Reading Is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film
Stanwood, P. G., Anglican Theological Review
Reading Is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film. By David S. Cunningham. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2002. 240 pp. $18.99 (paper).
This is a popular book by a thoughtful theologian who wishes to reach a very wide, doctrinally naive Christian audience. Cunningham uses the Apostles' Creed in order to suggest that this traditional statement of faith may be understood in any number of contemporary ways. But instead of approaching the Creed through conventional academic study or exposition, which many others have done, Cunningham asks his readers to consider the importance to belief of "reading" general literature-reading, that is, in a very broad sense, which includes novels, plays, short stories, even films (based or not on a book), and works of fiction that may have no direct relation to religion. "The vehicle of literature ," Cunningham writes, can be used "as a means of underscoring both the relevance and the practical implications of some of the most central beliefs of Christianity. . . . I have chosen these particular vehicles because I believe that there are some important resonances between reading and believing. . . . [for] reading can frequently lead Christians to a clearer and deeper understanding of their own beliefs, and thereby to a deeper faith" (p. 23). So it follows that "reading is believing."
The twelve "statements" of the Creed provide the basis for twelve chapters, each beginning with a general, rather elementary but sensible discussion, resembling a homily, and then an illustrative "reading"-with careful plot summary, and a few concluding thoughts about how the creedal statement and the reading speak to each other. At the end of each chapter, there are "Questions for Discussion" and, finally, a few very selective readings for further study. Thus, in chapter 1, on "God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth," Cunningham selects Iris Murdochs The Time of the Angels; in chapter 2, on "Jesus Christ, God's Only Son, Our Lord," the author summarizes and points up the relevance of Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ. …