Theological fiction is fictional writing which shapes or depicts people's attitudes towards theological beliefs. It is typically instructional or exploratory rather than descriptive, and it engages specifically with the theoretical ideas which underlie and shape typical responses to religion. Theological fiction, as a concept, is used by both theists and atheists, such as in fictional pantheons and cultures in theological fantasy literature.
Theological and religious fiction
The subject matter of theological novels often overlaps with philosophical novels, particularly when it deals with issues from natural theology (also called philosophy of religion). For example, Roger Olsen notes that the problem of evil is a feature of some significant theological fiction.
Theological fiction also overlaps with religious fiction or Christian novels (also called inspirational fiction), especially when dealing with complex ideas such as redemption, salvation and predestination, which have a direct bearing on attitudes towards religious practices. Some authors try to distinguish a theological novel as one which denotes a more idea driven plot, rather than a novel which is about people who happen to be interacting with religion, but the distinction often proves difficult to sustain when ideas and actions are closely interwoven, each influencing the other.
Theological short stories
Examples of the genre (also called novellae) include:
- Candide (1759) by Voltaire
- Book of Judith (1st Century BC) by Anonymous
- "Hell Is the Absence of God" (2001) by Ted Chiang
Theological long fiction
Examples of theological long fiction include:
- Philosophus Autodidactus (originally Hayy ibn Yaqdhan) (12th century) by Ibn Tufail
- Theologus Autodidactus (originally The Treatise of Kāmil on the Prophet's Biography) (1268) by Ibn al-Nafis
- Divine Comedy (1320) by Dante Alighieri
- The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) by John Bunyan
- The Brothers Karamazov (1880) by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C. S. Lewis
- Silence (1966) by Shūsaku Endō
- The Shack (2007) by William P. Young
Linked series of theological fiction
Individual stories can be linked in series to constitute a composite novel or a short story cycle, where a group of stories interact to convey a richer or fuller story than any of the single elements can.
Examples of linked series of theological fiction include:
- Christian novel
- Fictional religion
- List of Christian novels
- List of Catholic authors
- Religious fiction
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- Hartman, Rachel (9 Mar 2015). "Five Theological Fantasies for Ecstatic Atheists". TOR.Com Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Universe. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- Olsen, Roger. "Some good novels that include theological themes". Evangelical Arminian Theological Musings. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- Churchwell, Sarah (4 Oct 2008). "A man of sorrows". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
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- Keates, Jonathan (12 Dec 2017). "Spiritual home Integrity and multitudes in an unapologetically theological novel". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- Harper, Baird (8 Sep 2017). "5 Essential Linked Story Collections That Are Better Than Novels". Literary Hub. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
- "The Journey Series". Grace and Truth Books. Retrieved 10 November 2019.