What I Appreciate about Alcorn’s Fiction
In the last couple of months, I’ve been able to read three of Randy Alcorn’s fiction books–Deception, Edge of Eternity, and Safely Home. While Alcorn is probably better known for his Christian Living books such as Heaven and Money, Possessions, and Eternity, his fiction works are some of the best fiction I’ve ever read. And I don’t mean that as an overstatement. Here’s what I appreciate about his fiction books:
1) Depth. I’ve read other Christian fiction and, frankly, it’s mostly really sappy. The characters seem out of touch with reality, and the God presented is a quick-fix robbed of all power and authority. Alcorn’s books are thorough, well written, and deep. They are not content to skim along the surface of emotion and thought, but wrestle with deep questions. He’s not content to build up straw men and then quickly hammer them down with a quick Jesus-laced one-liner from the Christian good-guy. Rather Alcorn writes like he is not afraid of the hard and difficult questions brought up by the seeming contradictions between God’s Word and the world we live in.
2) Skill. It’s easy to tell the difference between good writing and bad writing. A good writer knows how to develop characters, how to draw out their emotions and thoughts without getting letting the story get bogged down. A good writer employs metaphors and similes intentionally, yet not often enough to let the story turn into ‘Rambo-meets-the-thesaurus’ type literature. Simply put, a good author can transport you into the story without being manipulative. Safely Home is an emotional book about persecution in China. Yet it is the honesty of the characters which stirs the heart, not melodramatic writing. Anyone can cause someone to feel for a character. It’s much harder to cause that feeling for a fictional character to turn into real-life transformation.
3) Truth. This walks a fine line. The Gospel by nature is offensive. It is a message that seems foolish to those who are fools, but is known to be wisdom by the wise. Some people will pick up Alcorn’s books and be turned off by the truth contained in them. Each of the three books I’ve read have been Gospel centered and saturated. The Gospel is not the story. But without the Gospel the story wouldn’t exist.
4) Imagination. Every book has scenes from heaven in it. This is imagination beyond what the Bible tells us about heaven. However, Alcorn’s vision of heaven is always consistent with what we do know about our eternal home. The blanks he fills in certainly are not inspired. However, reading his books has given me a greater longing for heaven. I’ve come to understand how heaven is indeed a place God has built for human beings. We are not out of place in heaven. Rather heaven was designed perfectly for us, and us for it.
If you get a chance and have the time, pick up some of Alcorn’s novels. God gave us imaginations to use for his glory. Dominion is a mystery thriller that literally had me guessing until the last few chapters. Safely Home is a story about persecution in China and God’s work in redemption. Edge of Eternity is a supernatural thriller bearing some resemblance to Pilgrim’s Progress.
As a final recommendation, let me just say that I want to live how Alcorn writes. Gospel-saturated, Christ-exalting, truth-proclaiming, and meticulous for the sake of the glory of God. Thank you, Randy, for using your gifts for good.