• Beth Jones

Introducing the Theology & Fiction book club

Updated: Jun 6

Read & Discuss Ted Chiang's *Exhalation* with me & special guest co-leader Christina Bieber Lake

What is the theology & fiction book club?

An online gathering to discuss connections between two of the best things in the world: theology and fiction. My tentative plan is to offer a quarterly gathering, but this first, summer 2022 edition, is a trial balloon.

I'm a big reader of fiction--from classic to contemporary, popular to literary--and a big believer in the power of story to shape human beings, address deep questions in ways that can't happen in other genres, and speak to the theological needs of life.

I use fiction in my own writing of theology, and talking theology and fiction with friends is my idea of big fun. In reading stories, I find comfort, exposure to ways of thinking that aren't my own, and lots and lots of truth telling about a sinful world groaning for redemption.

Reading fiction is even an exercise in virtue formation, correlating with increased empathy and better understanding of other people.

When will we meet?

July 12th, 7:30-9pm Central Time

How do I join?

What book are we reading?

I'm so excited about our very first book club selection: Ted Chiang's *Exhalation: Stories.*

I sped through this book the first time I read it; it was just too good to slow down. I'm very much looking forward to a second, slower read in preparation for our book club gathering.

The book raises questions about free will, bioethics, artificial intelligence and, ultimately, what it means to be human in our changing world.

Dwight, my #theologycat is looking forward to digging in to Chiang's work.

Here's a teaser quotation:

Because even if the universe's lifespan is calculable, the variety of life that is generated within it is not. The buildings we have erected, the art and music and verse we have composed, the very lives we’ve led: none of them could have been predicted, because none of them was inevitable. Our universe might have slid into equilibrium admitting nothing more than a quiet hiss. The fact that it spawned such plenitude is a miracle, one that is matched only by your universe giving rise to you.
Though I am long dead as you read this, explorer, I offer to you a valediction. Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same.

Click the book cover to get your copy:

From the book description:

Tackling some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine, these stories will change the way you think, feel, and see the world. They are Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic, revelatory.

Chiang is smart and accessible, and he writes page-turning sci-fi/speculative fiction with themes theology book nerds won't be able to leave alone. I selected the book with my friend Christina Bieber Lake, special guest co-leader for our first book club meeting.

Who is your co-leader?

Dr. Christina Bieber Lake is the Clyde S. Kilby Professor of English at Wheaton College, and if you ask me who in all the world I'd love to discuss theology and fiction with, she's right at the top of the list.

Christina has special interest in theology and literature, and her publications certainly reflect that.

From Christina's faculty web page:

I've always believed we must learn to be good readers of fiction in order to enter our posthuman world ethically--and so I wrote a book about that. I've just finished a book arguing that story (as typically conceived in America) is inherently theological, and another one about how to remain inspired to teach.

About our book club selection, Christina says:

Ted Chiang's work represents the very best that speculative fiction has to offer: the chance to re-think the set notions we have about everything and the chance to appreciate the one life we have to live in a new way. Since the very best theology does the same, considering theological ideas through his work is absolutely mind blowing, transformative, and just plain fun.

Check out Christina's fascinating and award winning books:

What do I need to do to prepare? Do I need to know anything special about theology or fiction?

Just read the book and enjoy!

No special knowledge of theology or fiction is needed to enjoy and participate in the event. Come for a life-giving discussion of Chiang's fabulous book, the theological questions it raises, and what all that might mean for the Christian life.

Is there a cost for the event?

The event is free, and I'd love to see you there. If you wish to financially support the organizers, paid tickets are also available, but if that doesn't make sense for you, please don't hesitate to get the free ticket.

I hope to see you at our first Theology & Fiction Book Club!

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