(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In Black, the first volume of Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy, Thomas Hunter, a twenty-five-year-old in twenty-first century America, finds himself in another reality whenever he falls asleep or loses consciousness. He is told that this alternate world is Earth, far in the future following an event called the Great Deception in 2010, in which most of the world’s population was destroyed by the Raison strain, a deadly virus mutated from a vaccine of the same name.

After waking up, Tom reads a newspaper article about a vaccine just developed by Raison Pharmaceutical. Tom realizes he must warn the world before it is distributed. With his sister’s help, he begins a quest to convince authorities that the vaccine—touted as a revolutionary solution to multiple worldwide diseases—is actually destined to become a worldwide killer. His quest requires him to learn more about the virus, so he seeks to return to future Earth frequently in hopes of learning details that will enable him to thwart the villainous effort to destroy the world. Tom’s efforts to warn the world work paradoxically in the plot: His urgent report to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) becomes the very means whereby Valborg Svensson learns (via an informant at CDC) that the seemingly safe Raison vaccine has the potential to mutate into a deadly virus, setting in motion the very chain of events Tom is working to thwart.

In Tom’s frequent return visits to future Earth, he learns from the white, batlike Roush named Michal and Gabil that Elyon has returned the world to a prelapsarian state in which evil—personified by thousands of black, batlike creatures called Shataiki—is entirely contained on one side of a river, opposite untainted goodness lived out by humans who are experientially ignorant of evil. In this new Eden, the unfallen humans worship and commune daily with Elyon through a ceremony at a nearby lake with restorative waters that serve as a metaphor for Elyon’s presence. The people of future Earth pursue every desire of their hearts without internal sin or negative consequences. Only one act is forbidden them: to drink the water of the Shataiki on the other side of the river. Should any one of them do so, Elyon’s protection from evil will be lifted, and the humans will be at mercy of the evil bats.

From his first visit onward, Tom begins engaging with future Earth in ways that begin to change both him and its residents. He meets and begins courting Rachelle, receiving lessons in their unfallen courtship process from other men in the village. Tom also has a personal encounter with Elyon at the lake. Overcome with an unexplainable desire to immerse himself, Tom dives into the lake when others merely drink. He hears Elyon’s voice calling lovingly to him, and through the water, he feels both Elyon’s love for him and hatred for sin.

Just as Tom is beginning to embrace the goodness of this unfallen world, Tanis, the firstborn, Adam-figure of future Earth, becomes increasingly fascinated with the evil Shataiki and the knowledge of “ancient Earth” that he believes—incorrectly—Tom has gained from them. Despite a lifetime of warning, Tanis allows Teeleh, the leader of the...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Butler, Tamara. Review of Red, by Ted Dekker. Library Journal 129, no. 10 (June 1, 2004): 114. Looks at the second in the series, finding it a somewhat unsettling mix of politics and religion.

Butler, Tamara. Review of White, by Ted Dekker. Library Journal 129, no. 18 (November 1, 2004): 70. Praises the concluding book in the series and calls the author a “master of suspense.”

Dekker, Ted. The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2005. This nonfiction work by Dekker criticizes the Church for its reluctance to pursue pleasure in God. Dekker calls the Church—believers in Christ—to awaken to God-centered pleasures in the midst of the darkness and dryness that can dull the spiritual senses to God’s goodness and hinder the Christian from walking in freedom, hope, and joy.

Fowlds, Sean. “Ted Dekker: Black, White, and Read.” Publishers Weekly 250, no. 37 (September 15, 2003): S11. This article focuses on Ted Dekker’s rise to prominence as a writer and describes his style as well as the then upcoming trilogy.

Holm, Kelsey. “Hollywood Plot Holds Deeper Message.” Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, January 5, 2007, p. 1. Article deals with the release of the film Thr3e, based on one of Dekker’s novels. It is the first release of Fox Faith, a division of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and a Christian film company.

Kennedy, Douglas. “Selling Rapture: The Rise of the Christian Right in American Politics Has Added Impetus to an Already Huge and Growing Market in Evangelical Fiction.” The Guardian, July 9, 2005, p. 4. Kennedy examines the growth of Christian fiction in a variety of genres. Includes discussion of Dekker and his works.