The book is generating some good buzz with a lot of the other tourmates. Becky Miller keeps a running tally of the posts for the tour right here. Check them out for varied responses and thoughts.
Mike has been kind enough to answer some questions for me in an email interview. I'm running the ones dealing with The Resurrection today. Tomorrow I will post the rest dealing with writing in general, along with some final thoughts on the tour and the book by yours truly.
1. The Resurrection is a deep book with a lot of ideas. Where did you get the idea for some of the Mesos (pagan gods) and what type of research did you do? (There is an anthropology professor who studies pagan religions, and these Mesos play a key role in the book - Jason)
MIKE: Jason, the concept of the Pantheons, which the Mesos are a part of, is one of my favorite parts of the book. I have a pastor friend who has started several churches in the Peruvian Amazon. He always returns with wild tales of superstition, witchcraft, curses, and Indiana Jones style adventure. That vast area is home to some of the world’s only unreached people groups. In those parts, religion is not monolithic, but tends to be an amalgam of beliefs, from animism to Catholicism. And there are many, many gods. It presents a real challenge to Christian missionaries.
Pagan worldviews often construct a “pecking order” of powers, invisible entities vying for allegiance and demanding obeisance. It is somewhat paralleled by the biblical concept of “principalities and powers.” Scripture describes a world where false gods and hierarchies of malevolent beings wrestle for Man’s fate. In this sense, the Mesos are the pagan corollary to a biblical reality. They are “…the powers of this dark world…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
Of course, we Americans are too sophisticated for such nonsense ;-). Or are we? My thought, when conceiving the book was to speculate what an intrinsically pagan system would look like if it had taken root in a specific American locale. What effects would it have on dull, materialistic Americans? And how would such a “system” reveal itself?
2. What themes did you see when you first started writing The Resurrection? What theme or idea surprised you as you wrote?
MIKE: The initial theme was that of miracle versus materialism. I had long pondered the idea of story that pivots around a bodily resurrection and the various effects it would have on different groups (as miracles often had in Scripture). However, you’re right. As I wrote the story, certain ideas “surprised” me.
One of those ideas was simply “faith.” Ruby became this icon of simple faith to me, someone who does not have all the answers but who still limps forward, refusing to abandon hope. In chapter 3, Ian Clark watches Ruby and ponders, “She’d been through a lot—more than he could imagine—and still she clung tenaciously to her faith. Some would probably call it naiveté, even obstinacy. In a world where science pushed the boundaries of human knowledge, where progressive philosophers ran circles around religious conservatives, how could one continue to believe in a two-thousand year old creed? Ruby Case was evidence enough that those people existed.” Like Clark, I puzzle over, even envy, people with simple faith.
What some people may miss in the story is the role that faith played for evil. In fact, my initial title for the story was “What Faith Awakes.” In a sense, Benjamin Keen had as much faith as Ruby Case. Ruby’s faith literally “awoke” someone who was dead. But Keen’s faith – faith in his system, faith in logic, faith in the gods – also awoke something. Something hellish (which is one reason we should not look lightly upon the varieties of occult belief). So, clearly, one of the themes that surprised and inspired me through the story was this sense of how powerful even the smallest acts of faith can be, and how huge of an impact they can make.
3. In the book Reverend Ian Clark struggles with his faith even as he leads a church. As a former pastor, how much of Clark's battle comes from your own walk?
MIKE: There’s no doubt that my experience as a minister has seeped into Ian Clark’s struggles. Unlike Clark, however, I have never considered agnosticism. However, I have been shaped by several tragedies (like Clark) and am tremendously sensitive to the plight of pastors and their unique struggles. I just learned this week about an old pastoral acquaintance who is no longer a Christian. He and his wife were on staff at a local mega-church. They have since divorced and he now denounces what he once believed. How does this happen?
I believe the average church member would be surprised at how many of our pastors harbor secret struggles, whether theological or emotional. Of course, they must appear to be strong. Like Ian Clark, they must stand and deliver every Sunday morning, only to return to their office and flog themselves. And sometimes our churches are more guilty of wanting a good sermon than wanting an honest, healthy minister. Which is why in The Resurrection, Canyon Springs Community Church is really as complicit as Ian Clark.
4. Spiritual warfare becomes an issue for Ruby and Rev. Clark. What experience have you had with this?
MIKE: From my perspective, the term “spiritual warfare,” is kind of loaded. Yes, there are accounts in Scripture of demonic possession and the clash of supernatural powers (think Moses and the Pharaoh’s magicians or Elijah and the prophets of Baal). And we are warned repeatedly about the devil’s devices and deceptive strategies. However, most spiritual warfare is hardly as dramatic as we like to conceive. At least on our end of things.
In my novel, both Ruby and Reverend Clark spearhead some dramatic spiritual events. Nevertheless, it was their simple steps of faith that triggered those events. Ruby traveled to Aida Elston’s, climbed the hill to the cemetery, and refused to let Oscar take his own life. And Clark pursued Ruby and then confronted Keen. In both cases, it was their obedience or determination that set things in motion. The same is true for us – small steps of faith have tremendous power.
Several people have compared my book to Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness.” While I’m flattered by the comparison, I took great care to NOT show the spiritual realm in the way Peretti did. Though I reference angels and demons, they remain behind the scenes. Rather, the actions of the characters are front and center. This is intentional.
When people ask me about spiritual warfare, they seem to be wanting stories about exorcisms, deliverance, and miracles. I have some stories like that. However, I believe the most important instances of spiritual warfare are the ones that are unannounced and unseen. Loving my wife and sharing God’s grace with my co-workers may have more prolonged effect upon the cosmos than anything I ever do. The biggest victories are probably the ones no one will ever see. I really hope that that concept comes out in The Resurrection.