In this form of Christian fiction, faith is explored through a Christian character. It is this form which most replicates the experience of faith for most believers. We may have insight into the psychology of faith, the type of thoughts it produces. We should also see the social effect of faith, the way the Christian character interacts with others.
Graham Greene’s novels The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory are excellent examples. In both, we have world-weary Catholics plagued by doubt and sin, but trying to follow Christ in their own way. There is a deep sadness and tragedy to both Scobie and the whisky priest; they are existential figures isolated from the rest of the world.
Maybe this is true of the place faith takes us to sometimes, especially if you are the last priest in Mexico on the run from the government. But I wish that a writer of Greene’s brilliance had given us a depiction of a faith that gives life and leads to connection with others. (It is true that the priest connects with the villagers he ministers the sacraments to, but in a distant priest-layperson way.)
The problem is that the individualism of both liberalism and evangelicalism left both types of Christians with the understanding that the primary mode of believing is as an individual – not as an individual-in-community. Christian characters are usually disconnected from other believers. Faith becomes a privatised, inner state of being.
What I think I’m really wishing for is a great novel about the church, which is the next form I’ll write about.