I'm generally not a fan of Christian fiction. It's usually cheesy and/or heavy-handed with bad or lame theology. For some reason, when I got the chance to review The Sword, the first of the Chiveis trilogy, written by Moody Bible Institute professor Bryan Litfin, I was intrigued, albeit skeptical.
The basic premise is that the human race has largely killed itself, leaving small clusters of people without knowledge of technology or Christianity. It explores what happens when a Bible is found and Yahweh (known as Deu in the book) is introduced to the culture.
The audiobook is long (over 14 hours), but it was one that I didn't want to stop listening to. Litfin's writing is engaging, and he does a nice job making the reader/listener care about the characters. What I also appreciated is that the book was not preachy. Non-fiction can be preachy (under certain circumstances), but fiction generally should not be, in my opinion.
There was a section where it could have become preachy, when there was a debate among the fledgling community if the "Sacred Text" should be read with "plain meaning" or "hidden symbolism for the elite." The former was clearly favored by the heroes. However, I think the truth is somewhere in between, not with such dichotomy. At the same time, as the book progressed and the characters deepened their faith, their understanding of Deu and the Bible also seemed to become more nuanced.
In many ways, this particular struggle, along with the initial emphasis by the characters on seeing Deu's overt power mirror the developmental process of individuals and communities along the journey of faith. I was happy to see that Litfin decided not to have Deu demonstrate dramatic, spectacular miracles to bring the people to faith, but rather worked more smaller, incarnational ways.
I also really enjoyed powerful ways Litfin demonstrated the love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy of God while not minimizing his perfection and desire for holiness. What saddened me was the hostility and fear of the clergy from the gods of Chiveis reminded me very much of many Christian communities now and in the past. This book should not just be message for people to follow the one true God, but also to remember how to encourage followers. The message Litfin sends is clear: God transforms through love, not fear.
I think the best summary of my review is that I went ahead and purchased the two sequels from christianaudio (the last one is due out at the end of the month). I'm liking the start of book 2 already.
The Sword is currently available free on christianaudio, and the sequels are available for only $4.98 each for a limited time.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”