Make-Believe: God in 21st Century Novels

By David Dickinson

A fascinating exploration of the themes of God and belief in the modern novel, and how fiction can help shape the way we talk about the divine.

ISBN: 9780718895471


“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.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 180

 |   | 

Trade Information LGENPOD

About the Author

David Dickinson taught secondary school English in Newcastle upon Tyne before training for the Methodist ministry. He has researched and written in the field of theology and literature since the early 1990s and ministered in churches since the late 1980s. He was Director of the St Albans Centre for Christian Studies from 2005 to 2013 and now serves as minister of Trinity Church Sutton, Surrey. His publications include The Novel as Church (2013) and Yet Alive? Methodists in British Fiction since 1890 (2016).



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



Articles and Media

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

If, as a preacher, you are interested in developing fresh ways to talk about God, and enjoy reading a wide range of fiction, then this book will give you much to think about.Kirsty Anderson, Transforming Ministry, p33, Winter 2020 issue