CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – The Resurrection

Some blog tours are more lively than others. The one just completed for Mike Duran’s The Resurrection would fall into the top two or three most lively tours of all time, I think. Forty-three sites posted 73 articles about the book, and of course there were countless comments.

Besides reviews, some of the favorite topics were the supernatural suspense/horror genre, miracles, and the characters in this novel.

As usual, we had a fine collection of bloggers posting all three days (and one who even posted twice in one day). Each of these is eligible for the coveted CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. And the candidates are

Take time this next week and a half (you have until April 6) and look over the posts you haven’t read yet. And then it is time to vote. 😀

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 5:46 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – The Resurrection  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Resurrection by Mike Duran, Day 3

Mike Duran's debut novel

I’ve been enjoying this month’s CSFF tour of Mike Duran’s The Resurrection immensely. We’ve had reviews, interviews, and guest posts, discussions of themes, of characters, and genre — all of it interesting and generating lots of comments. Now it’s my turn to put aside the multitude of ideas and tell you what I think about the book itself.

Bear in mind that supernatural thriller or contemporary gothic or whatever label you might prefer as the identifier for this book, is not my genre of choice. That has two affects, I believe. First, my ignorance of the genre tropes makes the story seem to me like one of a kind.

One reviewer referred to the novel having the “standard props you’d expect from a supernatural/religious thriller.” Well, I had no expectations, so I saw nothing “standard” about any of the characters or “props.”

Secondly, I started my reading experience with considerable wariness. Was the book going to be too scary? Would I find the supernatural elements too contradictory to my understanding of what the Bible says?

With that groundwork in place, let me move on.

The Review

The Story. Ian Clark, a troubled, doubting pastor, has a number of secrets, not the least of which is that his church office is haunted. His intention is to resign his position.

When during a funeral, one of his congregants, Ruby Case, apparently raises to life the boy due for burial, all hell breaks loose. Well, perhaps not all hell, but certainly a good deal more supernatural activity than the average churchgoer at Canyon Springs Community was used to.

The question of the day — on which side of the divide would Reverend Clark end up?

Strengths. If I hadn’t known this was a debut novel, I would never have guessed this was a debut novel. Nothing about The Resurrection screamed first-timer, let alone, amateur.

Instead, the writing was tight, the scenes drawn clearly, the characters believable, and the story moving inexorably forward. About a third of the way through, I was hooked.

In addition to an enticing story, well told, I found lots to think about in The Resurrection with no easy answers or neatly delivered fix-its at the end.

Don’t get me wrong. When a story wraps, I want a satisfying conclusion. I don’t want to spend three hundred pages, only to be left guessing at the outcome. And yet, I think the story needs to end with more life in the characters, so it’s possible to wonder what might be happening now. That gives the reader room to imagine.

Overall, I’d say Mike’s first novel harkens back to Frank Peretti’s breakout hits, This Present Darkness and Piercing The Darkness. Certainly the stories are different, so I’m not saying he slipped into the dreaded “derivative” trap. Rather, they have a common feature — both Mr. Peretti’s works and Mike’s ignite an awareness of the supernatural, even as they tell entertaining stories.

Weaknesses. I mentioned that I became hooked into the story a third of the way along. The first third, however, I was merely nibbling at the worm dangling in front of me. In part, I attribute that to the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t care for this particular type of worm.

However, there was more. I didn’t care for the characters either. I know that will shock some of those who have read and reviewed the book, because most reports rave about the characters. They were, without a doubt, well-drawn. The problem was, I didn’t like them.

* * * Minor Spoiler Alert * * *

I didn’t care for Clark because he was spineless and hypocritical. He was going along to get along and wouldn’t say what he really believed. He seemed the opposite of proactive.

I didn’t care for Ruby because she didn’t immediately deflect to God the recognition she was receiving for the miraculous resurrection. Instead, she let people treat her as if she was the one who had done something, yet in her mind she continually said she’d only touched the boy.

Still, when people wanted her to pray for them, she did, even believing that her prayers might duplicate the miracle. At one point she asked why this gift was given to her only to be taken away. I wanted to shout, You were only the conduit. You never had the power in the first place!

Finally, I didn’t care for any of the elders. I thought they were too stupid or too weak to be realistic. I pretty much wanted to hit each one up side the head and say, Find out if the boy was embalmed and then you’ll know if he was really dead or not. And start thinking about the church instead of yourselves.

Despite those early negative reactions, I surprisingly came to care for the characters in the end. I suspect the change came about when I learned a little more about Clark’s background, when I saw Ruby make self-sacrificial choices, when events were no longer happening to them, but they began taking the fight to the forces against the town.

* * * End Spoiler Alert * * *

Recommendation. I don’t know how regular readers of horror or supernatural suspense will react to this one. One reviewer called The Resurrection “gothic” which brought to my mind Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë or Jane Erye by Charlotte Brontë. That seemed to fit.

I suspect any fans of Frank Peretti, myself included, will embrace The Resurrection wholeheartedly. I highly recommend they give it a try.

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

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm  Comments (11)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Resurrection by Mike Duran, Day 2

True to his propensity to bring up controversial issues on his blog, Mike Duran introduced a number of topics in his debut novel, The Resurrection, that Christians don’t discuss enough. One was the place of the supernatural in our world today.

A second issue is a little harder to simplify and perhaps also harder to talk about. I’ll call it “weak churches.”

Because most of my adult life I’ve been involved in a strong church, this look at the weak church of Canyon Springs Community in The Resurrection was informative. In many ways it helps me understand a lot of the criticism of the Church today from those who look at traditional church as a problem not an asset to Christianity.

Here are some of the particulars I though Mike uncovered via The Resurrection.

1. Weak churches have weak pastors. This isn’t to point a finger at pastors in general, but in this particular story, the pastor was hired without any apparent concern for the requirements of pastors set out by Scripture. In addition, he had no one who was holding him accountable for where he was spiritually, no one who required him to be a man of integrity. He had no family support, no apparent prayer support from the leadership. Hence, he struggled with his own faith, and the people he opened up to most were pagan or agnostic.

2. Weak churches have a divided or weak leadership team surrounding them. In the fictitious church Mike created, none of the leaders called the others back to Scripture. They had their own issues and agenda that superseded God’s work — not something that makes for a healthy church.

3. Weak churches lose focus. Rather than staying on point — meeting to equip the saints to go out into their work places and homes to make disciples and meeting to worship and praise God — church seemed to deteriorate to a rather meaningless, mindless social event.

4. Weak churches squabble. Again, in this fictitious church, choosing sides and having groups within the church at odds with one another seemed like a familiar situation. The events that stirred controversy and confusion at the beginning of the story apparently were like so many events in the past that had stirred controversy and dissension.

5. Weak churches have weak doctrine. Apparently the people of Canyon Springs Community had no idea what the Bible taught about the miraculous. The issue of truth didn’t seem to be at the heart of the matter.

6. Weak churches have congregants with weak faith. Apparently in all of Canyon Springs Community, only three people turned to God asking for something greater to take place in their church, in their community. Of course, God promises to hear and answer even if we are only two or three. But if we dwindle to that few, we’re experiencing years of weakness.

7. Weak churches erode before they implode. The problems in Canyon Springs Community did not start overnight. They were festering issues passed from one generation to another.

8. Weak churches aren’t vigilant against evil — that which comes from within or from without. In the fictitious assembly in Mike’s story, the people were ignorant of paganism all around them. They were unaware of the duplicity of their leaders and the hurts of their fellow worshippers.

I suspect there are more factors that create weak churches, but those are the ones that came to mind as I looked at Canyon Springs Community.

So, have you ever been in a weak church? Do you think it’s best to stay and pray as Ruby and her friends did or to leave — not as Jack did, but to leave to find a strong church or even to start one?

Be sure to see what others on the tour are talking about. Jason Joyner has a not-to-be-missed interview with The Resurrection author Mike Duran. Bruce Hennigan has a graphic illustration from real life of the spiritual situation depicted in the story. And the tour is welcoming first time poster Cynthia Dyer, who has an excellent debut tour article.

As usual, you can also see the list of participants and links to specific articles that have been posted on my day one post.

Published in: on March 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Resurrection by Mike Duran, Day 1

The Resurrection (Strang), the debut novel by friend and blogger extraordinaire Mike Duran, is this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature. As you might guess by the title, this one falls in the supernatural category.

Which brings up some interesting questions, much as Frank Peretti‘s This Present Darkness did years ago. The premise of that book might be, Spiritual warfare is real and far more influential in the daily affairs of men than most people realize.

The Resurrection doesn’t camp on the warfare side of the supernatural but more on its actual existence and the varying reactions of believers and skeptics to an indisputable miracle.

Bringing me back to those interesting questions. Do miracles happen today? Are demons real? Do they work through people? inhabit people? And what about the “ecstatic gifts of the Spirit” — speaking in tongues, prophesying, and such?

I come from a branch of evangelical Christianity that says those kinds of gifts “ceased” after the first church. The thinking is that once the Bible was completed, there was no need for God to speak via visions and prophetic utterances. I’m not clear why this included tongues and the interpretation, which seems more an expression of praise, though there is also instruction about it’s use indicating that edification of the church is part of its function.

The thing is, the Bible which these evangelicals hold to be authoritative, gives these instructions for proper inclusion of “ecstatic gifts” in the worship service. I asked a friend once what Scripture supports the secession idea. She named I Corinthians 13:8-10 that speaks of tongues ceasing and prophecy being incomplete. The capper is “but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (v. 10). The thinking is that “the perfect” refers to the Bible.

I find that to be a stretch. How could you call the Bible “perfect” if it contains chapters of instruction about the use of gifts that have ceased? Further, Paul goes on to say that now we see through a glass darkly, “but then face to face, now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (v. 12b).

I don’t think the Bible, though inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and complete, lets me know God or the things of God as I am known by God. There’s still the “glass darkly” part of now.

And finally, I’ve been taught not to interpret Scripture based on an unclear passage. It is unclear, to me at least, that the “perfect” mentioned in verse ten actually means the Bible. On the other hand, it is abundantly clear in I Corinthians that Paul is giving instructions for the use of “ecstatic” spiritual gifts in the church.

Interestingly, it seems that “ecstatic gifts” has become somewhat of a dividing line among evangelicals, in part because we tend toward all or nothing positions. I’ll freely admit, I believe God has not brought an end to these gifts of the Holy Spirit. I believe He can heal. I believe He can give discernment, prophecy, tongues, or visions.

At the same time, I believe a lot of false teaching and fakery can stem from those who claim to have spiritual gifts when in fact they do not. I also believe Satan can imitate these gifts (think of Pharaoh’s magicians turning staffs into snakes and water into blood or the witch of Endor actually calling up Samuel’s spirit from the dead).

Where does that leave me? Believing and skeptical. What about you? What would your reaction be if you went to a funeral and the person in the coffin sat up?

See what CSFF tour participants have to say about this topic and the book itself. A check mark in front of a name links you to a specific article that has been posted.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 11:18 am  Comments (23)  
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