By Justin Rossow
“If he didn’t know he was in a dream, he might actually think this room was real.”
(Ted Dekker, Black.)
Ted Dekker writes two kinds of fiction. One you could characterize as “Thrillers”—psychological twists and dark themes with some overtones of horror. We reviewed a few of those books in a previous post. The other Dekker genre would more appropriately be labeled “Fantasy”—new worlds, strange creatures, epic adventure, true love, and all that jazz.
Black falls squarely in the second category. Dekker uses his Christian faith and upbringing, combined with religious reflection and creative writing, to imagine an alternate reality where biblical metaphors are literal truths. Good and evil are expressed physically. The presence of God is experienced bodily. Like the Garden of Eden, temptation is found in very tangible form. And here’s the kicker—that alternate reality is connected to ours!
“In the other place, the forces of good and evil could not be seen. Only their effects. But here, both good and evil are more… intimate.”
(Michal in Ted Dekker’s Black.)
When the main character, Thomas Hunter, wakes up in this new reality, he can hardly believe his eyes, ears, and all his senses. But after a brief time in the Colored Forest, it’s his life in contemporary America that seems like a dream.
Thomas has to struggle within himself and with other characters about the nature of truth, reason, experience, and faith—all themes Dekker expertly weaves into a plot that continues to gain momentum, leaving the reader anxious to start the next chapter. (And the next book! Black is the first in a trilogy that continues with Red and White, with an added prequel, Green, to make it a cycle.)
Black imagines what a perfect relationship with God would look like in a different reality, and then goes on to picture the fall into sin as well as the work of redemption (Red) and the life of the Church (White).
The real theme of this imaginative theology, however, is the tension between reason and faith. Dekker does a wonderful job of putting the Post-modern reader at ease by making it fiction, but then sneaking in themes that point to the dynamic of faith in a world obsessed with what we can see and touch.
“Maybe it’s not our senses that are the problem, but our minds.”
(Thomas in Ted Dekker’s Black)
In one reality, Thomas is trying to prevent a modern cataclysm that threatens the very existence of human life on earth. In the other reality, Thomas is trying to divert a very similar kind of apocalypse. The fact that the unseen world affects the world that is “real” serves Dekker well as he unravels both a dual plot line and an underlying theme of the reality of a realm only accessible by faith and blood.
Jesus used image-rich parables to tell the truth in a way that could get behind the defenses of the listeners and bring His call to somewhat reluctant ears. Dekker is using the genre of fantasy to do something very similar—to get past our culture’s defenses and present us with a call to know and follow Jesus.
“The whole Christian worldview is based on alternate realities. We fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities or whatever…”
(Thomas in Ted Dekker’s Black)
As a part of a national tour, Ted Dekker is coming to St. Luke—Ann Arbor on Friday, November 1. This book tour and speaking event is a way for Dekker to connect with millions of his fans in a more intimate way and talk some about what he writes and why. It’s also a chance to connect or reconnect his primary audience (16 to 40-somethings) with a faith that values things our culture downplays or despises.
In anticipation of the Dekker event, St. Luke will offer a Wednesday evening study of Black. Join us as we share the experience of reading and thinking through the theology and biblical themes expressed in the book and in the culture Dekker is trying to reach. And think about inviting a friend who struggles with belief in things we can’t easily see or touch, but which claim to be even more real than the everyday details of our weekly existence.
The Black book study begins Wednesday, September 11, at 7:00 PM at St. Luke—Ann Arbor. Guests and visitors welcome. Food and childcare available beginning at 6:00 PM.
The Ted Dekker Speaking Tour event will be November 1, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Luke-Ann Arbor.