This blog seeks to promote Christian speculative fiction and theological literacy based on the premise all of life is under God’s rule. As authors of Christian fiction and fantasy, we believe our writing comes under that rule. Therefore, as writers of Christian literature, we have an obligation not to entertain only, but more importantly, to convey clearly and unequivocally the truth of Holy Scripture.
Night of the Living Dead Christian, by Matt Mikalatos. March 2012 CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2
Night of the Living Dead Christian has a mix of reviews on Amazon.
The lowest rated review was
a single two-star in which the person simply said he could not get into the book,
which happens, of course. I’m sure there are many out there who would find it
hard to get into the Harry Potter books, though I suspect they are related to
Charles Winchester III.
I read several of the three
star reviews. They generally came down on the favorable side, but often just
barely. Questionable use of zany humor, an odd presence of werewolves and
zombies, and an incoherent flow of the story were some of the reasons proffered
for the unenthusiastic ratings. Regardless, there is one thing that they all
seemed to get from the story, and that was the need for transformation.
I agree with that. Transformation,
and more precisely, transformation that comes only from Christ is the essential
message of the book.
But there are some serious
problems. In a post for a previous blog tour I argued that a novel is robustly
Christian only if it brings the salient truths of the gospel into the story
(October 2011 Tour, Day Three – The
Bone House. I restricted the scope of those truths to the reformed
doctrines of grace defined by the acronym, TULIP (Total Depravity,
Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance
of the Saints). I believe the doctrines of grace are a correct and therefore
biblical understanding of what the gospel is. As such, they are the measuring
rod for what makes a story Christian. In my estimation, Night of the Living Dead Christian fails to meet that standard.
The failure is at the point
of Total Depravity. Total Depravity is simply this, that every person born into
this world is a sinner. Each of us are conceived in sin (sinners from the
moment of conception) as David testifies, “Behold, I was brought forth in
iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”, Psalm 51:5. There is nothing
good in us, nothing that seeks after God or his ways. There is nothing in us
that enables us to seek him because the spiritual things of God are things the
natural man is incapable of understanding, 1 Cor 2:14. It is not that he tries
to understand them but for whatever reason, fails to. It is that the things of
God are foolishness to him and he does not want to have anything to do with
The werewolf Luther Martin, the
character that the story centers on, is not like this. We catch this early on,
in the werewolf’s own words:
None of use desire to remain wolves. All of us desire
to remain wolves. It is the nature of the werewolf to be both man and wolf, and
for many years I was satisfied – no, pleased – to be both man and wolf. (p 47)
The imagery (or allegory, if
you will) of a werewolf as representing the unconverted man is wrong. Here is
the picture: the base, amoral animal nature of the wolf represents the bad of
human nature while the intelligent, sane and moral nature of the man represents
the good. But the sinner from birth does not have a good side. In fact, a
werewolf like the one in our story, who has two conflicting natures at war with
each other, can only be true of the Christian, for the Christian alone is the
one who has been freed from his sin which seeks to regain mastery over him –
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit,
and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to
each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Gal 5:17).
Luther Martin is no such
Christian. Though he grew up in the home of a Lutheran minister, he rejects any
claim to be a Christian. He paints some of the integral doctrines of the Christian
faith in farcical terms. The reformed doctrine of Unconditional Election is
treated this way, as well as the significance of the atonement:
Thus we come to the likewise ridiculous Christian sentiment
that he [God] has “chosen” or “elected” us to be in relationship with him, and
that he loves us and adopts us as his progeny. It is like saying I have tipped
over an anthill and selected certain ones of them to be my children. Not merely
that, but I have chosen to sacrifice my human child so their accursed anthill
can be spared destruction, and that I am making this handful of ants the heirs
of my vast estate – of my house, my car, my food, my clothes, my money.
Certainly this comparison does not even begin to scratch the surface of the
ridiculous claims of the Christian faith. (p 156)
This underscores that the
gospel is foolishness to the sinner, and Luther Martin is such a sinner. Matt
Mikalatos’s use of a werewolf to represent the condition of human beings
without the grace of God in Christ is simply wrong.
One might counter by saying
that any allegory is going to breakdown at some point and that you cannot
expect a one-to-one correspondence between the allegorical character and the
real-life one which it represents. I agree, but the werewolf was chosen
because, in Mr. Mikalatos’s theology, the sinner is not totally depraved, just
as the werewolf is not totally animal.
That is a serious flaw in
the theology that underlies Mr. Mikalatos’s novel, and it has serious
implications. I will address this more in my third post.
Thanks to Saltriver (Tyndale
House Publishers) for kindly providing a copy of Night of the Living Dead
Christian for review on the March 2012 Christian Science Fiction and
Fantasy Blog Tour.