Allen Arnold challenged writers to define Christian fiction by what it did include instead of listing what it didn't. I've been trying to define Christian fiction ever since, and it's led to pretty much nothing but more questions.
- Is Christian fiction a novel that contains someone having heard the gospel and coming to Christ?
- Is Christian fiction a sermon in story?
- Is it Christian if nobody in the story is a believer and nobody is influenced by Biblical Christianity and the God of the Bible?
- Can you have Christian fiction in all genres, or are some, like Sci-fi or Time Travel, or Vampire-Lit not under the umbrella of Christian fiction?
- Is all fiction written by Christian authors by default Christian Fiction?
- If a book teaches a moral that lines up with Biblical guidelines like Dr. Seuss's Sneetches or Aesop's fables, is it Christian fiction?
- If a book is published by a company known as a Christian publishing company, is it Christian? (This is putting me in mind of the VEN diagrams my son and I are working on in geometry this year.)
Tim Downs and Tracie Peterson (referenced in Monday's blog post) both write what is classified as Christian fiction, and both are excellent wordsmiths, but the approach they take to Christian content in their fiction is diverse. Do both approaches result in Christian fiction, or are they shelved that way because they are published by Thomas Nelson and Bethany House Publishers, Titans in the Christian Publishing Industry?
I don't know. I am not picking on either Tim or Tracie, simply using them as examples since they were the two most recent keynote speakers at the ACFW Conference. Christian fiction seems to run the spectrum from overt to covert in its Christian content. So what is it that is the commonality, the thread that ties it all together under one definition?
My conclusion: Christian Fiction is like LOVE. I can't tell you everything it is, but I know it when I see it.
Does anyone have a concise definition of Christian Fiction? Can we all pool our ideas to arrive at a consensus?