Thursday, May 11, 2017

Christianity and Stories: Recommended English Novels

Christianity is a religion rooted in a story. That means we must be more than didactic readers, but consumers of good stories. Over the years I have sought to read a number of important English works, some modern some with age, that have played an important role in shaping Western, English-speaking culture. Below is a list of five English books I recommend and believe should be read.

1. Beowulf by Anonymous

My favorite story in the world is Beowulf. I agree with Doug Wilson who argues it is a "shrewd apologetic" for the Christian faith. The monsters outside the mead hall (like Grendel and his mother) represent the sins of men found inside the mead hall (greed, violence, envy, lust, and vengeance). It is a wonderful tale that remains one of the oldest English tales.

2. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

John Bunyan, a Baptist, wrote this allegory of the Christian life while in prison. In previous generations, it was practically required reading for all serious Christians. We would do well to return to that expectation.

3. "The Chronicles of Narnia" by CS Lewis.

The beauty of Lewis's Narnia chronicles is how it reaches both children and adults on a unique level. Lewis is able to explore essential, and at times complicated, Christian theological and philosophical themes, and tell them in a way that children can understand them and that does not insult the intelligence of adults.

4. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is the classic four-part work of Tolkien that tells the story of Middle Earth. The former was written with children in mind while the latter is more for adults. Tolkien's approach to story tell is not to create a world for his characters but to create characters for his world.

5. Other Notable Works

There are countless other classic works worth exploring. These include, but are not limited to Brave New World by Aldoux Huxley, a prophetic dystopia novel that looks disturbingly like today, To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch models meekness, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, which unfolds the true nature of man, and 1984 by George Orwell, another dystopian novel that warns of an oppressive Big Brother government.

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