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Becoming a Christian is, generally speaking, bad for a novelist’s career. With some exceptions to this this rule (Marilynne Robinson, for one), a committed Christian in the world of letters faces bewildered misunderstanding from the literary community and, often, a Christian community expecting every story to follow the plotline of “Amazing Grace.” Someone compelled by both a gospel faith and a literary vision will sometimes end up forgotten by both communities. That is, I suppose, how Frederick Buechner ended up in exile here among the born again.
Despite the fact that Buechner was a groundbreaking and award-winning novelist even in his early 20s, he’s not remembered in the world of The New York Review of Books alongside, say, a John Updike or a John Cheever. And despite being drawn back to the church and ordained to ministry after listening to a George Buttrick sermon, Buechner is hardly as celebrated as one would expect among his Union Seminary mainline Protestant ecosystem. Much of that sector of American religion has moved on to forms of theology that would see Buechner as hopelessly retrograde compared to various liberation theologies and deconstruction philosophies now in fashion. Instead, when one finds a person whose life is changed and shaped by reading Frederick Buechner, more often than not, that person is an evangelical like you and me.
IVP - Books - Pp
IVP Books (2019). 232 pp.
As I’ve written elsewhere, Buechner’s work transformed my life at an early age, helping me through a spiritual crisis that might have led me, like so many others, right out of the church. Buechner, though, along with the Inklings and others, proved to be the apologist I needed, demonstrating how the longings of the human heart point to something of which only the gospel can make sense. Having read every work of Buechner’s multiple times, I find...
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