Pastor’s Post #28: “WRITING CHRISTIAN NOVELS(09/23/’17)

I must confess that I’m not a fan of some so-called Christian Novels. I find too many of them superficial, more romantic than real, and – I’m sorry to say – all-too-often very poorly written. Christian Novel can mean a more-or-less captivating basic story with a Gospel message included. It’s a good ending to the story when one or more of the characters is “saved”.   But the novel itself is very light when it comes to dealing with the tensions, perplexities, sorrows, and seeming defeats of what the writer of Ecclesiastes so frequently speaks of as life “under the sun.”   Being very honest, some Christian novels are just plain cheesy, or corny – easy and quick to read (or to listen to as an audio book), but junk food – something not very nutritious to the soul. True Christianity demands a good dose of the real world – but the real world looked at and described from the very real perspective of the Word of God.

Thankfully, there are other Christian Novels that are very real, very well written, and captivating – precisely because they are NOT superficial.   Like the Bible itself (which is actually a non-fiction novel – and is hardly superficial), a Christian Novel takes up certain basic themes of “life under the sun” and develops them in a compelling drama that reflects the realities and riddles we face day in and day out.   Realities like:

  • The goodness and worth of human beings – but the corruption of humanity through sin, rebellion, and folly.
  • The overarching sovereignty of God and His perfect purposes – but the ways those purposes fall out in paths that, to us, are disappointing, confusing, faith-challenging, and seemingly contrary to what we regard as good – or even to what God tells us is good.
  • The greatness and the cost of redemption in its various forms – but the plots and plans and persons seeking to hinder that redemption – deliverance that would further the good of others, the good of the world, and the good of the little worlds in which we live.
  • The hope that should always be present for human beings to live in at least relative happiness – but the forces that would dash those hopes.

This is the “stuff” of the Bible itself – that non-fiction “novel” that comes to a climax in the cross and the resurrection of the Bible’s main character – Jesus Christ, God the Son.   All good Christian novels will, in various ways, represent that drama, that mystery, that agony, and that victory.   The Word of God won’t be tacked on so that the book can be called “Christian”; it will be embedded in the whole story. It will be realistic. It will be artfully written (as the Bible is). And – like life itself – it will be utterly captivating.

What’s a “Christian Novel”? And how do you write one?

On today’s A Visit to the Pastor’s Study I want to introduce you to one particular Christian novel, and to its writer.

The setting is the Civil War. The location is Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. The hated Yankees have arrived in force, set up camp, and made Shiloh Church their headquarters. Soon the ground shakes with the thump of artillery. Cannon blasts and musket fire break the formerly quiet, calm April air. Davina Matthews weeps and prays. Her son, Aaron, is part of the Thirteenth Tennessee regiment – now in face-to-face combat with the Yankee enemy.

While the Rebel forces gain a temporary victory, it’s not without great casualties. One of them is young Aaron Matthews. *Read from pps. 18f.

So begins Until Shiloh Comes, Book 1 of The Shiloh Trilogy.   It’s a Civil War Novel. And it’s an outstanding example of a truly Christian Novel. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down – and you won’t be able to, either.

My guest on today’s A Visit to the Pastor’s Study is Mr. Karl Bacon. From his youth, Karl has been an avid student of the Civil War. His first novel, An Eye for Glory was a Publisher’s Weekly Top Pick for Spring/Summer, 2011, and a Christy Award Finalist for First Novel in 2012. Until Shiloh Comes was published in 2015. It won the 2016 National Indie Excellence Award for Historical Fiction, and the Independent Publisher Awards Bronze Medal for Best Adult Fiction E-book. One reviewer (who gave the book a 5-star rating) wrote: Until Shiloh Comes: A Civil War Novel is about more than a poor southern family’s reaction to the devastation of a major Civil War battle on their doorstep. It’s about reality forcing its way into what we think is right and normal. “  I heartily agree with the review. And I can’t think of a better description of a truly Christian Novel!

Karl Bacon and his wife, Jackie, live in Naugatuck, CT. Along with his work as a writer, he serves as a Ruling Elder at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Hamden, CT. In a moment, we’re going to talk with Karl about his riveting Christian novel, Until Shiloh Comes – Book 1 of the Shiloh Trilogy. And we’’ll talk about all that’s involved in Writing Christian Novels.

Karl Bacon, welcome to a Visit to the Pastor’s Study…