The question has been asked, "What is the purpose of Christian fiction?" If we break it down to the bare essentials, there are basically two answers. One is to bring people to Christ while the other is to encourage those that are already believers. One focuses on evangelizing while the other focuses on discipleship. Both have value and both can be achieved within a single work.
However, what about fiction that does not have blatant Christian content? Is writing for a secular market a viable option for a Christian? I believe the answer is 'yes'.
One doesn't have to look far for some great examples. Allegorical work by masters like C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien are full of moral lessons, Christian values, and references to Biblical stories. Sometimes these are subtle and sometimes they are not. Even though readers not schooled in Christian teaching may never realize that the message is pointing to Christ, they are wonderful stories worth reading.
Allegories aside, I would argue that learning a moral lesson isn't the only reason for reading a good book. Like any art form, good literature can enlighten, entertain, and enhance our lives. As creative beings modelled after the Great Creator, we can and should embrace the pleasure of well written words strung together simply for the beauty of it. Think of some of the other things in life that bring enjoyment: the beauty of nature, listening to music, watching a baby, eating your favourite meal... While these activities may make you ponder the Almighty's magnificence, you don't necessarily have to have an all out spiritual experience every time you engage in them.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good book just for the sake of enjoying a good book. God created us to enjoy life; to take pleasure in the simple things, and I believe that story telling is part of that. While there is a place for deeply spiritual reading, there is also a place for simple stories that do little more than bring a smile.
On the flip side, there is also a place for stories that make us think; that ask hard questions and make us ponder humanity in all its frailty. Some of my favourite works of literature - both classic and modern - have some disconcerting content. One of my favourite genres is dystopian literature whose main purpose is to point out these human shortcomings. Rather than discourage me, I find I am pointed toward God, even if the book is a secular one, since He alone is the only answer to the profound questions raised.
I'm glad that God is a God of infinite variety. There is a place for evangelistic Christian fiction, fiction that seeks to deepen the reader's walk with God, and fiction that is only meant to entertain. There is even room for fiction that stretches our comfort zones just a bit, as long as it doesn't lead us away from faith in God. So, readers, keep on reading, and authors, keep writing what you are called to write.
Tracy Krauss resides in beautiful Tumbler Ridge, BC where she teaches secondary school Drama, Art and English. She has several stage plays and novels in print. Visit her website: http://www.tracykrauss.com for more details.