For the Student of Literature

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

It probably comes as no surprise that a student of any humanities program will have to confront centuries of atheistic and agnostic philosophy in their studies. Long before sitting in my first lecture hall, I was aware that universities were bastions of secular, liberal thought. I had read some Francis Schaeffer and a few other Christian apologists, so I felt generally prepared to face challenges to my religious faith.

However, an encounter with an entirely new school of thought still took me utterly unawares: twentieth century French literary theory. I had never come across Derrida, Althusser, Foucault, Cixious and at least a dozen others – who pretty much reworked and reinterpreted not only literature but all philosophy up until that point in history – in any apologist or Christian writings before, and certainly not from any pastor or small group study. So, I assumed the church had either never heard of them, or had, but simply faltered under the weight of explaining them, or, denounced them as worldly and left it at that. In any case, it seemed the church had no answer to postmodernism and post-structuralism and the myriad theories under their umbrella.

Not until after I finished my undergrad degree did I discover, after much searching, that there does indeed exist “Christian literary criticism,” and it’s very, very good.  Since discovering my first book on the subject (which I will review first), the field has grown immensely and new authors have cropped up (including some very prolific ones, such as James K. A. Smith). And yes, these writers (mostly professors and scholars, some pastors) cover almost the whole gamut from Jane Austen to Differance – literature and literary theory.

But, like the literature I introduce and analyze in other parts of my blog, you won’t find any of these titles on your Bible bookstore shelves. Hence the purpose of this section of the blog, to share Christian books and authors I’ve found (see list below) that aren’t afraid to grab secular academic thinking by the horns. These writers offer both criticism and efforts at reconciliation. They won’t hesitate to point out where postmodernism got it right – not just wrong – for example.

When I discovered all these texts, I said to myself (and still do), “If only I had read these before going to university!” I hope my blog will allow others that opportunity I never had. In any case, whether university is ahead of you or behind you, take advantage of reading works by Christian scholars who respond to the influential philosophies of our time, so that

“we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” Ephesians 4:14


“….as scholars…devoted their intellectual energy to their various guilds, Christians…found themselves looking for wisdom and guidance where they could get it. The result is that they picked up what was available – in Christian bookstores, magazines, and perhaps most significantly, on Christian radio. And since Christian intellectuals had pretty much vacated these spaces, the result is that the Christian public began to nourish themselves with what I have to say is largely an unhealthy diet…. Celebrity pastors, radio evangelists, and Christian talk radio hosts filled the vacuum that was left by the evacuation of Christian intellectuals from the popular spaces of the Christian community.” The Devil Reads Derrida: and other Essays on the University, the Church, Politics, and the Arts by James K. A. Smith p. xiv


“The Discerning Christian Reader: Christian Perspectives on Literature and Theory” Ed. by Barratt, Pooley and Ryken

“Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton

Reblogged from Involuted Speculations: “Why Literature Matters: Some Presuppositional Considerations”

“Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucault to Church” by James. K. A. Smith 

“Validity in Interpretation” – E. D. Hirsch

“Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature and the Arts” – Jerram Barrs

“Miniatures and Morals: the Christian Novels of Jane Austen” – Peter J. Leithart

“Word Pictures: Knowing God Through Story and Imagination” – Brian Godawa

“Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective” – Leland Ryken

“Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From its Cultural Captivity” – Nancy Pearcey

“Finding Truth: Five Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism and Other God Substitutes” – Nancy Pearcey



7 thoughts on “For the Student of Literature”

  1. Oh, I will have to explore your blog further! It looks right up my alley.

  2. Hi there! My name is Rachel. After reading your “For the Student of Literature” section of your blog, I was wondering if you could list the names of some professors and scholars, besides James K.A. Smith who fall under the category of writing in the domain of “Christian Literary Criticism.” Maybe you could list your top 5 or 10 scholars? I’m looking for secondary material (articles, dissertations, and what not) to peruse! I’m quite passionate about the Victorian era so if you can throw out some names of some Christian scholars who specialized in this era, that’d be great too! I’d be very grateful for any direction you could point me in.
    Thanks so much for reading this!

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