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This article is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.

Literature and Christian Belief Charles Martindale

The connection between literature and belief necessarily demands the attention of literary critics and theorists, and indeed all serious readers. I propose to explore some ways in which the beliefs of a Christian might influence the way he reads and evaluates literature. I choose Christianity, partly because it is still the nearest that we have in this country to a 'public doctrine'; but I hope that at least some of my arguments would apply (mutatis mutandis) to those with other religious beliefs, or none. The name and opinions of C. S. Lewis will occur throughout, since Lewis, a critic whose strengths (and weaknesses) are intimately connected with his Christianity, serves as a counter-instance to the frequent claim that the good critic is effective in spite of, not because of, his general beliefs.

1 The Gospels as Literature
An argument for a necessary Christian concern with literature is that Christianity (like many other religions and ideologies) is based on a text, and, indeed, a text of high literary quality. Admittedly the founders of Christianity seem not to have been interested in literature (except the Old Testament), and initially the gospel was preached without the aid of a written text. Christ was himself a craftsman with words, even something of a poet (as in his use of the parallelism of Hebrew verse), and Christianity would hardly have become a world religion without developing a literature of its own. It is sometimes maintained that it is wrong to regard ...


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