Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Christian themes abound in Ezekiel’s Shadow, the most prominent being the story of the newly converted Christian. Ian had been not only a nonreligious person but also a symbol of anarchy and fear. His family name, Merchant, indicates that before his salvation, he was someone who did not mind trafficking in suffering (even of a fictional sort) to make money; at another level, the name suggests that Ian was selling himself short. As someone who has found a new life, he must work to ensure that his new view of the world is demonstrated in his actions and work.

The novel has a motif of lost fathers. Ian, like Detective Oakley, lost his father when he was a small boy. Howard Kepler becomes Ian’s surrogate father, but he dies. In each case, the point is clear: The Father that Ian must look to is not a biological or surrogate father, an actual man, but the Creator.

Perhaps the most important Christian theme in the novel is revealed through its title and the photograph Howard took of the rib cage in the desert. Howard had been working on a photographic version of the Bible, in which a telling photo would represent each significant verse. The half-buried rib cage is meant to indicate the famous thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel, when God shows the prophet Ezekiel a valley of bones. Even as Ezekiel watches, the bones are covered in flesh and the skeletons become living people, symbolizing the eventual rebirth of Israel and the rebirth of those who are spiritually dead but find the Lord.

In Ian’s case, the desert symbolizes his own spiritual life. In his last and bleakest horror novel, Ian described how evil was ultimate and could go unpunished and declared that nothing in life had any meaning. After writing the book, he realized instead that life had to have meaning—but he had no idea what that meaning was. When Ian found Howard, the photographer of the half-buried rib cage, he asked how Howard could create such a horrific image. Howard responds that the photograph is a symbol for hope, not horror, as it shows that while there may be suffering, there will never truly be horror because humans have everlasting souls, saved by Christ, that will never be tied down to mere bones.