“I will tell you a story that will make you believe in God.”
No story can guarantee being able to do this. Yet novelists can tell stories that make us think about what we believe about God and why.
Despite repeated predictions of the death of the novel, thousands of works of fiction are published and read in Britain each year. Although Western society is less religiously observant than it was, many 21st-century novelists persist in pursuing theological, religious and spiritual themes. Make-Believe seeks to explain why.
With chapters offering analyses of novels from several genres – so-called literary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and dystopia – David Dickinson discusses a wide spectrum of novelists. Authors who are avowedly atheistic and authors who have a vested interest in perpetuating biblical stories are both featured. Well-known writers such as Rushdie, McEwan, McCarthy and Martell rub shoulders with some you may be meeting for the first time. Appealing to literature students and people who simply enjoy reading, whether Christian or not, this study of God in novels invites us to open our minds and allow aspects of our culture to shape our understanding of God and to change our ways of talking about the divine.
1. Making Believe
2. Writing of God and Reading Religiously
3. Science Fiction: ‘Anything believed gains a measure of reality’
4. Dystopia and Fantasy: ‘Books with magic and books without’
5. Historical Novels ‘The present . . . throwing its shadow backwards?’
6. Historical Detective Fiction
7. Atheist Novels: ‘The quarrel over God’
8. Bible-inspired Fiction
9. Re-enchanting a Disenchanted World
Endorsements and Reviews
Written from personal conviction and with a clarity that will appeal to the general reader, David Dickinson argues that the modern novel in its multiple forms can stimulate us to imagine God afresh, and as such provides ideal material to provoke serious thought and discussion both within and without Christian reading communities. Make-Believe will certainly perk up the theological level of the average church bookstall and be of interest to a broader, religiously unaffiliated readership.
Elisabeth Jay, Professor Emerita, Oxford Brookes University
This is a timely, intelligent and audacious book which, growing out of the author’s own wide-ranging engagement with theology and contemporary novels, challenges and expands the reader’s horizons. I hope it will receive the serious attention it so richly deserves.
The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Herbert, Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Surrey
It is at the same time very readable, with a summary of ideas at the close of each chapter. There is a helpful discussion concerning the comparatively recent phenomenon of book clubs, with valuable advice for those who would facilitate them. … It is to be hoped that through this book, his readers will be inspired to delve more deeply in their own reading and thus enrich their own experience of God.
The Rev Ann Bossingham, in Methodist Recorder, 13 March 2020
Dickinson shows how religion is key to the context of the novels he chooses to discuss (at least two from each genre), from the novels’ historical setting to how we understand the seen and unseen elements of fantasy worlds. He provides the reader with material that opens their mind to how literature can deepen understandings of God. This book will be of interest to past and present literature students, those who love the philosophy of literature, and perhaps church book groups looking for material to stimulate discussion.
Alina Burns, in Essex Reform Magazine, March 2020