(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Robert Whitlow’s The List describes the culmination of a spiritual battle between good and evil that has spanned generations. Set in South Carolina, it highlights the impact of supernatural elements in local and family history on events in the present time. The story centers on a young lawyer, Josiah “Renny” Jacobson, who simultaneously inherits two family legacies. His father was a member of the List, an occult secret society that passes membership from father to son, and his maternal grandfather was an evangelical Christian who prayed that the young man would have a special purpose in God’s plan. As Renny learns more about his family’s past, the List tries to seduce him with wealth and power while evangelical Christians come to his aid through ministry and prayer. These Christians serve to exemplify Whitlow’s ideal of a dynamic prayer life centered on private conversation with God and fellowship with other Christians. With their support, Renny eventually learns how to become an instrument of God in the ongoing battle between good and evil.

Renny’s father has died suddenly, leaving the young lawyer with assets in a company called Covenant List. The List, Renny learns, is an investment group that smuggled assets out of the country during the American Civil War and invested them overseas. When a member of the group dies, membership passes to his son, who must swear loyalty to the List in return for a share in the wealth generated by the investments. After the List contacts him, Renny meets Jo Johnston, the daughter and sole child of a List member who has recently inherited membership. Jo is an exemplary Christian who is not tempted by the promise of wealth or power. Though not religious himself, Renny becomes intensely attracted to Jo, and the two begin dating.

The List is wary of Jo’s religiosity and lack of desire for wealth. Desmond LaRochette, the group’s president, asks Jo to leave while they debate her eligibility. Once Jo is gone, they induct Renny into the List in a ceremony with occult overtones, complete with shedding a drop of his blood. Then they vote to reject Jo. One List member who argues against this decision suddenly falls down dead after the vote. The rest of the meeting is postponed. Jo becomes increasingly suspicious of the List’s occultism, but Renny...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Blodgett, Jan. Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. Reviews sixty evangelical novels from 1972 to 1994, with attention to how they are used to define, describe, and explore Christian themes in contemporary society.

Murphy, Edward. The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare: Revised and Updated. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelsen, 2003. An example of an articulated theology and method for spiritual warfare. Expands on the bifurcation between naturalistic and spiritualistic worldviews implied in The List.

Peretti, Frank. This Present Darkness. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1986. An influential best-selling novel about spiritual warfare in a small town. Whitlow’s books have been compared to a cross between the works of Peretti and John Grisham.

Whitlow, Robert. The Trial. Nashville, Tenn.: Word, 2001. Whitlow’s second novel and winner of the 2001 Christy award. As in The List, a lawyer is healed emotionally and spiritually while investigating a mystery.