We recently got the chance to talk with Gary L. Colledge about his new Brazos book God and Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Class Author.
Gary teaches at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio, and is the author of Dickens, Christianity, and “The Life of Our Lord”.
After studying how Charles Dickens’s Christian faith influenced his writing, how do you think that he serves as an example to authors today who seek to write well from their own perspectives of faith?
I think the best example that Dickens provides for those who seek to write well from their own faith perspective is that he was a great storyteller. And he was willing to do the very hard work of crafting a great story.
Significantly, I don’t believe Dickens ever felt a need to manufacture a Christian story. Perhaps equally significant is the fact that Dickens never felt the need to control or limit the Christian aspects of his stories. He simply tried to write great stories and believed his stories would be Christian because he wrote from a thoroughgoing Christian worldview and sure Christian convictions. That was who he was and how he thought about life and people; it would naturally be his orientation in creating characters as well as serve as the backbone of his writing.
Dickens also possessed a masterful command of the English language. He probably equaled Shakespeare in this ability (did I just say that out loud?). Dickens could select just the perfect word, turn a phrase, or craft a perfect character description. Nonetheless, while he clearly possessed an extraordinary talent in this regard, it is equally clear that he worked hard to hone this skill. Words, phrases, clauses, sentences, syntactical rhythm, and pace were all of the utmost importance to him, and he labored carefully over these things. In many of his handwritten manuscripts we can see where and how he made changes, and often we can recognize the care he took to make an exacting and precise use of language as he told his story.
This concern for and command of language serves as an example for those of us who write today as Christians to be mindful of our craft, always striving to maintain the highest standards not simply in clarity but also in creativity, resourcefulness, freshness, and cleverness. Surely these things serve our writing and our faith as we create and tell our stories, as we give life and personhood to our characters, as we seek to communicate our learning, and as we seek to make our readers better for their investment in our work.
In Part 5, we ask Gary about Charles Dickens’s enduring legacy – since 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth.