The Problem with God: Christianity and Literature in Tension
Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA
March 29-30, 2019

An International Meeting of the Conference on Christianity and Literature (CCL)

Organizers: Matthew Potts (Harvard Divinity School) and Gregor Thuswaldner (North Park University)

Explorations of the problem of God have not been confined to theology and philosophy alone, but have also been investigated in literary works. Numerous writers in the Western tradition, especially since the dawn of the Enlightenment period, have produced works of art that reveal religious tensions. Unlike philosophers and theologians, however, literary authors have often written about concrete problems literary characters experience with God.What’s more, literary works self-consciously wrestle with language in a way that can uniquely illuminate limits and generate possibilities for theological language. Countless writers from Goethe to Auden and from Dickinson to C. S. Lewis have investigated problems with the Christian God, doctrine, and practices. To this day, religious struggles have proven to be quite productive in literature.

This conference seeks to address religious tensions in works of writers influenced by Christianity.

Paper presentations may address

  • Literature as critique of God, and/or Christian doctrine, and/or Christian practice
  • Literature as critique of the critique of Christianity
  • Post-secular renderings of Christianity in literature
  • The problem with God and the problem with language
  • Faith vs. doubt
  • Organized religion vs. individual spirituality


Please send 250-word abstracts and brief bios to both organizers at and Presenters will need to become members of the Conference of Christianity and Literature. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in length. The organizers cannot offer compensation for conference or travel expenses. The Deadline for abstracts is December 1, 2018.



Illuminating Darkness: Literature in an Age of Unbelief
April 4-6, 2019
Colorado Christian University

"Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate." Thomas Aquinas

Across the ages, literature has illuminated darkness: the darkness of sinful humanity, the darkness of confusion, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of separation from God.

God is the agent who seeks to reveal Himself in the midst of darkness and unbelief.

In Psalm 18:28, a prayer of praise for God’s deliverance, David writes, “It is you who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness” (NRSV).

Celebrate with us how literature of various genres, from origins both sacred and secular, illuminates darkness in our age of unbelief. 

Keynote Speaker: Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is professor of English Emerita and former dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College (2001-2017), where she also served as Acting Provost in 2018. She received her Ph.D. from Emory University and taught at Valparaiso University.

Dr. Baumgaertner has authored ve collections of poetry, including What Cannot Be Fixed (2014); a textbook on poetry; a book on Flannery O’Connor; and edited the poetry anthology Imago Dei (2012). She has also written lyrics for compositions by Richard Hillert, Carl Schalk, Michael Costello, and Daniel Kellogg.

Dr. Baumgaertner was a Fulbright fellow to Spain, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and is the winner of the White Eagle Coffee Store Press’s poetry chapbook contest, the Goodman Award, an Illinois Arts Council Award, the Illinois Prize of the Rock River Poetry Contest, and the CCL Midwest Poetry Contest.

She currently serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century and is a past president of the Conference on Christianity and Literature. 



The website for information and registration for the CCL-- Western Region, April 4-6, 2019, at Colorado Christian University is now live! Click on




Regional conferences afford members an opportunity to learn from one another and to build networks of support for their scholarly and professional endeavors. They also offer graduate students an opportunity to gain valuable experience presenting at conferences.

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Gathering in the Strange: Literary Vision in a Disenchanted World
The Southwest Conference on Christianity and Literature
September 27-29, 2018
Oklahoma Baptist University
Shawnee, Oklahoma

In his poem “Expected,” Mark Jarman writes

     That sense derived from my mother

     who saw an angel by her bedside as a child

     and knew the ghosts who attended her

     as she cleaned house were playful but indifferent.

     Seeing her during her difficult recovery

     naked in her diaper and helping her dress

     and washing her hair, that sense that I would find

     the dimple in her scalp where the prosthesis

           was inserted.

     It gathers in the strange and makes it yours.

For this conference we invite papers on the intersection of faith and literature, especially papers that explore literature’s ability to re-enchant the world, to make it strange again. How are certain authors, or perhaps literary activity itself, at odds with the secularized “social imaginary” that dominates our age? How can contemporary readers recover enchantment in the literatures of earlier ages? Can good literature be anti-secular? Or, conversely, how has the literature of modernity contributed to secularization? What are the hermeneutics of enchantment/disenchantment in literature from antiquity to postmodernity?

We are also eager to see proposals for presentations of creative work as well as for papers on the teaching of creative writing in the context of faith.

In addition to papers on Anglophone writers, we are eager to read proposals for papers on writers in other languages and traditions (though abstracts should be in English).

We are also very happy to review proposals by undergraduate scholars and hope to arrange several panels of undergraduate scholarship.

Our keynote speaker will be Mark Jarman, who will deliver a poetry reading in addition to the keynote address 

Please send a 250 word abstract or a five-page sample of creative work to Benjamin Myers at The deadline for submission is May 31.