Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3

The Skin Map, by Stephen R. Lawhead

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Skin Map for review on the November, 2010 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

What is it about speculative fiction that is so attractive? I do not mean to be presumptuous; it is a matter of taste, and there are many who unfortunately (for them, that is) are not the least enticed by it. But it has to do with the imagination, I think. We imagine things every day, but they are usually mundane things. Fantasy and science fiction, by definition, are not mundane. For the Chrisitan writer, these are naturally laden with the ability to convey biblical truths. To me, fantasy is better suited for that task because of its imagery and other-worldly characters. The Skin Map, which is science fiction, has its fascination as well.

A long, long time ago, when I was a boy, I had some recurring dreams that were so powerful they ring clear even today. There was one in which I had superman’s ability to fly, cape and all. Interesting that I did not have his strength; in fact, in my dream I wasn’t concerned at all about doing feats of strength. It was the flying. I flew over cities and mountains and lakes, zoomed down and zig-zagged through housing developments. I even entered huge bodies of water several hundred feet deep, very reminiscent of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (the movie) in which the Triwizard Champions were required to retrieve their friends from the lake. They all had to come up with ingenious ways to breath under water. In my dream, I could breathe under water as naturally as out, an ability I had no idea superman was capable of.

Another dream was in the 1960’s, when the space program was just getting underway. John Glenn had recently completed his three orbits. I was an astronaut in a mercury capsule, sitting atop an Atlas 109-D rocket. A panoramic array of zillions of controls and lights surrounded me, and I knew exactly what they did and how to use them. The Atlas lifted off, and I rocketed toward the heavens flipping switches, pushing buttons, and reading gauges all the while. Sadly, the dream ended or I awoke before I ever entered orbit.

Flying like superman and speeding into space like John Glen.

That is quite peculiar. I don’t care for heights, in spite of the fact I made it through the US Army’s airborne school at Fort Benning Georgia.

The ability to jump from one place and time to another surpasses the world of my boyhood dreams. But a world of ley lines and time travel has its mysteries and dangers.

Let’s assume I find a ley line and am thrust back to Wittenberg Castle on October 31, 1517, just in time to catch Martin Luther leaving after posting his Ninety-Five Theses. Through several gestures and miming efforts, which amuse him immensely, he invites me to a tavern, and over a tankard I am able to convince him of the existence of ley lines and time travel. Being the choleric fellow he is, he agrees to come with me ‘for the ride.’ We find the ley line, feel the tingle, I point to the sky (Luther mimics me) and, poof, we are gone. But there’s a problem which I have overlooked. I can go forward to my future, but what can he do. My past is his future, and according to the laws of time travel, one can only travel back in his time, not forward. I end up in the middle of the Battle of Gettysburg and Luther, well, who knows. Have I destroyed him since I made him do what was impossible for him to do? Not to mention I have probably caused the Reformation to stall before it has even started.

Let’s go further back, to the first century AD. I tumble into a meadow a few yards from the Appian Way to find a small cohort of Roman Soldiers (all of whom have a good laugh at my ungraceful arrival) and an unassuming fellow who goes by the name of Paul. Could it be? It is. It is the apostle himself, on his way to Rome, under guard. I follow along and after a little over eleven stadia, I catch the eye of the apostle who gains permission for me to accompany him. Now to make this easy, I’ll say that for some extraordinary reason my Greek from seminary, and Hebrew from language school while in the Air Force (yes, I was in two branches of the military - had to go through basic training twice) come fluently to my mind and tongue, and we are able to converse. After some time I tell Paul who I really am and where I come from. Surprisingly, he believes me. I offer to break him out of jail in Rome so that we could make the jump to another land and another time - imagine what that could do for the gospel! He declines and asks me if I have ever read his second letter to the Corinthians. I am puzzled so he begins to explain...

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows -- such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows -- how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 Cor 12:2-4

Sheepishly, I said I understood and bade good day. As the jumble and clatter of the soldiers and horses grew dim, I thought back on his words, and the passage from 2 Corinthians. Ley lines and time travel are child’s play and their mysteries and dangers are nothing to be feared.

I thought of John’s marvelous statement,

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2

Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians,

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 1 Cor 15:42-44

A spiritual body - an oxymoron? Perhaps, though an oxymoron is defined as a contradiction of words, implying that a ‘spiritual body’ would be self-negating; if it’s spiritual, then its not physical, and vice versa. Yet Paul is quite clear, our resurrected body will be a physical-spiritual body. This implies that physics as we know it now will be history (literally). Our bodies will be physically spiritual and spiritually physical. We’ll be able to appear and disappear at will, just as Christ did the day he challenged Thomas not to doubt and when the eyes of the two on the Emmaus Road were opened.

Our new existence would make ley lines obsolete, if they were real, of course. The most marvelous thing about our new existence is that it will be one of sinlessness. No more inner struggle with indwelling sin. No more fits of anger and jealousy, no more thoughtless words and malicious attitudes. Only the full blossoming of the fruit of the Spirit every second of every day.

I’d be the first in line (after checking if it’s okay with my family) to be superman or an astronaut or a ley jumper; but it all pales in light of what awaits us in the new heaven and earth:

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Cor 2:9

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-7

Stephen R. Lawhead's Web Page
List of CSFF Blog Tour Participants
The Skin Map on Amazon


  1. Great article, Thomas. Thanks for these thoughts.


  2. You stole my thunder when you quoted 1Cor 2:9. We humans have amazing imaginations, but nothing compares to what God can do :)