The Christian Imagination: the Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Edited by Leland Ryken. Shaw Books, 2002.
It would be difficult to praise this book too much. Reading this book was like being invited to a feast with many different types of dishes. The purpose of this book is to show the connection between faith and literature, Christianity and the imagination. This is what Ryken says about his book: "The result is a book that covers all of the essential topics related to literature and writing as viewed from Christian perspectives. My guiding principle as a compiler of this anthology has been comprehensiveness: I have included both past and living authors, both writers of imaginative literature and literary critics, both poetry and narrative, and the interests of both writers and readers" (xi). In agree with this statement about the contents of this anthology. This is a wonderful collection f essays on the relationship of faith and literature that will bring enjoyment to many readers.
I assume the intended readers for this book were evangelicals. The reason is that many evangelicals and conservative Christians are skeptical or even disdain literature and the imagination. It is mentioned often in this book how being creative is God's image in us and that the Bible contains many different types of literature. Evangelicals tend to be literal minded and make little room for the imagination. Some even think of fiction as nothing but lies. Others see novels as dangerous. The Christian Imagination if read would help the Christian reader develop a more holistic view of literature. This book will also benefit other Christians and non-Christians.
Some of the authors included in this volume are C.S. Lewis, Leland Ryken, Annie Dillard, Flannery O' Connor, Walker Percy, T.S. Eliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frederick Buecher, Wendell Berry, and many others. Some of the themes addressed are philosophy of Christian literature, art, the imagination, the Bible, worldviews, reading for pleasure, reading for wisdom, poetry, interpreting literature, writing literature, reading literature, and many more topics. The book covers all the major genres of literature,Fantasy, novels, poetry, realism, creative non-fiction, hymns, and others. I was particularly surprised that the essays are of such consistently high quality.
The Christian Imagination is a great read. It will help the reader to better appreciate literature and how to get more out of it. It will also instruct the reader on the relationship between faith and reading. In addition, it will provide authors the reader will want to read after finishing this book. I highly recommend this book.