KP Book Review: The Christian Imagination

by Leland Ryken

Looking for a book that takes a deep look into how our Christian faith should integrate into our practice of writing?  I read this book two years ago and it has already become pretty much my go-to source on the different questions that I wrestle with concerning this topic. ChristianImagination

In this book, Ryken has put together a collection of essays that address many different aspects of writing: from what a Christian philosophy of literature is, to why Christian fiction can become weak, to how Christians should portray evil, and even how to write good poetry.  Each of the ten parts of the book have several long essays on the given topic, a couple shorter parts of longer essays, and most also end with a collection of quotes from different writers concerning the topic, leading to a look at these issues that manages to be both wide and deep.

In putting together this volume, Ryken managed to draw both from well-recognized Christian writers: J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor, T.S. Eliot, and Francis Schaeffer—but also from writers who are less well-known but still bring excellent thoughts to bear on the different subjects.  There were many fantastic essays within this book, but some of the highlights to me were Richard Terrell’s article on how the refusal to fully portray all aspects of reality is perhaps the main problem with Christian fiction, and also Daniel Taylor’s essay on how the best stories are the ones that deal with morality and the state of the human condition.  This book was magnificent the first time that I read it: but every time I’ve opened it since—whether to search for some essays that would be relevant for a college essay or even to write this review—it’s been a refreshing reminder on what it means to be a Christian writer and how our faith must end up influencing our writing.

There are few books on writing that I’ve read that rank higher than this one.  On the topic of how faith should influence one’s writing, this is the best that I’ve read on the topic, which is why I heavily recommend this book to all of our subscribers.

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.
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  1. This sounds awesome!

  2. I may have this book on my ‘to buy someday’ list. But books tend to stay on that list a long time.

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