A recent article in Touchstone magazine by Hunter Baker of Union University told readers about “a man who is probably the single best-selling Christian author on the planet.”
The author in question wasn’t anyone you’d suspect, such as Rick Warren. It was Dean Koontz, whose books are prominently displayed in supermarket checkout lines and in airport bookstores.
Koontz isn’t usually seen as a Christian writer and, for most of his career, understandably so. But around the turn of the new millennium his faith increasingly began to be reflected in his books. In his 2001 novel One Door Away From Heaven, the villain is a serial killer who fully practices what people like Peter Singer, whom Koontz mentions in the novel, and other utilitarian ethicists only preach.
In fact, this utilitarian worldview, which Koontz explains in the book, is the novel’s true villain. In the afterword, he directs readers to the book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America by BreakPoint favorite Wesley J. Smith.
His 2004 novel The Taking appears to tell the story of an alien invasion; at least an alien invasion is how the culture interprets the events — a culture that, as Koontz put it, was “drunk with yearning for intergalactic contact” and had relegated God to the role of a “supporting player.”
In fact, Koontz’s story is about what the Bible calls “The Day of the Lord” and how to those living in “a faithless time when only science is believed to have the power to work miracles,” a “supernatural event of world-shaking proportions ... might appear to be the work of an extraterrestrial species ...”
What Baker calls Koontz’s “gospel sensibilities” are most prominently on display in the Odd Thomas series. Odd — yes, that’s actually his name — is, as Baker puts it, a “new kind of Christian hero” for the millennial generation.
Odd’s “gift” is one he would gladly return if he could: Like that character in the movie The Sixth Sense he sees dead people. This “gift” and the responsibilities it carries have cost him dearly, but through it all he retains an astounding goodness and a childlike trust in God.
For Odd Thomas, Evil with a capital “E” is all too real and comes in many forms. His “gift” tells him what he must do. But how he can do it is an act faith rooted in his “belief that life has meaning and that, when my last sun has set and my last moon has risen, when the dawn comes that marks the moment when I am born with the dead, there will be mercy.”
Until then, Odd prays, “Spare me, that I may serve.”
Koontz’s books are a reminder that the battle for our culture must be waged at the level of the imagination. People who wouldn’t dream of reading books about bioethics or utilitarianism will read a novel like One Door Away From Heaven.
While it’s important to tell people where destructive ideas like nihilism and utilitarianism might lead us, it’s even better if we tell good stories that make it possible for them to imagine it in ways that engage their sympathies.
And getting people to identify with a character who, in Baker’s words, is “unbelievably good” while at the same time being “believable,” is vital to helping them become good themselves.
It’s all about the sensibilities, both the author’s and ours.
To read Hunter Baker’s review of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series, come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to it.
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BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: October 29, 2013