The power of good literature comes from its ability to reveal us to ourselves in both our glory and our depravity. At its best, literature explores humanity, not just the humanity that we wish we could achieve, though there’s a place for that as well, but the humanity that is, both beautiful and ugly. That is why we read literature, and why it both captivates and disturbs our imaginations.
John Henry Newman captures much of the power of literature in the quote below. And he also explains why he thinks this means that it’s not possible to have an exclusively “Christian” literature. For him, that would inevitably involve emphasizing too strongly the ideal, and, as a result, it would no longer study humanity as it is, but only humanity as we believe it will one day be. So it’s not that he doesn’t think Christians can write literature–they can and should–but that we shouldn’t try to produce specifically Christian literature.