Modernity’s greatest triumph has been the destruction of imagination. By imagination I mean that attitude that nurtured a humane and civilized worldview built upon the tenets of Western orthodoxy. It is that moral acuity that provided an anchor to society, an understanding of Good and Evil, and a social consensus that kept the Visigoths at the gate.
Well, the Visigoths are among us and we have devolved into languid and effete drones fit for little more than a sterile rationalism; we have become spiritually indolent creatures bred to consume and never quite sated in our concupiscent materialism.
And, it is American literature that has led the way to the destruction of imagination. Our literary purveyors have, by and large, abandoned the old myths that spoke of valor, honor, purity, and nobility. For them, man is a rational creature, all fuzzy and warm, given to compassion, diversity, social equality, and immune to evil for the simple fact that there is no evil. Contemporary American literature has given us what Richard Weaver defines as “fatuous optimism,” and we have wallowed in it for decades.
But, there is hope. There is a young writer in the mountains of Colorado that thrilled us last year with his novel, Thr3e, and he has surpassed himself with the recent publication of his new novel, Black.
Ted Dekker possesses a decided intellectual courage; he has turned his back on determinism to embrace Biblical verities and Trinitarian themes. He acknowledges the duality of man — that we are capable of good and evil — and in so doing he has released his imagination. His characters in this finely plotted and multi-layered novel are permitted to be both morally heroic and absolutely corrupt.
Dekker uses violence as an instrument to signal man’s sinfulness; the pernicious effects of Original Sin. His ultimate violence is set against the entire specie, his villain a man that redefines the seven deadly sins. The author carves out two “realities;” one that we are all familiar with, the other outrageous and unfathomable. But, as we turn the page, the other “reality” seduces the reader. We begin to realize that this is the “place” we have yearned for deep within our soul and we begin to wish Tom Hunter would spend more time sleeping.
The other “reality” is not paradise, though it’s not far removed. Rather, it is the future and there is only a remnant left, albeit a blessed remnant. These people have “The Great Romance,” and “the Gathering,” they sing and dance, they eat fruit that nourishes and heals not only the body but the soul as well. But, above all they have a God with the euphonious name of “Elyon” who seeks the love of man defined, as always, through the crucible of Free Will. And, why does Elyon seek our love? The answer is given by the Roush; “√?¬Ę√Ę‚??¬¨ ¬¶because man is so unpredictable!”
Dekker attains the highest level of literary accomplishment in his description of Tom Hunter’s meeting with Elyon. In simple, yet eloquent words, the author confronts the reader with the Incarnate Word and it will leave an impression.
However, there is evil. A formidable evil that dwells just beyond the “crossing,” in the black forest, where spiritual corruption is absolute. The conflict between Good and Evil erupts in both “realities,” only Tom Hunter, a would-be novelist, has any hope of averting the death of billions and the obliteration of the green valley. But, who believes a man who gets his information in dreams?
Ted Dekker’s strength is his willingness to eschew modernity’s worship of relativism, nihilism, and hedonism. He has reverted to the time of the storytellers, when the legends and myths were told before the hearth and heroes were chivalrous knights, valorous kings, and virginal women. Dekker’s work is the stuff of imagination. And, his images elevate and communicate based on a “hierarchy of values.” He knows the truth — deep within his soul — a truth predicated on three thousand years of knowledge, tradition, and God inspired wisdom and he is willing to challenge the sophistic notion that there is no order but that which is defined by man.
Black is the first book of an epic trilogy that will challenge Tolkien’s, Lord of the Rings, and place the author in the company of C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Charles Williams. The next two books, Red and White, are due out later this year.
Ted Dekker has the rhetorician’s gift of applying abstract theological concepts to man’s continuous struggle, in simple and clear terms. He is also aware of the veracity of M. R. James’s erudite observation that, “. . . true horror is perdition.”