12 Fiction Books That Will Shape Your Theology

 When we think about the role of reading in our spiritual formation, we generally think of non-fiction books that help us understand scripture and theology, but fiction powerfully shapes the ways in which we think faithfully about God and the world. Here is some of the best fiction that has been most formative in my own theology.

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Silence is one of the most formative and the most harrowing novels I have ever read. Tracing the historical story of underground Christians in Japan in the mid-17th century, Endo offers a stark look at the realities of following Christ under persecution, and the intense psychological struggle of a particular priest to know whether it would be better for him to be martyred for his faith or to recant.

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Haze Motes, the central character in Wise Blood, sets out to be a preacher of anti-religion and yet in spite of himself, Motes seems to be moving on a circuitous journey toward redemption. Although Wise Blood is chock full of the sort of “large and startling figures” that O’Connor relished, there is a sense in which Motes’s journey hits the reader a little too close to home, challenging our sensibilities about who God is and how God is at work in our lives.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In what is perhaps the quintessential Russian novel, and one of the most philosophical novels of the modern age, The Brothers Karamazov wrestles with vital questions about God’s existence and the nature of God’s character. These questions are ones that we all must face eventually and Dostoevsky is a brilliant guide through this theological obstacle course.

A Place on Earth by Wendell Berry

The great gift of Wendell Berry’s fiction is that, in our overwhelmingly individualistic age, it shows us what it looks like to belong to a diverse, intergenerational community that is interwoven with its place. I could have chosen many of Berry’s novels, but A Place on Earth perhaps gives the richest depiction of community in the fictional world of Port William. For those who have ears to hear, A Place on Earth offers a compelling vision of what the local church could be, in all its broken glory.

The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

Although Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of this novel in the 1980s drew the full brunt of scorn from the evangelical community, who were scandalized at the idea that Jesus was actually tempted, the basic story is a stunningly-written and imaginative exploration of the idea of that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). This novel is essential to a robust understanding of who Jesus is, in all his humanity and deity.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

If The Last Temptation of Christ calls us to a deeper Christology and A Place on Earth to a deeper ecclesiology, The Poisonwood Bible compels us toward a deeper missiology, a fuller understanding of what it means to proclaim the good news of Jesus throughout the whole earth. Particularly, this novel looks at the brokenness of a missionary family amidst the broken systems of post-colonial Africa. As we take the Gospel to foreign peoples, Kingsolver helps us consider the nature of the Gospel we proclaim and how much of it is bound up with the Western culture that has formed us.

Gilead (Home, and Lila) by Marilynne Robinson

Told through the voice of a dying minister in rural Iowa, Gilead is a love song of sorts offered in gratitude for the wonder and beauty of life. And if that isn’t recommendation enough, Gilead and the two novels that follow in its footsteps, offer a vibrant, realistic picture of faith unfolding over decades amidst a community of people in a particular place.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Set amidst a deeply religious community of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, Potok’s novel challenges us to consider the nature of vocation, and the tensions that exist between an individual’s calling and his or her commitment to a particular faith community. As Asher Lev’s vocation is rooted in the visual arts, this novel is also delightful meditation on the intersection of art, faith and community.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

What does it feel like to be invisible? As one friend reminded me recently, one of the gifts of Ellison’s novel is that it teaches us empathy. By taking us inside the experience of one who is invisible to mainstream society, Ellison challenges us to be attentive to those who are invisible in our own congregations and neighborhoods, listening to their stories and gaining a window – however tiny—into their experience.

See Also

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Although generally categorized as a novel for young readers, this Newbery award-winner and science fiction classic, grapple with adult-sized questions about the nature of God and the existence of evil. L’Engle challenges us to imagine a God that is bigger, the creator and sustainer of a universe that, as modern science is revealing to us, is much more mysterious and complex than we generally suppose.

Life After God by Douglas Coupland

A follow-up to Coupland’s seminal novel Generation X, this collection of stories explores the realities of living in a world that has abandoned God. Coupland ends up pushing back ever so gently on the idea that we can or should try to live without God. Read in conjunction with Coupland’s other novels, Life After God is a compelling reflection on what it means to think and live theologically in our age in which culture is rapidly unraveling.

Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul

With bold and twisted characters like those of Flannery O’Connor or Frederick Buechner, Worgul weaves a rich and redemptive story that captures the spirit of its gritty, urban setting as well as any American novel that is deeply rooted in a place. In our world of increasing isolation and infidelity, Thin Blue Smoke stirs our imaginations with the hope of the reconciliation that is possible through deep and tenacious friendships.

Thanks to John Pattison, Todd Edmondson and Kester Smith for their input in curating this list.


View Comments (41)
  • Cialis satış gerçekleşirken bu bilgilerin kullanıcılar tarafından bilinmesi icap eder. Cialis satış sürekli olarak artış göstermektedir. cialis satış en çok alışveriş sitelerinde gerçekleşmektedir.

  • Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, amazing site!|

  • Buy Instagram likes to bypass the time consuming long waiting period of gaining organic likes. You have to manage lots of metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and etc. in order to get more popular.

  • Siz de Instagram videoları indirerek bu videoları Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp gibi sosyal medya paylaşım sitelerinde dostlarınızla paylaşabilirsiniz. İndirmek istediğiniz videolarda kesinlikle bir reklam alanı ya da video kalitesinin düşmesi gibi bir durum yaşanmaz. Video Instagram’da olduğu kalitede bilgisayarınıza ya da telefonunuza iner.instagram video indir online

  • In this post, we study YouTube’s recommended video marketing strategy and how you need to distribute it. Video marketing is the right choice. How often have you heard that it is now essential to make videos to create an online presence? Those who say this are right: it’s true, the videos give crazy results. But, contrary to what some would like you to think, it can be a little more complicated than expected. The thing is before you start recording videos, you need to know what to do in detail. You cannot proceed in the dark.

  • Buy backlinks to improve your website’s SEO strategies. Having quality backlinks from websites with a high domain authority is a must for SEO and link building. It is also one of the ranking factors of search engines. Backlinks help your website get to the top rankings, get more organic website traffic & increase its online awareness.

  • 617244 192894Spot on with this write-up, I genuinely suppose this web web site needs rather a lot more consideration. most likely be once more to learn considerably a lot more, thanks for that information. 978351

  • Satın aldığınız beğeniler, gönderilerinize kısa süre içerisinde tanımlanır. Aktif beğeni hizmeti ile ilgili işlemlerinizle alakalı bir sorun yaşıyorsanız veya satın alma işlemlerinizle ilgili merak ettiğiniz konular var ise, müşteri hizmetleri ekibimize 7/24 anında ulaşım sağlayarak sorularınızı aktarabilir ve sorunlarınızın çözümünü talep edebilirsiniz.

  • I was wondering if you ever considered changing the
    page layout of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve
    got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the
    way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got
    an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 images. Maybe
    you could space it out better?

  • Fantastic post but I was wanting to know if you could write
    a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate
    a little bit further. Appreciate it!

  • May I simply just say what a relief to discover someone that actually understands what they’re talking about over the internet.

    You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    More people really need to read this and understand this side of
    your story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular given that you surely have the

  • Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site accidentally, and
    I’m shocked why this coincidence didn’t happened in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  • My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You cann’t imagine just how much time
    I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  • When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails
    with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Bless you!

  • Simply desire to say your article is as surprising.
    The clarity in your post is simply nice and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up
    to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

  • My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog.

    He was entirely right. This submit truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how a
    lot time I had spent for this info! Thank you!

  • I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself
    or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m
    looking to construct my own blog and would like to know where u got this from.
    many thanks

  • I do accept as true with all of the ideas you have presented on your post.
    They are really convincing and will definitely work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters.
    May just you please lengthen them a little from
    subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  • Hello There. I found your weblog using msn. That is a very smartly written article.
    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn extra of your useful information. Thank you for the post.
    I’ll certainly comeback.

  • Hi there! I just wantesd to ask if you ever have any trouble
    with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several
    weeks of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any solutionss to prevent hackers?


  • I think this is one of the most significant info
    for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general
    things, The web site style is great, the articles is really excellent :
    D. Good job, cheers

  • Hi superb blog! Does running a blog like this take a great deal
    of work? I’ve no expertise in programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway,
    should you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners
    please share. I understand this is off topic however I
    just needed to ask. Thank you!

  • Thanks for evry other informative blog. Where else could I am getting that
    type off information written in such a perfect means? I have
    a venture that I’m simply now runmning on, and I have been on the look out for sich info.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top