Sulky Sam

Title: Preacher Sam
(Same Geisler, Murder Whisperer – Book 1)
Author: Cassondra Windwalker
Genre: Mystery / Christian Fiction
Pages: 284
Rating: 2 of 5
Future Release Date: 9/17/19 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of the review)

Preacher Sam is not your typical Christian/Religious fiction. It includes profanity (including “the F bomb”), it discusses sexual addiction and lustful thoughts frankly (and occasionally explicitly), there is no strategically placed “get saved” speech, and it falls into the mystery genre rather than historical romance.

Our protagonist is a disgraced, porn-addicted ex-pastor who is living with his atheist single-mom sister while trying to get his life and marriage back together. In the past he was instrumental in getting a murderer to confess. References to this abound, but the details remain so sketchy that it feels like we’ve missed out on book 1 of the series. When one of his former parishioners is jailed for murder and refuses to defend herself or speak to anyone but him or the victim’s husband, Sam must figure out what really happened.

Unfortunately, the story focuses far more on Sam whining and sulking about his life and family relationships than it does on the murder mystery. His pursuit of “what really happened?” proceeds in a desultory, mopey fashion, and the amazingly convenient item that finally helps him solve it is ill-explained and/or doesn’t quite make sense. Add a shoehorned-in romantic subplot for his sister, some preachy bits, and a final line that undercuts any apparent character growth, and this really didn’t work for me.

Tearjerking Error

Title: The Shack
Author: Wm. Paul Young
Genre: Christian Fiction / Theology
Pages: 260
Rating: 1.5 of 5

While this book is fiction, its purpose is to teach people about God and their relationship with Him. As a Christian who (tries to) prioritize my relationship with God above all else, I hold any such book to a very high standard. Since The Shack has become wildly popular and has now been made into a movie, I thought it would be a good thing for me as a pastor to evaluate it against the Bible so that, if necessary, I could caution my congregation on any questionable areas they should be aware of should they decide to read/watch it. I won’t bore you with the full 6 pages of quotes and notes (if you want them, contact me with your email address and I’ll send you a copy), but here is the condensed version:

Very basic plot synopsis: A man’s daughter is abducted and presumed brutally murdered in a shack in the wilderness, leaving him to continually experience “the Great Sadness” and think of God as brooding, distant, and aloof. God invites him to return to the shack and appears to him in the form of three people, who help him learn to love and trust God again.

The good: The book definitely packs an emotional impact. Young deals with the difficult problem of suffering and tragedy without offering nice little pat answers. He talks about (and really makes you feel) the loving relationship within the Trinity and how God’s amazing love for us and our relationship with Him flows out of that relationship.

The questionable: As Young fleshes out his basic ideas he leaves behind many of the basic teachings of the Bible in favor of a “safer” watered-down concept of God that sounds comforting but  includes many errors (note: I come at this from the belief that the Bible is God’s error-free self-revelation). The problem areas include –

  • The importance of the Bible and the local church are minimized/ignored
  • God the Father & God the Holy Spirit are portrayed as almost entirely feminine in nature (the Bible includes both masculine & feminine imagery and always opts for masculine titles and pronouns)
  • The roles within the Trinity are blurred/confused
  • God the Son’s self-limitation is exaggerated (possibly to the point of falling into the Arian Heresy)
  • God’s holiness is minimized, as is the need for obedience
  • God’s sovereignty is limited (He reacts to events rather than ordaining them)
  • It is very unclear when and how God’s forgiveness is received (hinting at universalism rather than faith in Jesus Christ)

When I first wrote my evaluation I tended to give Young the benefit of the doubt and assume he was expressing himself poorly rather than straight up denying basic biblical teachings, but a couple days ago he released a new non-fiction book entitled Lies We Believe About God that makes it unambiguously clear that he is a universalist who rejects the idea of a sovereign God who planned the cross as a way to save sinners from sin’s eternal consequences through faith in Jesus Christ (you can find a review/summary of the book here).

Overall: while this book might make you feel closer to God and his love, the concept of God you will find here is quite different from the one found in the Bible. If you read/watch it, do so with discernment.