So the biggest question I probably get…or at least hope to get…is, “How in the heck do I expect to teach truth and the literalness of scripture by presenting it all through a fictional lens?”
“Wow”, I say, “That’s a really thought full question and I’m glad you asked it.”
But before I go off answering that question, I want to stop and give credit where credit is due.
Without the groundbreaking books about spiritual warfare that Frank Peretti wrote in the late 80’s, this book would probably have never even been conceptualized. Now, even saying that feels awkward because I don’t think that anyone, especially me, will ever recapture the magic of Tal and the other angels that hold the line against the forces of evil in those two books. And, if you’re reading this and haven’t read “This Present Darkness” or “Piercing the Darkness”, then you have definitely been missing out.
But while having my eyes opened to the concept of spiritual warfare that Mr. Peretti wrote about those many years ago, I later came to realize how much greater in magnitude the war around us really is. I mean, the Bible is FULL of imagery that is more powerful than any Hollywood Movie or special effects master could ever recreate. And yet, somehow we tend to not ever even really think about it as we go through everyday life.
There was a song that my dad used to play for me growing up. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s one of those things that kids like because their parents liked it, but as i grew up I fell in love with the imagery that the artist put into the song itself. The song is “Lazarus Come Forth”, by Carman. Without reciting the whole song, the basic premise is that Lazarus (from the Bible) dies and get’s to heaven just before there’s a sort of fellowship meeting. All the Old Testament saints are in attendance as it’s announced that tonight’s meeting was “Testimony Night”. One-by-one each of these Old Testament saints gives their testimony as to how they experienced God. It recaps the most famous stories that we’ve all probably heard in some form or another along the way…that is, until it get’s to Lazarus.
Getting so excited hearing everyone’s recollection if their lives, he jumps up and says “I knew him too…but I knew him in a way that y’all NEVER did.”
“You see I walked with Him and talked with Him, I saw how His teachings awed the crowd. Those famous tears of compassion, I could actually see. He used to come over my house after church, and my sisters would make Him dinner. Every month, I even supported His ministry. You see man I watched Him confront the Pharisees, I was THERE when he fed the five-thousand..I heard the people gasp, when he healed the lame. You see I even remember the littlest things, the things most folks would forget; like the simple, loving way he just called my name.”
That retelling gives me goosebumps every time I hear it to this day…and I’ve heard it THOUSANDS of times. So I ask myself, what would it have actually been like? In the case of Lazarus, he got to know Jesus personally…and I don’t say that to make little of the personal relationship God strives to have with each of us; I mean, they actually hung out. They sat around the same table. Lazarus probably asked Jesus to pass the Pita bread!!! How many of us have been able to ask Jesus to pass the Pita Bread?!?!
(I say that jokingly, but it’s probably not far off from the truth)
And so when I set out to write this story, that’s the angle I wanted to capture. Not just with Jesus, but from the beginning…what must it have all been like?
But, in writing a fiction, quickly came across another set of problems quite quickly. See, I also take to heart the end of the book of Revelation when it says
I don’t necessarily think that that passage ONLY applies to the book of revelation. I mean, it is at the end of the ENTIRE book, so I think it may have a broader meaning all together.
So how in the sam-hill was I supposed to write a fiction about the Bible, without changing anything that the Bible said happened? BEcause the problem is not in just changing events, but even in changing the little things like the dialogue of what Characters like Abraham or Moses even said.
* Side note and an ADD moment. Before I go any further, I want to be clear on something. I’m not that super legalistic as I may be painting myself to be. I do believe in Grace and I realize that I may be binding myself a little too tight with what I’ve created, but I do also believe firmly in the integrity of the text of scripture, and I don’t think that should be altered for the sake of entertainment. I know, I know…but that’s me. And I think there’s been a ton of fun stuff that did a lot of good and teaching along the way, but this series is going to be a little different.
Ok, now that I got that out of the way, let me give you the guidelines. When you’re reading these books, or any of the spin off material that falls under the Stories of the Seven world; there’s a pretty easy set of rules that, hopefully, will challenge the way you read the Bible.
Rule 1 – If any character named in scripture (Moses, Abraham, Lot, God, or anyone else) says or does anything, it’s only because the bible LITERALLY says he did so. Now, there’s a mild exception to that rule. I may say “Abraham stood there”, when the Bible didn’t say he was standing there…but I’m assuming he was standing there and not laying down…here’s where that Grace starts to creep in. (Insert Smiley face)
But if you see Abraham speaking or doing something specific, it’s because it was in the Bible. I think, and my hope is, that if the reader understands that that it will probably challenge some of the things that they were taught…or weren’t taught. Like, did Abraham really fight against 4 kingdoms with just the 318 men he had in his camp? Well, you tell me.
Rule 2 – If there’s a character that’s not in scripture by name (Seren, Tekoah, Sahada, etc), then everything they say and do is totally made up. Their life and perspective (both angels and demons) is completely part of my imagination.
My goal is that as the reader progresses through the book, and if they know the rules, that they come across things that happen and stop to ask themselves if those events ACTUALLY happened. I want the audience to try and find places where I bent the rules, but I want them to try and prove that my retelling is wrong by finding the event in scripture. It should be easy, right…I mean the books follow specific passages of scripture so it’ll be easy to find. What’s more is that I even went one step further and even footnoted every quote from scripture when used in dialogue.
This should be a cake walk!
That then is my challenge with writing this series. To prove that through a fiction story, there is literal truth shared. And while the eyes of the fictional characters are the ones who are seeing the world around them, I hope that it gives the reader a fresh perspective that they can use for the next time they read through any particular passage of scripture.
The Text of the Bible is powerful and is life changing. Every word, phrase, and punctuation mark are there for a reason. It is a beautiful thing to have a God that urges you to learn, study and get to know Him. And if I can present even a little bit of that truth while you have fun reading a fiction novel, then, well…I think that’s pretty cool.