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Good Christian Literature: 10 Big Ways To Faith, Truth, And Love

Good Christian Literature: 10 Big Ways To Faith, Truth And Love
Good Christian literature makes our faith come alive. Devotionals, poetry, hymns, sermons, drama and theology enrich our minds and spirits!

The sixth way we get to know Jesus more is through good Christian literature!

The absolute best literature and music of all time have been created by believers. The Divine Comedy, by Dante, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, and poetry of John Donne, Wm. Cowper, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden are near the top of the list. The music of J.S. Bach is entirely Christ-centered, as are the hymns of Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby. Contemporary musicians like Chris Tomlin and Shane & Shane will also help you know Jesus better.

What is Christian Literature?

You can find a very full entry on Christian literature on Wikipedia, but our definition here is narrower. Good Christian literature is written by Christians, Bible-believing Christians. Its purpose is to draw us closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and help us enjoy Him and encourage us to follow wherever He leads.

Today, I’ll be sharing ten categories of good Christian Literature. Choose one category to begin on this week. Where to begin? That is up to you, but I have included a favorite of mine in each category.

1. Devotionals

Devotionals begin with a Bible verse and then apply it to daily life. My parents used STREAMS IN THE DESERT, BY L. B. COWMAN. Her wise applications often used quotes from famous authors and more often still short poems that can be easily memorized. Other excellent devotionals I have used include, FAITH’S CHECKBOOK, by Charles Spurgeon, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST, by Oswald Chambers, and LETTING GO, by Fenelon. The last two I have used with my own family and both have been an encouragement in living the Christian Life. Short and focused on a single theme, devotionals help get the day started with Jesus. One can also help calm the spirit at the end of the day and implant God’s Spirit to our sleep. Often too, these devotionals lead us to other forms of good Christian literature.

2. Christian Poetry

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last!

These lines from C.T. Studd were on a motto in our kitchen, and I saw them every day and took the point to heart. Poetry is the highest expression of good Christian literature. It began in Old English in the 8th century with the DREAM OF THE ROOD, but reached its fullest flower in the DIVINE COMEDY, by Dante in Italian in 1320. Both are difficult works, as are those of Milton, Eliot, and Donne. More accessible and easier to read are the poems of Cowper, Carmichael, and Christiana Rossetti, whose humble prayer I quote below:

Grant me the lowest place: or if for me That lowest place too high, make one more low Where I may sit and see My God and love Thee so. Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894

3. Hymns are Christian Literature too!

God’s people have been singing hymns from the Old Testament days. David was the sweet Psalmist of Israel, and his lyrics make up the lion’s share of Psalms. Jesus and His disciples sang one after the Last Supper. During the next 1500 years, a good number of hymns were written, mostly by churchmen and mostly in Latin. Beautiful as these are, I love Aquinas’ PANIS ANGELICUS, they were not sung by congregations but by trained choirs.

Congregation singing began with the Reformation. Martin Luther was a leader in this with “A MIGHT FORTRESS IN OUR GOD” and forty others joined the theology of the Gospel with memorable music that people liked to sing.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), is recognized as the “Godfather of English Hymnody.”; many of his 750 hymns, combining scripture and reformed theology, remain in use today. Among them:

  • Joy to the World

  • Come ye that Love the Lord (often sung with the chorus [and titled] “We’re marching to Zion”)

  • Our God, Our Help in Ages Past (based on Psalm 90)

  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Methodist Charles Wesley (1707-1788) wrote over 6,000 hymns, many still sung today such as:

  1. “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (Words)

  2. “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” (Words)

  3. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (Words)

  4. “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (Words)

  5. “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (Words)

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) is more familiar to most of us. She wrote more than 8,000 hymns with over 100 million copies printed. Blind from shortly after birth, her heart could see. She wrote about our relationship with Jesus in a powerful and moving way. Her songs were featured in D.L. Moody’s ministry and contributed greatly to its success. Her best-known songs are:

  1. “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour“,

  2. “Blessed Assurance“,

  3. “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home”,

  4. “Praise Him, Praise Him”,

  5. “Rescue the Perishing”,

  6. “To God Be the Glory“.

You will find many of these hymns in your church’s hymnal. Take one home and sing them. You will soon be in touch with Jesus through this unique genre of good Christian literature.

4. Sermons

The preaching of sermons is at the center of evangelical Christianity. Untold millions have been led closer to the Lord Jesus through preaching, an art the apostle deems essential: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

But before they were preached, many sermons were written. Some of the finest came from Jonathan Edwards, (1703- 1758) including SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD,(1741), which fueled the Great Awakening. In England, John Wesley (1703-1791) preached hundreds of sermons in churches and in the open field to spark a great revival that emphasized faith and built the Methodist Church. Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892), the “Prince of Preachers,” preached 3,563 sermons published in 63 volumes. Among them is my favorite, #1699, “SUPPOSING HIM TO BE THE GARDENER,”.

In every one, Spurgeon teaches us how to know Jesus better, expounding and explaining His righteousness and saving grace. This is the aim of other great sermons too, especially those by David Martin Lloyd-Jones and Billy Graham. Read the sermon I have recommended, and it will change your life. Or read some by these other holy men of god. Then you will see how sermons as good Christian literature help you know Jesus better.

5. Christian Commentaries

The Word of God is our primary source for knowing Jesus and building faith. And the Holy Spirit will help us to understand and interpret the Bible rightly: But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: – 1 John 2:27 I believe this means that the Gospel can be understood by everyone who believes. Having said that, there are many passages that are not so clear, and God has given us men who are filled with His Spirit to help us gain a fuller understanding, and what these men have written is indeed good Christian literature.

Perhaps the best-known and most literary of these is Matthew Henry. My favorite is his contemporary John Gill, followed by Dean Henry Alford (New Testament only). Other famous men of God, like John Calvin and John Wesley, have given us detailed notes on what they have seen in the entire Bible.

These are my constant companions and blessings and have helped me understand many passages beyond my own ken. They are good Christian literature of the most practical kind.

6. Christian Music

Good Christian literature is often enhanced by music. We have seen how Luther and others have done this through hymns. Others have been more ambitious and put the Word of God to magnificent music. I think here at once of Handel and Bach.

Handel’s Messiah is the greatest oratorio ever written. The words are pumped full of power by the composer’s genius. I have had no greater musical experience than standing to the

Hallelujah Chorus listen here.

As good as this is listening alone, there is nothing like being with a great mass of believers and rising to one’s feet in awesome worship!

Greater even than Handel is J.S. Bach, a devout Christian, and the greatest composer of all time. One commentator says: “In Bach’s music, there is deep piety and emotion, but always a meaningful account of Law and Gospel. These are some of the greatest musical masterpieces any human has ever created, and Bach did it in the name of Jesus.”

7. Theological Writings

All our theology comes from the Bible, but its expression there is scattered and presented in many scriptures spanning many centuries. Theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas began to order this in what became known as “systematic theology.”

The best Christian literature in this category can be read in John Calvin’s “INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION,” written in the mid-16th century. Some have called it the seminal work of systematic theology, and it has surely been the most influential in Protestant circles. From it was distilled the Westminster Confession of Faith in the 1640’s. It remains today a foundational doctrine in reformed circles.

These works were written to explain Christian doctrines in full and often in the face of serious heresies and challenges to the creeds and historic faith. These are large and serious works that few read in their entirety. In an easier-to-read and more reader-friendly presentation are books such as “ORTHODOXY,” by G. K. Chesterton, “MERE CHRISTIANITY,” by C.S. Lewis, and, my favorite, “THE MIND OF THE MAKER,” by Dorothy Sayers.

Each one is a milestone in good Christian literature and will help you understand our faith better and be always ready to give an answer for why we believe it!

8. Christian Narratives and Stories

Sir Thomas Malory’s LE MORTE D’ARTHUR was the first complete narrative of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Written in 1460 while Malory was in prison, it has been the basis for scores of other works on the same subject. It was also the first presentation of life in a Christian society and how people lived and interacted in obedience to God.

THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, by John Bunyan, was also written when the author was in prison and has become the most famous and influential Christian story of all time, second only to the Bible in readership and by far the best piece of Christian literature in prose. This is a must-read.

Also worth reading is the C.S. Lewis classic “THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS,” 1942, 31 letters from a senior demon to his apprentice nephew on how to tempt a Christian to sin and renounce his faith. Insightful and humorous, this is one of the great prose works of the 20th century.

Many of the great English novelists were believers and created works that display Christian principles and characters in action. I think of Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, and the Bronte sisters in this regard.

Good Christian literature reveals how people act and character is built and revealed through the circumstances of everyday life. Our lives are enriched by knowing such authors and their books.

9. Christian Children’s Books

My life was greatly enriched and indeed grounded in the Bible stories my Father read me, mostly from EGERMEIER’S BIBLE STORYBOOK. I still have my 1935 edition, but you will find it well worthwhile to get one to read to your children (or grandchildren).:

Good Christian literature has played an important part in building American culture. The New England Primer used the Bible to introduce children to the alphabet using couplets like these:

A: In Adams fall/we sinned all, and

B: Thy life to mend/This Book attend, and so on.

They were introduced to Jesus, the Bible, and prayer, learning “Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”

From this foundation, they went to THE MCGUFFY READERS which brought them through Grade 6 and introduced them to the best literature of the English-speaking world. They were used in public schools from the mid-1800s through 1960, selling over 120 million during that time span.

They are still used today in private schools and homeschooling and provided a strong moral and educational base for young people to go on to high learning. This good Christian literature taught millions to honor the Bible and to live within a strong moral framework.

10. Christian Drama

Drama as we know it grew out of the medieval church. The illiterate learned from the pictures in stained glass windows and from the simple dramatic presentations put on in the “MYSTERY PLAYS.” The simple plays presented on stage all the Bible stories from Adam and Eve through the Second Coming of Jesus. These were extremely popular as well as educational. Although the language was simple, these plays qualify as the foundations of good Christian literature which taught the Bible to the common people.

The next type of drama we see are the “MORALITY PLAYS,” which were allegories preparing people to meet death or to persevere through hardship. The most famous is “EVERYMAN” where the hero is called to meet death and finds no one willing to go with him into the grave. Simple but powerful, these plays deliver a serious and edifying message that instilled Christian values to the audience.

Some of these dramatic techniques were used in the early motion picture industry and culminated in Cecil B. DeMille’s KING OF KINGS, 1922, a beautiful portrayal of the life of Jesus. This was shown annually in churches and was a great blessing and encouragement to me and millions of others. A later version was produced in 1961 but not of the caliber of the silent 1922 version.

DeMille also produced the “TEN COMMANDMENTS,” 1956 which was also of value from a standpoint of Christian literature. The more recent movie “THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST” was moving and powerful in some ways, but not as literature.

Drama today has fallen short of its history, but there is certainly a place for it to build our faith. What To Do With Christian Literature?

We have such a rich history of good Christian literature, but what do we do with it? Enjoy it and make it a part of our daily lives. All these forms add a dimension to our faith and help us become the mature Christians Jesus wants us to be.

Here is a challenge; turn from the secular to the Christian in things literary. Sample one of my favorites above and share with our little community your experience and blessing. We have a goodly and godly Christian heritage, built over 20 centuries by faithful men and women of God. Honor their work and their Lord by enjoying the rich cultural blessings they have given us.

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