This Present Darkness

by Frank Peretti
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Last Updated on June 28, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314

Frank Peretti's novel This Present Darkness is an attempt to weave realistic fiction and elements of the supernatural, specifically angels and demons, together into a cohesive plotline that reveals the existence of the spiritual realms and the importance of spiritual warfare.

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Set in the small town of Ashton, the story mainly follows two main characters: Marshall Hogan, who is the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, and Hank Busche, who is the pastor of a small but faithful church. Both of these characters face opposition—such as false allegations, temptations, interactions with demon possession, family problems, and arrest—as they seek after truth when they recognize changes coming into their town.

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These changes stem from the purchase of the community college by a New Age group called The Omni Organization, which is seen as the operating agent for the forces of evil in the novel. As Marshall and Hank continue to investigate this organization, they uncover that it has strong influence over many major figures in the town, including the police chief and many professors at the community college, and that it plans to extend in its reach once it purchases the college.

However, the two main characters also grow in their faith as they are continually faced with conflict. Marshall, who did not claim religion at all at the beginning of the novel, converts to Christianity, and Hank becomes stronger and more confident in his faith.

Juxtaposed with the human characters is the account of spiritual warfare that occurs between angels and demons as the people of Ashton simultaneously struggle for power. These actual battles between the angels and demons often align with plot points of difficulty for the characters. At the end of the novel, through the power of the prayers of the faithful in the town, the angels are able to defeat the demonic powers and stop the purchase of the college.

Summary

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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1488

First published: 1986

Edition(s) used: This Present Darkness. Rev. ed. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003

Genre(s): Novel

Subgenre(s): Apocalyptic fiction; evangelical fiction; thriller/suspense

Core issue(s): Apocalypse; evangelization; faith; good vs. evil; Holy Spirit; mysticism; prayer; spiritual warfare

Principal characters

Juleen Langstrat, a psychology professor

Lucius, prince of Ashton, the head demon

Tal, an angel who is captain of the host of angels

Alf Brummel, chief of the Ashton police

Oliver Young, the pastor of the Ashton United Christian Church

Henry L. “Hank” Busche, pastor of Ashton Community Church

Mary Busche, Hank’s wife

The Remnant, praying members of the Ashton Community

Bernice Krueger, a reporter for the Ashton Clarion

Marshall Hogan, owner and chief editor of the Ashton Clarion

Sandy Hogan, Marshall’s daughter

Ba-al Rafar, prince of Babylon

Susan Jacobson, the Maidservant

Overview

In the small college town of Ashton, demonic forces have been covertly working to take control of the town. The evil plot is to manipulate Whitmore College into bankruptcy and then assume ownership, use this control of the college to control the town of Ashton, and thereby spread Satanic influence in society. Led by the ruling demon Lucius, a gaggle of smaller demons known by their vices begin a subtle attack to control and manipulate the town’s residents in order to weaken their Christian strength and prepare the community for total domination by dark forces. People who are weak in their faith are easy targets; those who are strong in Christian faith are either targeted for elimination or forced out of the town through deceptive or illegal practices.

In preparation for the town’s destruction, Juleen Langstrat is maneuvered into place as a new psychology professor at Whitmore College. As a servant to the dark forces, she begins to aid in the takeover by teaching and promoting New Age philosophies, Eastern religious practices, and witchcraft. Juleen is part of a larger organization known as the Universal Consciousness Society, which is a worldwide front organization for Satan. She practices, promotes, and teaches a type of meditation that facilitates communication with demonic spirit guides. She is able to influence other key members of the community, such as Alf Brummel, the chief of police, and Oliver Young, the pastor of the Ashton United Christian Church. Both Alf and Oliver are recruited by Juleen to help weaken the community’s Christian strength.

While the demonic takeover efforts are under way, the Holy Spirit, aided by the subtle efforts of the angels, begins to position key people in preparation for the impending spiritual battle. Led by Tal, the captain of the host, they work quietly behind the scenes, at times revealing themselves as helpful figures and at other times whispering subliminal suggestions to their charges. The angels are strengthened through the prayers of the Remnant, members of the community who are strong in their faith or who have recently been led by the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus Christ. Hank Busche and his wife, Mary, are divinely brought into the community to pastor at the Ashton Community Church. Hank is strong in his faith and, despite a few demonic attacks, stands strong in leading the Remnant in continual prayer.

Bernice Krueger, a reporter for the local newspaper, the Ashton Clarion, initiates the investigation of the demonic takeover as a result of an angelic suggestion. Working with Marshall Hogan, the new owner and chief editor of the paper, she begins to realize that there is something underhanded going on in the town. They are led on an arduous and at times treacherous investigation to uncover the deceptive and illegal practices that have forced so many townspeople out or ended in their untimely deaths. Hogan, in particular, is susceptible to demonic attacks because of his neglect to develop a stronger Christian faith. He also has a deteriorating relationship with both his wife and his daughter because he puts work ahead of everything else. Because of these broken relationships, his daughter Sandy becomes an easy target for the Universal Consciousness Society.

Shortly after the arrival of Tal, Ba-al Rafar, prince of Babylon, descends on the scene in preparation for the final spiritual battle for the town. As a ruling demon, Rafar usurps Lucius as the prince of Ashton and assumes responsibility for the final takeover of Ashton. Tal and some of the other angels have battled Rafar in the past; the angels are continually concerned that enough prayer coverage from the Remnant is in reserve to ensure a victory in the final battle. After demonic efforts have succeeded and the town is spiritually weakened, the demonically influenced humans are positioned and manipulated for the final possession of the town. At the same time, the angels and demons are inconspicuously positioned for the final spiritual battle.

Unbeknownst to the demonic forces, the angels have been able to influence several key people. Susan Jacobson, who is known as the Maidservant, awakens to the call from the Holy Spirit and works to gather key documents that are instrumental to Bernice and Hogan in proving the many illegal and deceptive practices that have forced people out of the town. The records Susan brings forth are enough to stop the sale of the college. In the final battle between good and evil, Lucius, who is jealous of Rafar, betrays the satanic cause by influencing Alf to resist his orders from Juleen. As a result, Alf unknowingly begins to aid Hank and Hogan. Lucius, in his jealous rage, severely wounds Rafar. When Rafar and Tal finally engage in battle, Tal, strengthened by the prayers of the Remnant, is ultimately able to defeat the demonic foe.

Christian Themes

This Present Darkness is representative of apocalyptic, evangelical Christian fiction of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It tells a story of spiritual warfare in which the forces for good, here aided by “prayer coverage,” battle innumerable odds to beat the forces of evil. In line with evangelical beliefs regarding the importance of prayer to aid in spiritual warfare, it also highlights many Christian beliefs regarding the importance of listening to and obeying the will of God spoken through the Holy Sprit. It also emphasizes the need to evangelize to those who may be weak in spirit or plagued by their own “demons” but hear the call from God to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

The title of the work, This Present Darkness, is a subtle description of current societal influences that many Christians have come to see as forces of evil, particularly those New Age philosophies that attract followers under the guise of being a new form of religion. The New Age religions may offer watered-down versions of Christian values but are seen as being more lenient, accepting sinful behavior and thus deceiving followers into leading sinful lives. Other New Age movements, represented in the novel by the Universal Consciousness Society, promote something greater than God.

Characters like Juleen and Sandy illustrate the influential yet detrimental effects of New Age philosophies. Frank E. Peretti uses the character of Hogan Marshall to show how self-focus can be a form of sin that leads to broken relationships. Hank and Mary Busche and the Remnant highlight the importance of developing Christian faith—following God’s will even when one may question it—and the importance of prayer to thwart Satan’s continual efforts to lead people into sin and away from God.

Peretti would continue the spiritual warfare in a sequel, Piercing the Darkness, in which demonic influences, in the form of organizations promoting liberal, non-Christian views, threaten to undermine fundamentalist Christian beliefs about parenting and education.

Sources for Further Study

  • Blodgett, Jan. Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. This Present Darkness is used to illustrate points regarding the content and publishing of religious fiction and how it supports protestant beliefs.
  • Howard, Jay R. “Vilifying the Enemy: The Christian Right and the Novels of Frank Peretti.” Journal of Popular Culture 28, no. 3 (1994). Notes how This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness promote the beliefs of the new Christian Right.
  • Jensen, Arden E. Prophet in the Wasteland: A Critical Biography of Frank Peretti. Tallahassee: Florida State University, 2000. Offers a critical examination of Peretti, the makeup and beliefs of his readers, and a critical analysis of his works.
  • Jorstad, Erling. Popular Religion in America: The Evangelical Voice. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. Brief analysis of This Present Darkness and its sequel, Piercing the Darkness, noting some of the criticisms and cultural significance.
  • Simolke, Duane. This Present Darkness and Its Influence. Abilene, Tex.: Hardin-Simons University, 1991. Discusses Peretti’s work in the context of Christian fantasy, relying heavily on other published Christian fantasy works in his analysis.
  • Stedman, Barbara A. The Word Become Fiction: Textual Voices from the Evangelical Subculture. Muncie, Ind.: Ball State University, 1994. Analyzes the texts of Janette Oke and Frank Peretti with a focus on the reasons for their appeal among Christian evangelicals.

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