Why a Novel?

Why a novel?  If one wanted to explore the life and ministry of Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, why not take a traditional approach?  Take biographical information from the Bible, add historical and cultural research, mix in Paul’s theology from his letters, and voila!  Several excellent books have been written using similar formulas.  These are books that appeal to me.   I like to study and to take a scholarly approach to the Bible and theological concepts.  The Bible, along with these kinds of books, are the resources that I use to formulate my sermons.   But I also love what Tolkien called “a ripping good story.”  I read Tolkien’s story of Bilbo and Frodo with wonderment at the power of his parable of good and evil and the prideful self-will of mankind.

The reason that I preach or write anything is to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to write about the ways that we walk with Him in integrity.  The goal is for people to grasp the Biblical concepts of salvation, faith, grace, love, redemption, and make them their own.  But my observation is that, apart from technology and engineering, all people form their most closely held beliefs in their hearts, not their heads.  Our intellect works to justify what our heart desires.  From the most intellectual to the most vulgar of thinkers, this is true.

The secularists operate in that way to promote their worldview.  Stories, drama, movies, and music are their methods of “evangelism.”  They seek to move the emotions of people in order that they might receive their philosophy.  Fredrich Nietzsche brought about the “God is Dead” movement and the idea of “supermen” through fiction about “Zarathustra” and “The Mad Man.”   I also know that, besides the Bible, the most successful Christian book ever written is speculative fiction— “The Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyan.

In the 1960’s Robert Heinlein wrote a science fiction novel called “Stranger in a Strange Land.”  It was about Valentine Michael Smith, a young Martian colonist come to visit Earth.  Heinlein coined a term “grok” which was the Martian word for water.  “Grok” connoted completely understanding someone or something by empathy or unity; like understanding water by taking a drink.  I began to see “grok” bumper stickers and hear about cults formed around “grok.”  There is power in a good story, well told.  I want people to “grok” the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The great desire of Paul’s heart was, “…that I may know Him (Jesus) and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 (NASB) Paul wanted a profound understanding of Jesus by empathizing with Him.  Like understanding the life-giving properties of water by taking a long, thirsty drink of it.  This is what I want to create for the reader of my novel, “In the Grip of God”—a great desire to drink of the living water of Jesus Christ.

George Cargill