What Makes a Book Christian

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 11/15/2008

Recently, Cara Putnam asked the question, What makes a Christian book Christian? In the answers she received, we see a lot of what people would like Christian books to be or even what people would like all books to be, but there is a difference between what we might like a Christian book to be, what we might think Christian books should be and what actually makes a Christian book Christian.

It isn’t always easy to define what is and isn’t a Christian book. Many of the great books of the past that were never intended as Christian books would now be classified as Christian, so it is something of a moving target. The most important question we should ask is whether it is “like Christ” or maybe like the stories he told to get his message across. One of the things people mentioned was that a Christian book must have uplifting story with a sense of hope, but if we consider what Jesus said about the rich man and Lazarus we see that hope is not required for a story to be Christian. The rich man died and was in torment. He cried out for mercy, but it was too late. He asked for someone to warn his brothers and he wasn’t given much hope that they would be saved either. Why would Jesus tell such a sad story? Because he wanted the people listening to realize that they needed to turn from their sin or face the same fate as the rich man.

Many Christian books have characters that attend church. Does that make it Christian? Hardly, there are plenty of television shows that have characters attend church and yet are clearly not Christian in content. Likewise, there’s nothing that says a Christian book has to have characters attend church or do any other churchy things. We might say that a Christian book requires truth, but we expect all authors to write what they believe is true.

I think we might be able to say two things about Christian books. A Christian book must stay true to the teachings of Jesus. If the book supports anything that is inconsistent with what Jesus taught then it has no right to bear the name Christian. A Christian book must be written for Christians or with the goal of persuading people to become Christians. In other words, the purpose of a Christian book must be to fulfill the Great Commission of reaching the lost and teaching the saints what Jesus taught. A book with any other purpose, thought it may be an excellent book, is not a Christian book.