What I’m Reading

I don’t know what got into me, but I’ve gone book crazy. I’d already pulled Bryan Davis’s second book in the Echoes from the Edge series, Eternity’s Edge, off the shelf at my church library. Then I made a stop at my local Christian bookstore.

I went because I wanted to do a little research connected to a book idea I have—a non-fiction project. But then I went and bought five books. Five! True, some I’m giving away, but still.

One was Stepping into Sunlight (Bethany) by Sharon Hinck. Somehow or other I must have gotten bumped off the reviewer list for Sharon’s books. I keep hearing great things about this one, and I really like Sharon’s writing, so I just couldn’t resist.

Then I stumbled on Randy Ingermanson’s Premonition (Zondervan). I’m not a particular fan of time travel, but I like Randy’s writing, too, so I decided to take advantage of a discount and picked that one up as well.

But I wasn’t finished. I also saw a book I figured a Christian fantasy writer should have, just to understand the discussion about fantasy among Christians. Until I got online, I had no idea there were believers who thought there was something spiritually wrong with the fantasy genre. Anyway, the book I found is Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What you need to know about fantasy books and movies by Richard Abanes (Harvest House). I’ve only dipped into it, but I’ll undoubtedly be reporting back on this one.

What else am I reading? Well our April CSFF Blog Tour book arrived: Blaggard’s Moon by (newly nominated Christy Award author) George Bryan Polivka (Harvest House), so I’ve started that one. Bryan’s writing is so good. He has a wonderful voice for his pirate protagonist and another delightful one for the entertaining storyteller. I have a feeling this upcoming tour will be a good one.

Then Sunday I was at our church library again, and I saw Wayne Thomas Batson’s Isle of Fire. I’ve read the Door Within trilogy and the Isle of Swords, so it just seemed right that I pick up this one too. I’ve liked each of Wayne’s books better than the one before it, so it will be fun to discover what goods this story holds.

Well, there was another one I saw in the library—one I don’t actually want to read, but one I think I should. I’m talking about The Shack. I’ve read so many reviews, commented, discussed, listened to just about everyone I know give their views, and I figured I needed to stop giving a second-hand opinion, and read the book for myself.

I’m also reading about three other non-fiction works—a couple history-of-the-church books and Gracia Burnham’s second book To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life Those I nibble at as time allows. Good stuff, but not meant to be devoured.

So what about you? What’s on the top of your to be read pile these days?

God’s Sovereignty over Business

“It’s nothing personal; it’s just business.”

That line has become as common as “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” And the idea is that business operates under a different set of rules. Stabbing someone in the back to get ahead in business isn’t really cruel or unkind. It certainly doesn’t mean I dislike the person. It’s just that, in order to get ahead, you have to be cut-throat. Or so those who use the phrase seem to be saying.

The thing is, Christians seem to be accepting this line of thinking, as if “it’s just business” means we can put our Christian values aside and do what’s expedient.

I think this fragmentation of morals is a by-product of American pragmatism. Above all else, can-do Americans believe in what works. That’s why you find so many self-help books at Borders. That’s why many Christian stores have self-help sections.

Self-help Christianity? Isn’t that a contradiction of terms? Before a person can ever come to Christ, he must realize there is no self-help for his problem of sin.

But after salvation, maybe self-help works for the rest of life.

Not according to Scripture. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Of course, that “perfected” has to do with sanctification. It would indicate that back in Paul’s day, some Christians got the idea that they needed grace to begin their walk with God, but after that they could take over.

Today’s new trend seems to divorce our spiritual lives from our business lives. It’s not even the idea that I can do business God’s way on my own. It’s closer to the idea that God’s way only matters when it comes to God’s things. Just as business matters aren’t personal, they aren’t part of God’s things either.

I doubt if very many Christians would verbalize this philosophy, but from the outside, it seems like a lot of us have adopted it. Think about some of the middle class values connected with money many Christians hold in America—it’s good stewardship to save for retirement, we should invest our money wisely, we should pay our own way.

I’m not saying those ideas are wrong, but I doubt if the Apostle Paul had a retirement fund. The first century Christians were more about investing their lives than their money, and they preached that the believers with extra should provide for those in need.

Maybe I’m simplifying things too much, but it seems to me that what I believe to be true about God needs to apply to all parts of life. So if God is sovereign in the affairs of men, then He is also sovereign over business.

Consequently, no matter how I wrangle, no matter how many hours I stay at the wheel, no matter how much I promote, no matter how professional my presentation, God is the One who brings all those plans to fruition. Or not.

Am I saying writers shouldn’t promote or be professional or work long and hard? Not at all. But I don’t think any of that should come as self-effort. I should proceed with prayer, do what God leads me to do as a result of my time with Him, then trust Him with the results.

And maybe the same is true for editors and agents and publishers and association executives.

Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 1:49 pm  Comments (5)  
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Perseverance and Publishing

(Yes, an anomalous Saturday post—I owe you one from the week I was sick.)

How long do you keep after something if it’s not working?

Over and over I read on the Internet and in author interviews and in writing publications that above all else, a writer needs to persevere. I’m wondering, then, if that shouldn’t be true of publishing houses.

Recently the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) put on a Book Expo designed to supplant the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) trade show. The idea was that a books-only event aimed at readers, not bookstore owners and managers, would do more for the publishing business.

From all reports (here’s Thomas Nelson CEO, Michale Hyatt’s), however, the event was a dismal failure. While the organizers anticipated upwards of 15,000 people to attend, the numbers were closer to 1500. Discussion has flurried and those in the know have a sense of what went wrong and how the event could be improved. (Chip MacGregor voiced his opinion here and an “insider,” here.)

Apparently the problem was not with the product—the panels and author appearances received high marks. Where things broke down seems to be in the promotion, along with the cost and the venue.

I can testify that Internet promotion was nearly non-existent. I am involved in several writer groups and I visit a number of writer blogs. When I recently read that someone was getting ready to head off to Dallas for the book expo, my reaction was, Really, it’s here so soon? I thought about it a moment, then remember that when I first heard about the event I thought it was too bad it was so close to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I figured one would necessarily hurt the attendance of the other since few writers would want to leave home for Dallas, then turn around less than a month later and fly to California.

Apart from the poorly chosen date, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about the event. From reports, evidently the ECPA executives assumed the publishers would promote it. Could be the publishers, in turn, assumed the writers would promote it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers thought, Finally, an event I don’t have to promote.

All the what-went-wrong discussion aside, some insiders have expressed doubts about a second ECPA book expo.

Are they so quick to give up? When writers are told to persevere, persevere, persevere?

Unfortunately, I see a trend. Recently D. Barkley Briggs announced that NavPress, the publisher of his YA fantasy, The Book of Names, was pulling the plug on book two. The amazing thing is, the book is edited, the cover designed, the pages typeset. In fact the book was due to release next month, but reportedly the sales numbers for The Book of Names don’t warrant going ahead with the project.

This is a repeat of what Kathryn Mackel experienced when Strang pulled the plug on her supernatural suspense after the first book, Vanished, came out.

What happened to perseverance? When a person or a business or an association takes on a new project, there should be some understanding that success won’t be instantaneous, that getting the word out to all the right people takes time and effort (and some money).

But here’s a bigger consideration for Christians. If we pursue something we believe God has led us to, doesn’t that require us to hang in there and trust that He will see us through? (Especially if “hanging in there” means honoring a contract?)

The fright-and-flight reaction of these publishers who lost a lot of money on the book expo, and of NavPress, which apparently lost money on The Book of Names, is similar to the reaction Gideon could have had when God sent home 99 percent of his army and the reaction Saul did have as his army deserted him.

In Gideon’s case, he trusted God and his gang of 300 achieved an incredible victory. In Saul’s case, he took things in his own hands, ended up incurring God’s wrath, and lost everything.

So back to the question: How long do you keep after something if it’s not working? As long as God wants you to. It seems like the right answer for writers, publishers, and associations alike.


It’s pretty hard to talk about Grace and not follow it up with Forgiveness.

The thing is, Forgiveness is two-pronged—something we need and something we need to give.

One of the parables that used to make me uncomfortable is the one Jesus told in answer to Peter’s question about how many times they needed to forgive those who sinned against them. After giving the now-familiar seventy-times-seven answer, Jesus proceeded to tell a story to illustrate his point.

As it goes, a slave owed his master an insurmountable debt. When his lord decide to sell him, his family, and his belongings to recoup some of what was owed, the slave begged for more time.

The master turned around and forgave him the debt entirely.

Such a great story. Expecting deserved punishment, the slave pleaded for mercy and found grace. Complete grace that washed away his debt in its entirety.

But the story didn’t end there. The slave, upon leaving his master, ran into a colleague who owed him a modest sum, within the man’s ability to pay. The first slave required what he deserved.

The second slave asked for mercy—just a little more time, and he would meet his obligation. But the first slave was unwilling and had the man thrown in prison. When the other slaves saw it, they told their lord.

The master brought the first slave before him again and chastised him:

“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?”
– Matthew 18:33

I said this parable made me uncomfortable. I just didn’t understand what this meant for salvation. Was God going to take back salvation if we didn’t follow his example, at least in this area of forgiveness?

And if forgiveness is a necessary action I am required to take, how then is grace free of my works and based upon faith alone?

Recently I heard a great sermon that explained the troubling story. Yes, I’d heard sermons that explained our forgiveness of others is a sign of our right standing with God, not a condition for it. But for the life of me, though I believed that to be true, I couldn’t see that teaching in this passage.

Well, the sermon I heard, from Allister Begg, most likely or maybe my pastor, explained that the first slave, if he had understood the concept of receiving unmerited favor, if he’d understood that he truly owed more than he could ever pay, if in fact he had humbled himself and received the grace his master offered him, would have extended his own small measure of grace to the second slave. By not doing so, he demonstrated that he had never grasped the enormity of his own debt and the grace his master held out to him.

In essence, by not extending forgiveness, he proved he didn’t “get it.” Though it had been offered him, he didn’t believe himself truly in need of his master’s grace, didn’t humble himself, and didn’t appropriate what his master extended to him.

My forgiving my neighbor, then, is not the cause of my salvation, not the root from which my salvation grows. It is the fruit, the product of my rooted-ness in God’s forgiveness of me. If I in fact humble myself before God, will I not also humble myself before my neighbor? Humility, I don’t think, is a trait that should come and go. I’m humble before God but demanding of others?

By insisting others pay me my due, I show my own nature, not the one God clothes His children with. I wish I’d learned this years ago.

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Grace That Is Greater

There’s a hymn entitled “Marvelous Grace” that ends with the line “Grace that is greater than all my sin.” It’s a good reminder. No matter what sins I might see, whether in my culture, my church, or my heart, God’s grace is greater.

The Old Testament books of Isaiah and Jeremiah seem to put the spotlight on sin a good deal of the time, and as I said in my last few posts, there seem to be more and more parallels between what the people and nations did those ages ago and what we are doing today.

God was clear about His response to such things as greed and self-righteousness and neglect of the poor and helpless. He condemned those who turned their backs on Him.

But Isaiah is also full of Messianic passages. I can’t help but imagine that when Jesus was explaining the law and the prophets to the two men on the Emmaus road, He spent a significant amount of time explaining Isaiah.

After all, the Jews believed in the coming Messiah, but they didn’t understand He would be a suffering Servant, the sacrificial Lamb who would take away the sins of the world.

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And he will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
– Isaiah 53:11-12

The disciples, in turn, taught others what Jesus had taught them. And the Holy Spirit guided them in all truth, so the four writers of the Gospels recorded the ways in which Jesus fulfilled prophecy by His death, and the Apostle Paul wrote such things as “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

When I see the pieces all start to fit in place, I am amazed by what a great God we have. On one hand He shows us how egregious sin is, how offensive it is to Him, then He turns around and shows us the extent of His love. Not by changing His mind and overlooking sin or pretending it really isn’t so bad after all.

He simply trumps it with His grace. Grace that is greater, and will always be greater. No one can out-sin God’s grace simply because He who knew no sin became sin for us. Sin requires death, and He died. My debt is paid by His greater grace.

So, yeah, I might be perturbed by my culture and even by many who call themselves Christians, but rather than being disheartened, I see the need as greater for those of us who know the truth about God’s grace to broadcast the good news. Because in these days, we all long to hear good news, and the truth about God’s grace is the best.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 9:48 am  Comments (4)  
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What about the Church?

The Church doesn’t have a good reputation in society. Christians don’t as a general rule. And that would be okay if society found us offensive because we were preaching Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Unfortunately, the truth is, Christians and the Church are often slammed as unloving, bigoted, legalistic, shallow, self-righteous, controlling, money-grubbing … need I go on? These are not the kinds of qualities people associated with Christ, and I suspect they aren’t ones He’s happy to see others connect with us.

Certainly there are exaggerations and some of these caricatures have developed as a result of false teachers claiming the name of Christ when in fact they are far from Him. But an honest assessment also says a lot of people who love God and believe in His Son Jesus still have spent most of their time and effort making life more comfortable and easier for … them and their families.

We teach the importance of family, don’t we? So what could be wrong with a dad or a mom who puts a high priority in making a safe and secure and nurturing environment for their loved ones?

Nothing’s wrong, it’s just that it’s not complete. How we’re to balance it all, I can’t say, but Scripture is clear that we are to look beyond ourselves. In the New Testament, believers are authorized to “make disciples.” We are told we are to be salt to the world, we are to be light in the darkness. And we are told others will know we are Christians by how we love each other.

What does salty living look like? The Old Testament gives us a window to understanding what God expects. In Isaiah, God rebukes His people:

Is this not the fast which I [the LORD] choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And to bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn.
– Isaiah 58:6-8a

I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people …
A people who continually provoke Me to My face …
Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!’
– Isaiah 65:2-5

I don’t know about you, but … ouch!

Those words sting me because I have been caught up in my own stuff for too long. How different would our culture look if we Christians took seriously our call to sacrificially love those we rub shoulders with day after day. If we carried our enemy’s bag an extra mile instead of playing the gotcha game. If we stopped walking to the opposite side of the road when sinners came along and realized instead that nothing separates me from them except the blood of Christ.

What if we all took the money we normally spend for Easter eggs or candy or new clothes or cards and did something selfless with it instead? What if there was so much giving in a time of recession the news media would have to cover it and viewers would be scratching their heads wondering why millions of us suddenly cared more for others than we did for ourselves. Now wouldn’t that shed some light?

Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Comments (7)  
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I’m Still Perturbed

Please take a moment to vote for the person you think deserves the March CSFF Top Blogger Award.

– – –

One of the things that disturbs me about American culture is our “can do” attitude. While our nation is incredibly diverse, one thing seems to unite us—for the most part, we all came from somewhere else. The very fact that either we or our ancestors had the courage to carve out a life in a new land is admirable.

But that very courage has warped into prideful self-reliance. This didn’t happen over night, but in a crisis we still seemed willing to turn to God, however briefly, as recently as 2001 when the terrorists attacked New York and Washington.

A scant eight years later and we are in an economic mess of our own making, and yet there is certainly not that national humility that fell upon the nation those first weeks after 9/11.

Instead, lawmakers reassure the people by giving “yes we can” speeches and by coming up with plans to restore our financial equilibrium by capitalizing on our citizens’ vices. As I see it, these schemes are nothing more than our god of choice.

Rather than saying, God is trying to get our attention.

We’ve had a devastating hurricane, killer tornadoes, blizzards, floods, fires, and now an economic crisis with global repercussions, yet we seem to think the solution is within us. We need to be kinder to our environment, and we can. We need to be more organized in our relief efforts, and we can do that too. We can fix our roads and schools, bail out our failing banks and automobile industry, mandate health insurance, and lift the restrictions on scientific research (those babies were going to be killed anyway, so let’s make good use of their stem cells). We can do it, yes we can. Why? Because we are … the incredible, amazing, can-do Americans.

OK, half of that paragraph is tongue-in-cheek. I happen to love my country. I’ve lived in enough other places to know what an incredible place this is. I also happen to think President Obama has powerful leadership ability. He has studied the Presidents of recent history who commanded language, and he seems to be purposefully putting into practice what he’s learned. He has adapted FDR’s radio fireside chats to the Internet, he has picked up on JFK’s and Ronald Reagan’s delivery of memorable and motivating one-liners.

The problem is, we are completely ignoring the idea that maybe, just maybe God wants us to look to Him instead of to ourselves. Where are the leaders saying that to our nation?

Sadly, when a few Christians suggested our sins were behind the 9/11 attacks, they were vilified. Maybe they didn’t say “our sins,” but “their sins.” I don’t know. The point is, no one else seems willing to bring up the idea that God still judges nations.

I know I asked that question shortly after a string of disasters: an earthquake in Northridge, CA, the Oklahoma bombing, 9/11. Quite frankly, my doubt is gone. I don’t believe in coincidences, for one thing.

While God doesn’t change, clearly His way of working with Mankind has changed, but I don’t know if His way of working with nations has. He judged the nations living in the Promised Land, which is why He gave it to Israel. He judged Assyria and Babylon and a host of other nations—Edom and Moab, Syria, Philistia, Midian—even though He didn’t make a covenant with them as He did with Israel. So why would we think He stopped judging nations?

Here’s what He told Israel when they looked elsewhere for help instead of turning to Him:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster
And does not retract His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers
nd against the help of the workers of iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
And their horses are flesh and not spirit;
So the LORD will stretch out His hand,
And he who helps will stumble
And he who is helped will fall,
And all of them will come to an end together.

– Isaiah 31:1-3

Whether or not God has purposed to get America’s attention through the string of disasters and difficulties or whether He is judging the nation because of our turning our backs on Him, I think it’s fair to say, He wants our attention individually. He wants us to turn to Him and not to the devices of our own making. He wants us to repent.

And after all, what is a nation but a collection of individuals?

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm  Comments (8)  
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I’m Perturbed

Fair warning—this is a rant. The thing is, I’m bothered by so much, I’m not sure where to start. It’s what we’re doing in this culture that is getting to me.

For instance, last year’s winner of Celebrity Apprentice did some promotional clips in which he says, Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Then you turn to the news and there is Bernie Madhoff being hauled into court and vilified. I’m thinking, Wait a minute. Wasn’t he just trying to win?

So we teach a whole generation of people—everyone who first heard Oakland Raider owner Al Davis say, Just win, baby, and believed it—that nice guys finish last and that it’s not personal, just business. And we laugh at lines from the upcoming movie that says a business lie isn’t the same as a life lie, then wonder how those AIG execs could take million dollar bonuses.

Excuse me? They could because we taught them that winning is the only thing that matters. Who cares who you fleece?

And that’s just where the philosophy is at its most obvious. Look a little further into our consumer culture and you’ll see how doctors, who used to be held up as selfless and sacrificial, are now part of why our health care is in such deep trouble. Teachers who once were all about the needs of children are now ready to man the picket line and fight for their share of the pie. Attorneys who once were the advocates of the defenseless are now manipulators of the system. And politicians who once were servants of the people are now petty, bickering, self-serving megalomaniacs.

All the while, the majority of people are looking for little beyond comfort and ease and a little pleasure. Like getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day or drugged out during Spring break. (Curse those drug lords for making Mexico so unsafe. How could they!)

One recent email forward (I hardly ever read them—please don’t add me to your list!) had it right. The Bible prophesies against those who call good evil and evil good, yet that’s exactly what we do:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink,

Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

– Isa 5:20-23

Lo and behold, our culture is right there. We call abortion, choice. We call pornography, free speech. We call homosexual sin, gay rights.

And now there’s a movement afoot here in California to legalize drugs so they can be taxed (solve our budget problem and stop all the gang activity, the theory goes). That must have gotten the pols thinking, because they also want to add a tax on patrons of strip joints.

Let’s see, the idea isn’t to dissuade men from patronizing the places. It’s to make money off them. So, how many zoning laws will change if local governments realize there is money to make in hosting such places?

We are in a financial crisis in America, but instead of getting down on our knees and begging God to forgive us for turning our faces from Him, we’re packing our bags, ready to head off to Egypt.

And it’s not just non-Christians. Believers aren’t far behind. But I’ll rant about that another day.

Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm  Comments (17)  
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March CSFF Tour Wrap

Another excellent tour, this one for Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by The Miller Brothers. Undoubtedly I’m partial, but I think CSFF bloggers are a great group. Anyone who didn’t know about this book got a balanced perspective from those who loved it to those who were disappointed by it. Of course, there was good discussion about what those in the target age range would think, so the tour accomplished a lot for readers looking for a tweener Christian fantasy.

In all we had 35 blogs involved in the tour, with 58 posts (not counting this one). On Tuesday Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow took over the second spot on Technorati’s Popular Books list and still holds that rank as I write this post.

We have another great group eligible for the March Top CSFF Blogger Award:

Again, I need your help to pick our winner. If you haven’t already taken a look at these posts, simply click on each check mark to view the particular posts. You’ll have one week!

The Use of Allegory – CSFF Tour, Day 3

I wanted to title this “The Use of Allegory in Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3,” but it seemed like it might be a bit long. 😉 However, that’s really where I want to start.

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller (Warner Press), of course, is the March CSFF Blog Tour feature, and in my review of the book yesterday, I mentioned the allegorical elements and my intention to write about them in more detail today.

First a little background. When the CSFF administration team first discussed whether or not to include Hunter Brown on the tour, one reaction to the short plot synopsis was that it was so transparently allegorical. And sure enough, that same statement appeared on the tour, as a weakness.

As I added my comments to the ongoing discussion, I realized wrong assumptions about allegory might actually become one of my pet peeves! 😮

In actuality, true allegory is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy. Here’s an excellent definition:

Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy.

Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.

– from Ted Nellen’s Cyber English

As Wikipedia notes, allegory often is present in parables and fables and often has a rhetorical purpose.

Of late, allegory seems to have fallen into disfavor, at least by Christians. I suspect one of the great fantasy writers may be partly to blame. Evidently J. R. R. Tolkien made a strong statement against allegory in the introduction to the second edition of the Lord of the Rings: “It is neither allegorical nor topical….I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” (from Wikipedia, allegory) Interestingly, he made this statement because many were seeing the story as an allegory of World War II.

But here’s the point: because Tolkien didn’t like it does not mean allegory is bad. The use of an extended metaphor is not bad. Writing about one thing with a secondary meaning beneath the surface is not bad. Even if the metaphor is fairly obvious.

Wikipedia includes quite a list of works considered allegorical, but in my thinking few are true allegories, in which the metaphor permeates the story and is maintained throughout. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is a superb allegory, as is Animal Farm by George Orwell. The first is religious, the second political.

Other examples of allegorical works or ones with strong allegorical elements listed by Wikipedia include the following:

Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene
Jonathan Swift – A Tale of a Tub [and Gulliver’s Travels, I might add]
Joseph Addison – Vision of Mirza
Herman Melville – The Confidence-Man
C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia

    “generic allegorical elements of good and evil, as well as many Christian themes, expressed in a narrative with strong fantasy fiction elements and credible characters: not fully an allegory.

    Modern allegories in fiction tend to operate under constraints of modern requirements for verisimilitude within conventional expectations of realism.” (Wikipedia, allegory)

Albert Camus – The Plague, The Stranger
John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany
Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials
Franz Kafka
Frank Herbert – Dune.

Allegorical films include:
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country – The Cold War
The Matrix – a retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

So what does all this have to do with Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow? Clearly, the Miller Brothers used allegory in Hunter Brown. However, the story isn’t allegorical. Yes, the Author is clearly God. Yes, the Author’s code is the Bible, and yes Codebearers likely represent Christians.

But who is Evan or Sam or Gabby or Hope or Stretch or Belac or Faldyn or Ephraim? These are simply characters in an adventure fantasy acting in ways consistent to the personality the authors gave them. They don’t step out of character to preach to the reader. They are authentic and tell Hunter what fits the occasion. Sometimes he believes them and sometimes not. Some of them help and encourage him and some don’t. Some are friends and some are formidable foes.

Here’s the bottom line. One genre trope in fantasy is the struggle between good and evil. How can we who believe in a loving, supreme God not equate Him with ultimate good, no matter how the author intended to write it? Consequently, whether Tolkien determined to show spiritual truths or not, I see God and His Son Jesus Christ when I read about Gandalf and Aragorn.

That the Author in Hunter Brown was fashioned by Christians who most likely had God in mind when they wrote in the part should not disqualify the story from being good, exciting, entertaining. I don’t see that putting God in stories and having Him act as He acts is considered a weakness. Having Him show up allegorically is really no different.

Of course, one problem with using allegory is that some readers will interpret all elements allegorically and find some wanting. Check out Steve Rice’s post about the weaknesses he sees in Hunter Brown. And be sure to visit the other bloggers listed (and check marked with post links) in Monday’s post.

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