CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – The God Hater

As the tour for Bill Myers’ The God Hater winds up, I realize that I missed an opportunity to dive headlong into one of the knottier theological topics — free will. After all, the story revolved around the need for a group of scientists creating a virtual world to give their e-humans free will. Fortunately a couple of our bloggers, Rachel Briard and Thomas Clayton Booher, addressed the issue.

The question theologians have wrestled with in the past, but which we today seem to dodge, is this: Do we humans have free will? That question is often married to another on: Is God truly sovereign over all creation?

My answer to both is yes and yes, and I think The God Hater gives a good picture of how this apparent dichotomy is true.

The scientists, before they created their virtual world, decided their e-humans must have free will. It was their “sovereign” choice to give their “creations” the ability to choose. However, when those virtual people chose self-destruction, the scientists “tweaked” the program, introducing ideas to affect those choices.

In the end the e-humans were still free to choose because the “sovereign” scientists had determined that they could. Of course this is a simplistic view, but I thought it merited more space in the tour discussion, and I’m sorry I didn’t bring it up sooner.

On to the wrap. A total of 40 bloggers posted 76 articles about The God Hater, making this the biggest tour since Stephen Lawhead’s The Skin Map tour back in November.

As you might expect, we have a long list of bloggers eligible for the February CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. Please take time to review these articles (you’re in for some interesting reading) in the next ten days, and vote for your favorite.

Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm  Comments (3)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The God Hater, Day 3

The Review

Of course, I’m talking about a review of the February CSFF Blog Tour feature, The God Hater by Bill Myers (visit his author page on Facebook). Please know that, of necessity, I will give some spoilers. I’ll try to alert you to any major reveals, so you can skip those sections if you, as I most often prefer, want to hold onto the surprise of first reading.

The Story. An atheist philosopher, befriended by a Christian biologist, becomes embroiled in corporate intrigue as he tries to help his brother save the virtual world he’s created with his inventive technology.

That’s it in a very small nutshell. If you’d like more detail, other participants such as Jessica Thomas have done a much better job telling what the story is about.

The Strengths. I’m not sure I can do justice in this short review to how much I liked the The God Hater. It was an entertaining story from the first page to the last. As I said in my first post about the book, I connected with the atheist protagonist immediately. I also felt like I knew most of the others — co-worker Annie and her son Rusty, brother Travis, his assistant Rebecca, and most especially Alpha 11, his wife, daughter, and (to a lesser degree) his son.

Beyond interesting, believable characters, I found the story to be engaging. I was caught up by the corporate intrigue and danger, the possibility of a little romance, and the fate of the e-community Travis had created.

But most important was the truth the story revealed. The theme was powerfully woven through the story. With the word “God” in the title, there’s no doubt that the book is about spiritual matters. The opening scene confirms this, as does an interplay between Professor Mackenzie, the atheist, and his Christian colleague, Annie Brooks, in chapter two.

From that point on, apart from an interesting exchange between Mackenzie and his former student, Travis’s assistant Rebecca, the spiritual issues are addressed metaphorically through the means the problem solvers use to keep Travis’s e-world from self-destruction. It’s interesting and effective. It certainly brought up spiritual and philosophical issues — the incarnation, legalism, self-sacrifice, friendship evangelism, the role of religion in society — that are thought-provoking.

As far as the setting is concerned, this was probably the least significant element in the book. But because I grew up in Santa Barbara where this story purportedly occurred, I was especially interested in the scenes that revealed place. And yes, I could picture them quite well.

Weaknesses. When I closed the book … even before, if I remember correctly, I thought, I want more. That’s a good thing, to be sure because if the book wasn’t working, I’d probably think something like, Thank goodness it wasn’t very long! But the truth is, the story did work, and consequently, I wanted it to go deeper.

For example, I found the “debate sections” very engaging. I thought those scenes revealed our atheist protagonist on one level, and I wanted more of that. I also thought the corporate intrigue sections were gripping, and I wanted more of that, particularly things that would reveal motives of those who apparently sold out. And I loved the scenes in the virtual world with the e-humans, but I wanted more of that.

On each level, it seemed to me that the theme could have taken on a deeper dimension if parts of the story had been developed further.

One other point, with a * * * MAJOR SPOILER ALERT * * *

There were a couple character deaths I didn’t like. One was the baby-sitter who seemed to die needlessly and who seemed quickly forgotten and never mourned. I think I noticed because with the mention of her extensive computer hardware, I expected her to play a bigger role (other than providing the tool by which Rusty found his mom).

The other, of course, was Nicholas. I thought the book would have been stronger if he had lived and had to then confront what he had learned from his virtual self’s sacrifice. Having him sacrifice himself freed him from having to grapple with the truth. It gave a teary moment, but I’d have preferred him to be in a corner where he needed to change or to turn his back on what he now knew. Maybe that’s just me.

That’s it. * * * End Spoiler Alert * * *

Recommendation. I unhesitatingly recommend this book. But to whom? Will Christians like it? Those of “free will” persuasion (such as Rachel Briard) will. Some members of our tour (see for example Emily LaVigne‘s post) specifically mentioned what a spiritual impact the book had on them. And Bruce Hennigan says,

If I could purchase 1000 copies of this book, I would give it away to every college student I meet and every young adult faced with the challenge of maintaining the Christian faith in today’s society.

But what about non-Christians? I like Thomas Clayton Booher‘s conclusion:

The God Hater confronts the reader with some heavy philosophical and theological ideas. Whether these would be a challenge to the Atheist’s faith, I’m not sure. But it may cause him to pause and think about some things that he never thought about before, and that could be the starting point of a journey to understanding.

So I guess I’d say, I highly recommend this book for Christians who want to read a good story, for those interested in learning more about interacting with people holding an atheistic worldview, but especially for Christians who want a resource they can use as a conversation starter with their non-Christian friends.

Be sure to check out what the other CSFF Blog Tour participants listed at the end of the Day 1 post have to say about The God Hater.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm  Comments (5)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The God Hater, Day 2

    “This should be ‘Structuring Children’s Fiction’ and I should be Bill Myers.”

So was the first line of a workshop I attended years ago at a Southern California writing institute (and no I didn’t memorize it — I have it on tape). Lo these many years later, I have the privilege of participating in the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Bill MyersThe God Hater, not a children’s story but an adult novel.

What’s interesting is to compare what Mr. Myers taught us writers — things he said should be true about stories for adults as much as for children — and what he has written. His first point was that the story should appear to be written primarily to entertain. The character should be relate-able (likable, easy to hate, or one readers will identify with), he said, or have some mystery that drives readers to want to know more. And on and on. Good things. Elements I see in his work yet today.

Perhaps someone may not know why Mr. Myers was teaching about writing for children when the book we are touring is an adult novel. Just so happens, he is the author of the very successful McGee and Me series put out some years ago by Focus on the Family. (In fact, in the seminar he explained that the name for this imaginary character came from a code Mr. Myers and his wife shared when they were in a public setting — watch yourself, McGee, she would say. 😉 )

Thinking about Mr. Myers and his career makes me wonder about writing for children and Christian publishers. You see, the seminar I went to was in an auditorium because there were so many writers attending who hoped to publish children’s fiction. Yet where are the hundreds of children’s books written from a Christian worldview?

I attended that institute with the thought that I wanted to write books for the age group I taught — 7th and 8th graders, who had very little literature written for them, and the books they could buy were more and more apt to encourage a worldview opposed to God.

Sadly (though I know God used this in my life) I learned that publishers were not at that time interested in publishing books for that age level. No money in it, essentially.

It was a blow, but I re-focused my writing toward adults, something I believe God wanted me to do.

Surprising, isn’t it, that YA books have become the hottest, fastest growing segment in publishing, at least in the general market. But I still wonder, where are the Christian YA books? Happily, fantasy has become an acceptable Christian YA genre, thanks in part to Bill Myers. Yes, he wrote imaginary fiction, speculative fiction, for children and teens. One such series was The Bloodstone Chronicles.

I suppose I’m highlighting Bill Myers’ work with children’s fiction in part because of yesterday’s Novel Journey post dealing with the purpose of writing for children. It reminds me of the need to reach young people as much as adults with good stories.

Happily, no matter who he’s writing for, Bill Myers writes the kind of stories we need.

Tomorrow I’ll give my review of The God Hater.
For specific posts about our featured book, check out the links at the end of yesterday’s article. Among the many thought-provoking and interesting ones, I’d recommend Bruce Hennigan’s posts (1 and 2).

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The God Hater, Day 1

This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Good Hater by Bill Myers, a Howard Books publication. As you might imagine from the title, the protagonist of the story is a renowned atheist.

Because I had the privilege of attending a debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Biola University professor William Lane Craig, I was especially interested in the opening scenes of The Good Hater.

Atheist philosophy professor Nicholas Mackensie is sharing a stage with a pastor for the TV show God Talk. The discussion quickly turns into a debate in which Mackensie shreds the poor megachurch pastor (who had hoped to hawk his latest book rather than engage an atheist). In chapter two, Mackensie tangles with molecular biology prof Annie Brooks.

The arguments were familiar though some of the facts were not, and that author Myers wrote his atheist protagonist as the winner of both these encounters set the tone for the book. This was not going to be a didactic one-sided look at the existence of God. The fact that the exchanges regarding religious views was interspersed with mystery and danger showed that the book was above all, a story.

What a concept — a Christian work of fiction, featuring an atheist protagonist. A real atheist, one that sounded a lot like Christopher Hitchens, attacking religion because of the wars and killing done in the name of God and because of the hypocrisy of those purporting to represent Him.

It’s an ironic twist, I think, that the atheist is a philosophy professor and the Christian teaches molecular biology. Quite the reversal from the scientist atheist versus the theological Christian you might expect.

My only issue with this part of the book was that it was too short. But I’ll get to that point when I do my full review of The God Hater later in the tour. For now, I suggest you take some time to read what others participating in this month’s CSFF tour have to say:

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm  Comments (6)  
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