From the bookshelves: theological wisdom from novelists, Issue 119

October 3, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation

Provocative insights on religious themes from contemporary novelists …

On Truth

“He told me – these are his words – ‘They were all slaves to what they could see.’ But there was a truth behind that they couldn’t see for the life of them.”

Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist [239]

On Language

What he absolutely does not understand, however much he cudgels his brain, is why it is that while communication technologies continue to develop in a genuinely geometric progression, from improvement to improvement, proper, real communication, from me to you, from us to them, should still be this confusion crisscrossed with culs-de-sac, so deceiving with its illusory esplanades, and as devious in expression as in concealment.

José Saramago, The Double [205]

On Religion

She said, “There were a dozen different religions among the children at Ashcroft Comprehensive. We seemed always to be celebrating some kind of feast or ceremony. Usually it required making a noise and dressing up. The official line was that all religions were equally important. I must say the result was to leave me with the conviction that they were equally unimportant. I suppose if you don’t teach religion with conviction it becomes just one more boring subject.”

P.D. James, Original Sin

Theological wisdom (and theological foolishness) is not the private preserve of professional theologians. Many contemporary novelists deal sensitively with religious themes, often offering provocative insights that pastors can use to good effect in preaching and teaching. Brief quotes do not do justice to the novels from which they are taken, but they can provide wise, often startling, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking resources within sermons and adult education. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation shares some wisdom from novels as a small contribution to pastors who seek to proclaim the gospel faithfully week in and week out.

Reformation Day Video

October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses – celebrated by many around the world as the birthdate of the Reformation. The Presbyterian Foundation is creating a series of videos about the Reformation then and now that you can share with your congregation. Check out the first one here.

Featured Partner: Presbyterian Historical Society

Want to learn more about Church history? The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia is an unparalleled resource. It holds the denomination’s official archives, including global mission records, historical records from thousands of congregations, and much more. Explore their holdings here.