A Jagged Contention: “Christian” Literature

“But, I question whether [Christian literature] has any literary qualities peculiar to itself. The rules for writing a good passion play or a good devotional lyric are simply the rules for writing tragedy or lyric in general: success in sacred literature depends on the same qualities of structure, suspense, variety, diction, and the like which secure success in secular literature. And if we enlarge the idea of Christian Literature to include not only literature on sacred themes but all that is written by Christians for Christians to read, then, I think Christian Literature can exist only in the same sense in which Christian cookery might exist. It would be possible, and it might be edifying, to write a Christian cookery book. Such a book would exclude dishes whose preparation involves unnecessary human labour or animal suffering, and dishes excessively luxurious. That is to say, its choice of dishes would be Christian. But there could be nothing specifically Christian about the actual cooking of the dishes included. Boiling an egg is the same process whether you are a Christian or a Pagan.”

– CS Lewis, Christianity and Literature in Christian Reflections


 Question:

I have heard it said that the word “Christian” is a noun, not an adjective. And yet we have Christian art, Christian movies, Christian pop music, Christian literature, Christian businesses, and even Christian blogs (ha!). How can Lewis’ insights help us think a bit more faithfully about how we use the word “Christian”?  What dangers arise when we turn “Christian” into an adjective? Also, given (in this humble blogger’s Christian opinion) the poor quality of much “Christian” entertainment, how might Christians who pursue a vocation in arts and entertainment understand the role of their faith in their craft?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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3 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: “Christian” Literature

  1. You forgot one (or maybe not): Christian nation.

    IMO one must be careful about using the word Christian as an adjective. The risk: violating the 2nd Commandment. The issue: You’re basically saying that your whatever reflects the values and behavior of Christ and/or that He endorses your whatever.

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  2. True and we should be careful & aspire to have the mind (& heart) of Christ. But if Christian is only used as a noun then I believe it loses it’s meaning (Christ like). There is a plethora of good Christian literature & other arts are making great strides. I hope that all of us in the Body of Christ can do all we do out of love for Him & to His glory.

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  3. Our confessions and symbolical books are rightly called Christian and our outlook on life ought to be Christian in the sense that we see and interpret things according to a proper teaching of God’s Word. Too often, I find “Christian” to be a code word for a specific morality, set of behaviors and a faith based on decision theology intending to exclude certain specific people from grace based on their being at odds with said theology, behaviors and morals. Worse, it looks to view the nation in theocratic terms. The Kentucky senate just took a giant step in that direction and the “right-to-life” movement has chosen to elevate one sin above others (why not make lust illegal, it is no less sinful than murder and it is easier to prove rationally that a person lusts than it is to prove rationally what life is let alone when it begins.) A “Christian” outlook too often means wanting syncretic school prayer and rules and laws according to the Ten Commandments without regard for actual freedom of religion.

    I think we can use the term properly so long as it is filled with grace.

    As to “Christian” entertainment – books, films, music – the perspective of the Christian experiencing and interpreting is more important than the artists intentions. I fell afoul of all the warm hearts who thought I would love “God’s Not Dead” or “Heaven Is For Real” – I was supposed to want the straw man professor and all those awful teachers in public institutions to see how rational faith is (poor Soren Kirkegaard!) and to be conquered by Christ so that, in the hour of death, someone can sit there and be comforted by his necessary (in the movie’s dialogue) verbal confession in order to be saved. Yay! God won! The bad guy lost! Theology of Glory is pernicious. It invades politics, daily life, worship and praise, entertainment. But I got even, I had a showing of “Babette’s Feast” as part of our study of grace. So much for Lewis’s notion of “excessively luxurious.” God doesn’t feed us on sugar and tripe.

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