Readers know the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary as authors of some of the most insightful, informative, and encouraging nonfiction books about the Bible, theology, ministry, culture, and personal devotion. In 2023, however, Midwestern Seminary’s For the Church book awards recognized Dr. Michael J. Svigel, department chair and professor of theological studies, for his science fiction novella The AItheist. Svigel describes the book as “part science fiction, part spiritual journey, part apologetics, part theology. It hits a lot of intellectual and emotional nerves.”

To craft this story, Svigel learned basic terms and concepts about AI and then wove them into a narrative that’s accessible to all readers. Writing conversations between a super-intelligent AI and a PhD in theology demanded believable depth without alienating readers less familiar with those areas. Ultimately, Svigel says, “I want readers to wrestle with the issues surfaced in the story: what constitutes reasonable doubt and reasonable faith, the promise and peril of technology in the modern world, and what motivates people to belief and unbelief besides facts?”

In his comments about the book awards, Lucas Hahn, Midwestern’s director of marketing and content strategy, writes that “The AItheist is a powerful little 100-page book that tells a riveting story of a Christian theologian-turned-atheist’s attempt to convince a sentient AI (artificial intelligence) machine to question the Christian faith amidst pain and suffering. Full of emotion, banter, and apologetics, the story that unfolds is heartbreaking yet beautiful.” The AItheist was the only fiction book recognized in the 2023 For the Church book awards.

Whatever your usual preference for books—fiction, nonfiction, theology, or science fiction—Dr. Svigel’s The AItheist will provide much to contemplate and discuss with other readers.

About the Contributors

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter

Neil R. Coulter completed degrees in music performance and ethnomusicology from Wheaton College and Kent State University. He and his family lived in Papua New Guinea for twelve years, where Neil served as an ethnomusicology and arts consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translators. In 2015, he helped design and launch the PhD in World Arts at Dallas International University. He teaches doctoral courses in theory and ethnography at DIU’s Center for Excellence in World Arts. At DTS, he teaches about art, literature, film, and theology, and he is senior writer and editor of DTS Magazine. Neil is married to Joyce, and they have three sons.