I have just finished the rough draft for the next book in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles. Tentatively it is entitled “The Ninth Demon: Cross Time”. It will still be a couple of months before I hope to get it into press but for those of you who have been waiting patiently these past two years, here is the Prologue to give you some idea of what’s going on. (Or, not!)
It was time to die. The man standing at the window did not want to die. But, neither did he want his two girls to die. The window looked out over a vast cavern filled with sunlight streaming in through the far opening. A transport airplane appeared in the distance, touched down on a dirt runway and pulled into the huge cavern. Workers converged on the plane like ants to honey.
“Are you ready to die?” Someone said behind him. He had not heard the man enter the room.
“The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.” Ravi Zacharias, famed speaker and author once said this. For months, I felt like one of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. In an unprecedented turn of events, I had not been involved in any of my church’s activities for over a year. When my co-author, Mark Sutton was our pastor, my second “job” kept me occupied at our church. When he retired, it seemed I did too.
At first, I was very uncomfortable. My connection with the “inner circle” was severed. My knowledge of the direction of the church was no different than the person sitting next to me in the worship service. The very fact I was SITTING in a worship service instead of running around behind the scenes helping to make things happen was a disturbing but new development for me.
This Friday at 915 A.M. join me for the “Christian Writing Conference” by Athanatos Christian Ministries “No Compromise for the King: In Pursuit of Excellence”. This conference is FREE but requires registration. I will be speaking on “Apologetics as a Foundation for Speculative Christian Fiction”. This is an adaptation of a presentation I gave back in April. In addition to the discussion of several Christian Speculative Fiction books that utilize apologetics, I will discuss the necessity of a firm foundation in the Christian faith for fiction that conveys the Christian worldview.
In addition to my discussion I would like to share a few thoughts as you prepare for the free conference on Friday.
Every story conveys a worldview.
Best selling books such as “The Shack” succeed because the author takes a slightly different angle on historical, traditional Christianity. I do not want to offend the author or readers who have enjoyed that book. However, the “doctrine” presented in “The Shack” smacks more of New Age religion than classical Christianity. I couldn’t help but wonder if the story could have used a shot of doctrinal truth. As an apologist, I cannot express how many times I have fielded questions that come directly from “The Shack”. Again, the book succeeds in bringing readers into a fascinating story and does expose the readers to some ideas from the Christian faith.
American Christians aren’t really Christian.
I would like to consider George Barna’s book, “Seven Faith Tribes of America”. In that book, Barna relates that 67% of Americans claim to be Christians. But, when Barna asked these same Americans specifically what they believe, it turns out their belief system consisted of picking and choosing bits and pieces of Christianity that fit their lifestyle. They created a “boutique” religion that does not resemble traditional Christianity. Only 16% or 1 out of 6 Americans practice what Barna describes as “committed” Christianity.
Imagination can alter our perception of Christ.
Bearing this in mind, it would seem there is a need for writers to make certain that the basic tenets of Christianity are represented in any work that labels itself “Christian” fiction. To do otherwise is to swerve dangerously close to the heresies of the “gnostic” Gospels which also strove to re-create Christianity and re-define Jesus in terms that would match their “version” of Christ. Matt Mikalatos touched on this tendency for us to create Jesus in our own imaginary image in his book, “My Imaginary Jesus”.
May the Force be with you.
Let’s face it. Today’s fiction landscape is littered with dozens of “mash up” philosophies. Spirituality is the “religion” of our time. Anything that smacks of the spiritual is fair game for inclusion in one’s own personal worldview. With relativism running rampant, one man’s religion is just as valid as another’s. What we as Christian authors must do is to avoid falling into a blurring of the lines that separate Christianity from these philosophies. I see Christian speculative fiction works embracing concepts such as dualism, that is, that good and evil are opposite and EQUAL forces in the universe. The Force took care of that one. And yet, as Christians we know that Satan is nowhere nearly equal to the power of God. Yes, he perpetrates evil. But, Satan is far from an equal but opposite force. There are numerous other examples of this blurred theology. The masters such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis managed to practice “world building” and still preserve sound foundational ideas that are uniquely Christian. We can only hope to come close to their successes!
Authors should think critically.
One aspect of apologetics that has benefitted me personally in my writing is the development of “critical thinking”. Tough questions asked by my atheist partners are the force that spurred me into seeking answers that went beyond “the Bible says it and that settles it” or “God worked miraculously in my life and He can work in yours”. By entering into the field of apologetics, I was confronted with the necessity to use sound thinking, rational discourse, and reason in answering these questions. One need look no further than Jesus’ sessions with the Pharisees or the rich young ruler. He was the Master of answering a question with a question; of divining the true intention behind the question; of turning the tables on his opponents and leaving them open mouthed and confused instead of the other way around. This ability to utilize “critical thinking skills” has become indispensable in writing a novel. By looking at plot lines from all the different angles, a novelist can creatively lead his reader down one garden path and still have the outcome, though unexpected, be totally satisfying and ultimately logical.
We should be interesting and draw people to us.
I have also noticed that as authors, we tend to be poor speakers. We would rather spend time on the written word; honing it; polishing it; editing it until it is perfect. But, place us in a live interview situation and you would think we suffered from expressive aphasia! Becoming an apologist has also allowed me to hone those speaking skills. The ability to formulate a convincing “argument” on the spot is a powerful way to gain attention from those around us. William Lane Craig in his excellent apologetic primer “On Guard” talks about this principle. He says that apologetics will ultimately make us “more interesting”. Why would we want to be more interesting? To sell more books! To gain attention for our works! To have opportunities to tell our stories! And, this leads to furthering the Kingdom, our ultimate goal.
Are YOU being asked the tough questions?
A few years back, one of the employees at the hospital at which I work committed a murder suicide of his three year old son and his wife. Everyone was devastated as the news reached our department on that horrific Tuesday morning. I knew exactly what would be happening to me. I knew that within hours, employees in my department would be knocking on my office door to ask me “the question”. They seem to have the sense that I had answers to some of life’s hard questions. I never announced that I did. But, in our casual conversations, they sensed the way I think; the way I analyze; the way that I try and point everyone back to Jesus Christ. So, when bad things happen that puzzle and confound us, they turn to the nearest person that seems to have real and truthful answers. Sure enough, the next few days saw me trying my best to answer these tough questions.
This is exactly what we do as authors. We pose questions people never thought of asking and then answer those questions in creative and compelling manners. Jesus did the same thing with His parables. We should do no less.
I challenge those of you who want to write Christian fiction to consider rounding our your foundation by studying apologetics. Look at the tab at the top of this page labeled “Apologetics”. If you go to this section, you can download a document of resources that will lead you to numerous websites and books that will become a firm foundation for sound apologetics.
Fiction is something that we make up. But, our fiction must always point to the Truth of the Gospel. How can we lead someone to Truth unless we know that Truth intimately and fully?
Back in April, I was invited to speak on the intersection of apologetics and Christian fiction. I’ve been invited to present again in August at the Athanatos Ministry’s Writing Conference and I’ll bring you more information on that later. I will be changing up this presentation for that conference so I thought I’d post the Vimeo feed of my presentation.
Here are the topics I cover:
What is Hutchmoot?
Walter Wangerin, Jr. on Story
C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”
A Review of current novels that utilize apologetics:
“The Night of the Living Dead Christian” by Matt Mikalatos
“The Skin Map” by Stephen R. Lawhead
“The Resurrection” by Mike Duran
“The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” by Bruce Hennigan
“The God Hater” by Bill Myers
I had this question dozens of times this weekend at my book signing. Some of you may not have heard of my book “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and I invite you to consider reading this book in the genre of Speculative Christian Fiction. Here are some reader reviews from five different readers:
“This book is not for the faint of heart! A rare thing it is for me to pick up a book that I do not put down till it is read from cover to cover, but this is one of them. I read The 13th Demon Alter of the Spiral Eye in three hours. I would have gone to bed, since I started it so late at night, but this book has enough of the Spirit Realm in it that I knew better than to sleep with out having read the ending.”
“The 13th Demon was very well written and gets you hooked the moment you begin reading this book. — While this is a good book and am looking forward to the next book in this series, I would recommend this book for young adults over 14. There are some images that are extremely graphic and probably would scare a younger child.”
“It might seem odd to say that a Christian book is creepy, but this one was creepy – but I thoroughly enjoyed it. — This book was kind of like Frank Peretti’s early books on steroids. Not something you want to read before bedtime if you are prone to nightmares, but a great read. I liked his characters and the setting, and the book definitely held my interest and I read it through in one evening.”
“The overlay of the supernatural on the natural, a strong lead character, Jonathan Steel, with lots of ambiguity and scope to further develop in future books; good pace that makes it easily readable; some great bad guys (& gals) that are very evil.”
“Horror protagonists tend to be pitiable, average Joes put in unfortunate circumstances, but Steel is the Jason Bourne of paranormal Christian fiction.”
What is Christian Speculative Fiction? Simply put, it is science fiction, fantasy, or horror from a Christian perspective. In fact, if you want to hear my presentation on “Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics” this coming Saturday, check out an excellent online conference on the blending of the defense of the Christian faith with literature at this link http://onlineapologeticsconference.com/ . On Thursday, you can listen and watch online for FREE, yes for FREE to my presentation “CSI Golgotha: A Forensic Analysis of the Death of Jesus of Nazareth” and to Mark Riser’s “Why I am an Old Earth Creationist”. The keynote speaker this year is Dale Ahlquist on C. K. Chesterton.
Here are some pictures from my book signing with Althea Thompson, Publicity Coordinator with my publisher Charisma Media who was so kind to drop by yesterday just to support my book signing. And, there is a picture with my co-author and friend Mark Sutton with whom I wrote “Conquering Depression”.
My wife wanted pizza. I’m dieting and can’t eat pizza. She called our favorite pizza joint, Smitty’s and ordered two pizzas and sent ME to pick them up. All the way over I was debating whether of not to get off of my diet for one night and eat some hot, luscious, cheesy pizza. My diet prevailed. I walked into Smitty’s and there in front of me on the counter was this magazine:
I picked it up and waved it in the air before the tired eyes of the two harried women behind the counter. “Hey, I wrote this! Right here! This article! I wrote this!” They looked at me like I had quoted John 3:16 in Klingon. I nodded meekly and paid for my salad and two pizzas and grabbed a handful of the FREE magazines as I headed out the door. You can find this magazine for FREE in most stores in the Shreveport and Bossier City area.
Check out my article on a forensic analysis of the death of Jesus Christ. It is based on a presentation I’ve given about two dozen times in the past year. In fact, if you can’t find the magazine or don’t live anywhere near northwest Louisiana, you can see my presentation for FREE.
That’s right, for FREE. Go to the website of Athanatos Ministry’s Online Apologetic Conference (link) and register for the FREE day and you can sit back and relax and watch my presentation in the comfort of your favorite computer, laptop, or tablet. And, if you like what you see and hear, then I will be speaking again on Saturday on Christian Speculative Fiction and Apologetics. I’ll be talking about Christian horror, fantasy, and science fiction books that illustrate the Christian worldview. That’s right. Horror. Fantasy. Science Fiction. Didn’t think such a thing existed with a Christian worldview. Guess again and sign up for this most excellent conference and find out all about the literary legacy of a defense of the Christian Faith. Anthony Horvath, the founder of Athanatos Ministry has put together a fascinating look at the intersection of these two ideas. Check it out. I hope to see you there. Well, I won’t see you, but you can see, or more importantly, just HEAR me.
Easter is upon us and this time of year is rife with skeptics who want to deconstruct the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Recently, I presented a talk on “CSI Golgotha” to senior high school students. I will be covering this topic again on April 4, 2012 at Brookwood Baptist Church and on the Athanatos Ministries Online Apologetic Conference on Thursday, April 19th, 2012.
In my presentation, I discuss the “Swoon” theory. This is the idea that Jesus did not die of his wounds on the cross, “swooned” or passed out, and recovered in the tomb. He walked out of the tomb leaving it empty and appeared to his disciples claiming to have risen from the dead. This theory is VERY popular nowadays. It is the stuff of fiction and documentaries. Dan Brown, in “The DaVinci Code” claims Jesus did not die but instead married Mary Magdalene and raised a family.
I have analyzed the events surrounding the torture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth and as a medical professional I have chosen to convene a medical examiner’s inquest. You are invited to participate and become a member of the jury. Did Jesus die as a result of his injuries? Or, were they minor? You can find out by attending one of my presentations: CSI Golgotha.
I am writing the lead article in April’s Faith & Family Magazine available throughout the ArkLaTex on “CSI Golgotha”.
I will presenting my presentation live at:
Brookwood Baptist Church Wednesday April 4th, 2012 at 630 PM with my friend Mark Riser who will be presenting evidence for the resurrection.(www.brookwoodbaptist.com)
Haynes Avenue Baptist Church Sunday, April 22, 2012 evening worship service. (http://www.manta.com/cmap/mmd12vj/haynes-avenue-baptist-church)
And, I will be presenting CSI Golgotha on the “Online Apologetics Conference” at this website and you can watch it for free on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (http://onlineapologeticsconference.com/)
Examine the evidence. Look at the facts. Face the truth!
I have been invited to speak at a breakout session at the upcoming Evangelism Conference for the Louisiana Baptist Convention January 23 and 24 in Alexandria, Louisiana at Louisiana College. I will be speaking Tuesday afternoon on Frequently Asked Questions from the “Faithless”. It will be a two part session covering six of the most importantly asked questions from skeptics and nonbelievers regarding the Christian faith. Here is my description of the presentations:
F.A.Q.s from the Faithless! Part 1 and 2
This presentation will be two 45 minute sessions. Each session will discuss three of the most asked questions by skeptics and nonbelievers regarding the veracity of the Christian faith for a total of six questions. In today’s culture of growing hostility toward the Christian faith, Christian’s MUST be prepared to answers these challenging questions and practice “pre-evangelism”. In fact, these questions are asked by Christians and our inability to answer these questions is at the heart of many who are leaving the Christian faith. Come to both sessions and learn simple answers to these challenging questions. This introduction to “apologetics”, the defense of the Christian faith will show you there are answers to these questions and there are reliable resources available to equip Christians with the tools we need to defend our faith! Be prepared to answers these Frequently Asked Questions from the Faithless!
In light of the bestselling books by the “new atheists” such as “The God Delusion” or “God is NOT Great” the prevailing thought is that if you believe in God you are delusional. Or, as Stephen Hawking would say, you’re believing in a “fairy tale”. What kind of rational, reasonable proof do we have that the God of the Bible exists?
Science and faith are at odds and science is the enemy of faith. The Bible says kooky things like the universe is only 6500 years old when the Chinese have written historical documents older than that. So, what gives? Are faith and science enemies? How can a Christian believe in science and the Scriptures?
Why can’t everyone just leave me alone. It’s up to me to decide what is good and what is bad. Truth is in the eyes of the beholder. Why should I confine myself to YOUR truth. Is there such a thing as absolute truth?
Speaking of the Bible, it seems to be an old book written over thousands of years full of contradictions. I’m sure it has been changed over time to fit the current political climate of the church. How can I believe in an ancient book that has changed so much over the centuries and is filled with so many glaring errors?
Earthquakes, floods, wars, famines, disease — the world is filled with evil and suffering. If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen? Since they are happening, there must not be a God.
Millions and millions; possibly billions of innocent people have been killed over the past two thousand years in the name of Christianity. Why should I become a Christian and join the ranks of those who perpetrate these atrocities?
Got Questions? Get Answers!