Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Church History in Fiction

A question for all you readers - help me out here: are there any *good* novels (whether a series, or individual works by individual authors) about the history of the Christian Church?

I'm not talking about "(Christian) historical fiction," a la Francine Rivers, but rather, something more along the lines of what Steven Pressfield does with ancient Greece in several of his novels (Tides of War, Gates of Fire, etc), or what Susan Howatch does with the recent history of the Church of England in her "Starbridge" series (Glittering Images, Mystical Paths, etc - six books in all), or even sort of what Umberto Eco does with medieval monastic life in The Name of the Rose - make the historical narrative come alive in Story in a way that scholarly texts never quite (and simply cannot) accomplish.

If there is a striking absence of such novels - rather than it just being my own ignorance - then as a student of literature, I have to ask, why? The history of Christianity is fascinating, full of all the things that make novels great - right? Intrigue, deception, corruption, sex,'s all there.

So. Do you know of any such books that fill the bill? I can think of several worthy examples of biblical historical fiction (Anita Diamant's The Red Tent; even Walter Wangerin's Jesus: A Novel isn't too bad), but what about church history? A novel set amidst the backdrop of the early church, or the councils of Nicea or Chalcedon, or the Iconoclastic controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries, or the Great Schism, or the Reformation - I mean, if it was well-researched and well-written, wouldn't that be fantastic? Those seem like worthy time periods for fictional treatment, and could potentially make the required reading for an undergrad church history course MUCH more exciting.

Finally, if you haven't read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, DO. IT. RIGHT. NOW.

No comments: