Saturday, April 04, 2015

Great Novels Every Christian Should Read

This summer I'll be teaching three seminars, each one about two hours long. The first one is titled, "Six Great Novels Every Christian Should Read. The second one will be "Six Theologians Every Christians Should Know About." The third will be "Six Pieces of Classical Music Every Christian Should Hear." I am willing to entertain suggestions beginning immediately.

The above announcement was recently posted on the Facebook page of Jack Niewold, a solid and inspirational friend who is also the author of Frail Web of Intention.  It was a provocative announcement, especially the first part about literature, and so I promised I'd send along my suggestions today.  To do so, I searched back through the files and found the syllabus for a class I taught at Grace University a few years ago, 20th Century Christian Writers.

Now I realize that it doesn't cover everything that Jack is asking about. For instance, limiting the literature selections to the 20th Century would leave out Dante's Divine Comedy, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov. And I'm not conversant enough with professional theologians to answer his second question very well.  My preferences move towards what might be called practical theology: C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, John Warwick Montgomery, Harry Ironside, Dwight Pentecost, Howard Hendricks, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Colson, Nancy Pearcey, Randy Alcorn, Joni Eareckson Tada, Erwin Lutzer, Gene Getz, and so on.

And the classical music? Sorry, Jack. Classical music for me is rock and roll from '57 to '67.

But anyway, back to the literature. I print below portions of that syllabus I mentioned.

General description: 20th Century Christian Writers is a course designed to better acquaint students with some of the modern era's most eloquent, far-seeing Christian writers of fiction. It will concentrate on novelists, poets, and playwrights whose work can provide enjoyment and invaluable spiritual enlightenment for a lifetime. Among the writers to be read in the course will be G.K. Chesterton, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Walter Wangerin Jr., and Randy Alcorn. The course involves reading, maintaining a reading journal, book discussions, media presentations, and even a visit to a local Christian literary society.

Student objectives:
1) To receive an overview of several notable fiction writers of the 20th Century whose work reflects a Christian worldview;
2) To read selected works from these writers and learn an appreciation for their insights, their contributions and their literary skills;
3) To develop friendships with writers that will provide ongoing stimulation and enjoyment;
4) To increase one's abilities and experience in practical literary criticism;
5) To improve one's knowledge of quality Christian literature to improve one's spiritual discernment, understanding of culture, and bridge-building skills in behalf of non-believers;
6) To stimulate one's reading skills and elevate the priority of literature in the Christian's life;
7) To learn more about book clubs, literary web sites and organizations, and reading journals.

Required Texts:
Manalive by G.K. Chesterton
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

Additional Texts:
(For extra credit or students
seeking graduate credit.)
Charles Sheldon's In His Steps
G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday
G.K. Chesterton's The Complete Father Brown
Joyce Kilmer's Selected Poetry
Dorothy Sayers' The Man Born to Be King
Harold Bell Wright's Shepherd of the Hills
Harold Bell Wright's That Printer of Udell's
C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward
Alexander Solzhenitsyn's First Circle
Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited
Malcolm Muggeridge's Sentenced to Life
Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons
Pope John Paul II's The Jeweler's Shop
Joseph Bayly's The Gospel Blimp
James Mills' The Power
Calvin Miller's Singer Trilogy
Calvin Miller's Snow