so obviously representative of Christ. Even in the books that follow The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, his work of redemption undergirds the story line. To my mind, that book represents the salvation experience, and the others build upon it as the characters grow in faith and learn how to follow Christ.

  3. Galadriel says:

    Labels are not the best way to find an audience–other readers are. That said, I really don’t know how I’d label anything if I had control.

  4. A few years ago I read a novel by one of the most popular contemporary authors of “Christian” speculative fiction. It made no mention either of Christ or some fictional equivalent, and concluded when its protagonist learned to levitate rocks through the power of sheer, raw, concentrated spirituality. True story.

    Unfortunately, Christians tend to be suckers for straight-up moralism. But while it’s easy to believe in “God,” and while “good and evil” are no-brainers, those concepts are about as unique to Christianity as the cheeseburger is to America: though it might’ve originated here, it’s been co-opted by the world.

    It’s a real challenge to name Christ in a serious context in fiction. Polarizing. As a writer, you know your audience will react strongly to that name — either positively or negatively. It’s a name-drop that goes off like a bomb, as likely to distract readers as to focus their attention. It’s rare to see it done well. Which is one reason I feel no compulsion to limit my imaginative intake to those works which actually warrent the moniker “Christian.”

  5. Austin: Haha, I read that book, too. Believe it or not, that was one of the author’s better books!

    I always wondered what was the difference between Inspirational and Christian. Christian has the gospel message and Inspirational has some fluffy morals? Okay! No wonder romances are usually billed as Inspirational.

    So if I write an Inspirational Christian Paranormal Werewolf Romance ….

    • You could write a sequel to Amish Vampires in Space in the venerable tradition of the Jane Austen and [Insert Monster-of-the-Month] series.

      • I actually did find a Christian werewolf series. The first book is Cry For the Moon, and it was actually pretty good. I read it out of sheer curiosity, and I think there needs to be a LOT more like it. The Christian is a werewolf hunter. 😀

        • Hmm … that does sound interesting. I’m tired of the “scary-monsters-are-actually-just-misunderstood-victims” zeitgeist in modern fantasy. Dragons and vampires and werewolves are so much more interesting to me when they’re played straight.

  6. bainespal says:

    1) Though it’s a cliché, it’s a fact that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.

    That’s true when the definition of “religion” is given as “man’s attempt to reach God by human effort” or something like that. However, I’m not convinced that that’s a very good definition of the word “religion.” Only Evangelicals define religion that way, and if we define words completely differently than other people, we can’t talk to them.

    I believe that a much better definition for religion is “man’s reaction to and relationship with the Ultimate.” Relationship is definitely part of it, and I think Christianity is definitely religious.

    Even with a lower definition of religion, such as a definition based on rituals and ceremony, Christianity is legitimately religious. By that definition, the religion symbolizes the relationship.

    • You make an excellent point, Bainespal. But personally, I’m not comfortable with putting a living, thriving personal love relationship with Christ in the same category as empty religious practice.

      “Religion” is generally thought of as external, what we “do” in an effort to improve ourselves or our world — like someone who brushes and flosses “religiously” or who relies on their outward religiosity to curry favor with God. Rituals and ceremony CAN be part of Christian worship, but they aren’t necessary to it, nor are they necessarily even related to it. It’s easy to do these things without experiencing the relationship they’re intended to symbolize.

      Which is not to say we shouldn’t do these things; my point is that doing religious things is not necessarily representative of a thriving relationship with the Lord.

    • I find myself concurring with both of you. Yet whether and how we use the term “religion” depends on context and audience. Some understand “religion” only to mean empty traditions, man-centered attempts to reach God, doing good for pride- and sin-based reasons, and so forth. Yet a right understanding of the term “religion” would see “religious practice” in terms of our relationship with God, a relationship that God alone has restored with His people.

      The apostle James did not mind using the term that many English Bibles translate as the word “religion,” and he easily contrasted false religion with true religion.

      If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

      James 1:26-27

      Accordingly, I don’t want to fear corruption of the word “religion” and thus feel compelled to use another word, just as I don’t want to fear the word “Christian” and opt for some other term. What’s the point? Somebody will corrupt any word.

      • So true, Stephen. Both words — any word, really — will have different meanings depending on the context and the experience/perspective of the hearer. My experience causes me to tiptoe around “religion” and “Christian” in many situations because of how I expect those words will be understood. But that isn’t always necessary or wise. Sometimes it’s simpler to just say what we mean.

What do you think?