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What Makes a Great Christian Novel?

Sarah Arthur, a writer and speaker, is one of the preliminary fiction judges for CT’s annual book awards. She put a list together of what she’s looking for as she wades through the potential finalists, and it’s a good reminder for any of us working to write a novel. (Read the list here.)

Early on in the piece she makes an important disclaimer:

I’m one of those grumpy English majors who walks into a Christian bookstore and wants to know why Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities or Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment or Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe aren’t on the shelves. As authors of faith, we stand in a long literary tradition that did not start with Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and is not limited to the Christian Booksellers Association. It goes much further back and reaches much farther out. This is how the good news of the gospel works.

This idea is one I’ve heard N.D. Wilson point out—that Christians have zero reason to be embarrassed about the art the Church has put into the world over the centuries, and I would argue that some, if not most, of the greatest novelists of our age have been Christians. I would add Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, The Lord of the Rings, Till We Have Faces, and The Book of the Dun Cow to the list.

What else?


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