Friday, May 5, 2017

The Gospel According to "Eve"

Wm. Paul Young, as perhaps most of you know, is the author of The Shack (2008), which was made into a movie by the same name and released earlier this year. Some of you may also remember the blog article I posted on the book/movie back in March (see here). Then in April, I read Young’s 2015 novel, Eve.
Eve is classified as a Christian fantasy novel. For some reason, though, I have never cared much for fantasy books, Christian or otherwise. I have not read the highly acclaimed fantasy fiction of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, although some of my children and grandchildren have greatly enjoyed their books of fantasy.  
An online dictionary defines fantasy as “the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.” Maybe that is my problem: I just don’t have enough imagination to enjoy fantasy. At least that was my main problem in reading Eve.
Looking at the reviews of Eve on was interesting (see here). Some readers gave it five stars and praised the book. Others gave it one star. One such person is Megz, a young white woman in South Africa. She is a fan of The Shack, she said, but then stated bluntly, “I don’t have a nice way of starting this review: I hated this book.”
I certainly didn’t hate it—but I had trouble appreciating the fantasy.
While I had trouble with much of the fantastic (= “imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality”) parts of the book, which was most of it, I was, nevertheless, impressed with some fantastic (= “extraordinarily good or attractive”) statements in it. Here are some examples.
Near the end of the book Eve says, “Perhaps this desire to reach out to the other [to Adam in her case], to make amends and repair loss, to build a bridge and heal, is a part of God’s maternal being that is in all of us” (p. 282).
One theme of the book is human freedom, which includes being able to make bad choices. In that regard, Eve says, “I have learned that God has more respect for me than I do for myself, that God submits to the choices I make, that my ability to say no and turn my face away is essential for Love to be Love.
Eve then goes on to state,
Adonai has never hidden His face from me, nor has He kept from me the consequences of my choosing. That is why many of my sons and my daughters curse the face and name of God. But God refuses to be like what we have become and take power and dominion. He has the audacity to consent and even submit to all our choosing. Then He joins us in the darkness we create because of all our turning (p. 283). 
There are some appealing theological aspects to Eve. As in The Shack, the feminine aspects of God, whom (because of his strong Trinitarian ideas) Young regularly refers to with plural pronouns, are highlighted. That maternal side of God is also portrayed as a part of all humans, made in the image of God.
God allows human freedom, as mentioned above, even when that leads to turning away from God. But they (God as the plural Trinity) still love unconditionally those who turn (sinners), and they are very eager to embrace all those who re-turn.
Another Goodreads reviewer, Rhonda in Virginia, wrote, “This book caused me to think deeply about my own brokenness.” Perhaps it also helped her, and others, to see the gospel (good news) according to Eve: God’s love is always available for the healing of every broken person.


  1. I hear in this article fantasizing :-) on the central theme of what is God’s love; what Edward Farley calls “Divine Empathy.” It evoked these lines: The God whose face is (always?) turned toward the world is El Roi. The nurturing power at work in the healing of brokenness is El Shaddai. To be God’s friend (lover) is to challenge God (get in God’s face) on behalf of others [Will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?]. To turn toward each other is to see the face of God [Jacob and Esau]. God-with-us does not always succeed. Love keeps trying!

    1. Thanks, Dick. I think that was the sort of thing that Young was trying to say in his novel.

  2. Texas Thinking Friend Britt Towery, whom I had not heard from in quite some time, sent these comments by email:

    "Interesting book on Eve.

    "Always took from the myth the idea that women are second class folk."

    He went on to write that fundamentalists "kept them [women] down as a tradition" and then asserted, "Christianity in the fundamentalist flavor cannot continue to live much longer."

    He concludes, "I appreciate the Bible more [now] than when 'I thought I knew it!'"

    1. Thanks, Britt. It was good to hear from you again.

      Young's novel certainly stands in opposition to the idea that "women are second class folk." And I agree that male fundamentalists (and, strangely, often with female compliance) have tried to keep women down. That is the reason the eighth chapter of my book "Fed Up with Fundamentalism" is "Fed Up with Fundamentalism's Attitude Toward Women."

  3. Some fantasy is just a good diversion from the real world - the fun of reading a novel. Some is actually allegorical, and one must be aware of the author's paradigm. One popular author among millennial Christian men in particular, follows the theology of Joseph Smith Jr. My favorite is "The Last Battle" by CS Lewis - descriptive of our current US culture.

  4. I was recently asked to find and copy an old tape of a local community theatre production of Mark Twain's "Diaries of Adam and Eve." Reading this post made me think of my revisiting of Twain's piece. While fantasy, like most genres, can be used for simple escapism, usually it is used to interrogate the present from a new angle. (Star Wars fans know both can happen at once.) Twain wrote more about the men and women he knew than about a deep analysis of the text, but he used the story from Genesis to frame his investigation of the present. At its best, fantasy approaches the power of the experience of the Apollo astronauts who first went around the dark side of the moon, only to be the first men to ever encounter an earth rise. Fortunately they had cameras, and brought back some of the most iconic photos of the twentieth century. The story of Adam and Eve strips away culture, society, history, and technology to let us question the most basic questions about what it means to be human. I must confess I have not read Young's book, but appears he has joined an old and celebrated quest. For this I salute him.