Christian poetry involves any poetry that makes reference to the Bible, the teachings of Christ, and subjects having to do with living a Christian life. Generally there is a distinction between Christian classical and modern poetry. Classical Christian poems were more restricted in the use of form, while modern Christian poems can be in any form or meter, from the English sonnet to Japanese Haiku and free verse. Some recurrent themes of Christian poets are praises for God and his creations, prayers for guidance or the protection of loved ones, and struggles with sin.
The foundations for Christian poetry were created in the Old Testament of the Bible, which is the sacred book of Christians. Some of the books of the New Testament cover the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is believed by Christians to be the son of God, who is creator of the universe and everything in it. He is the redeemer of men’s souls, and acceptance of his salvation is the only path to heaven.
The Book of Psalms is the book of the writings of the Hebrew Bible. In the Hebrew language, it is the “book of Praises.” It became part of the canon of the Christian Bible as well. There are 150 psalms, 75 of which are attributed to King David of Israel. The psalms resemble religious poems and have been compared to ancient Egyptian hymns in form and style. They employ poetic devices such as meter, alliteration, and rhyme. Themes of the psalms are the divine attributes of God and the soul’s longing to join Him in immortality.
Song of Solomon, the “Song of Songs,” is a book of the Hebrew Tanakh and Part of the Christian Old Testament. It contains many passages about erotic love and sensual pleasures. Early Christian commentators on the Song of Songs thought that sexuality was inherently sinful. The writings were interpreted as allegories of Christ’s love for his church or for the souls of individual Christians.
Modern Christian poetry shares many of the themes of biblical poetry. Much of it deals with praising God and his works, just as the psalms did. Sometimes these praises are inspired by the beauty of nature or the comfort a Christian derives from Christ’s love and salvation.
Christian poems often take the form of thanksgiving for blessings God has bestowed on the believer. Poetry is sometimes composed as prayers. These can be requests for guidance, protection, or forgiveness for a personal sin or a wrong done to another. Some prayer poems ask God to aid or protect a friend or loved one.
A particular type of modern Christian poetry addresses the individual’s struggle to accept God fully. The Christian faith requires a complete surrender to God’s will and the teachings of Christ. Some of what is considered the best poetry written in English about Christianity deals with this struggle.