Still talking about The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead (Facebook).
Several of the tour members have expressed concerns about the theology in The Shadow Lamp, namely one character's lengthy explanation about God and our place in the universe. I do share those concerns. But even with those issues, I felt like God's presence and Christianity were SHOWN better in the book than they were TOLD by a Gianni in a long speech near the end of the book.
All the points can be seen through the lens of Etzel and Mina (two of my favorite characters). Thomas Clayton Booher had an excellent write-up of some of Etzel's more memorable moments if you need caught up.
Point 1: One concern is that Gianni's speech in The Shadow Lamp could be interpreted as supporting a more deist philosophy, where God does not get involved in shaping the future, as that would interfere in free will.
But I'd argue that throughout the book, the opposite is shown. What in the world are the odds that Mina would happen to land in Prague and be picked up by one of the nicer men in all of fiction, a man who speaks German, a language she just happens to have some memory of due to her grandmother. Personally, I think that's the sort of writing that only makes sense if you're coming from a world view that some higher power put things together to work out for the best. If there's no higher power or some sort of plan to the world itself, then it's just author laziness.
Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Spoilers ahead; I suggest you stop reading now if you haven't read The Shadow Lamp.
So speaking of dear Etzel! In the epilogue, Etzel is literally, and to my eyes gladly, loving his enemies. It was touching and I thought in-character, given what a kind man he is.
Regardless of the debate about theology and God's involvement in our lives, I'd argue that the way Etzel acts throughout these books thus far is for the most part keeping in the way a follower of Christ should live. Gianni? He may say some interesting things, he may be considered a genius by the other characters, but I don't see that he's particularly a character to be admired above any others, at least not on a spiritual level.
In other words, there's a great Christian testimony in the series, and the character shines by his actions and making gentle mentions of God. Quite a contrast to the speech given by a character (and an essay by the author!) proclaiming their viewpoints on how science and religion intersect.
And speaking of Christian testimony, during Etzel's kind acts during the epilogue, am I the only one thought of the sad fate of the dwarfs in C.S. Lewis' "The Last Battle?"
"Aslan," said Lucy through her tears, "could you--will you--do something for these poor Dwarfs?"
"Dearest," said Aslan, "I will show you both what I can, and what I cannot, do." He came close tot he Dwarfs and gave a long growl: low, but it set all the air shaking. But the Dwarfs said to one another, "Hear that? That's the gang at the other end of the Stable. Trying to frighten us. They do it with a machine of some kind. Don't take any notice. They won't take us in again!"
Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs' knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn't much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear they couldn't taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a Stable..."
I hope Lord Burleigh will not track me down through the Multiverse and hurt me for revenge, but he's so suspicious of Etzel's motives, don't you think he comes off quite a bit like a Dwarf?
As C.S. Lewis (and Lord Burleigh) illustrated, you can't force someone to accept Christ's gift. It remains to be seen of Burleigh might someday change for the better, or if Etzel's just putting hot coals on his enemy's head. I guess either option is good, come to think of it.
So no, I certainly wouldn't point to The Shadow Lamp as a beacon of theology--at this point there are doubts about God's sovereignty and an old-time Egyptian priest (the servant of one of their gods) who's very much looking forward to going to heaven (!). It remains to be seen how everything comes together in the end and what it all means--what we see now is actually characters' opinions and theories, though those opinions are often portrayed as truth.
Regardless, despite the (in my opinion, justified) concerns, there are still enough glimmers of light that I'll be reading Book 5. (Well, that and it's just an interesting story.)
Thanks for the tour, all! One more time, the participants:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.