Good, evil and the battle for souls
Ted Dekker is known for novels that combine adrenaline-laced stories with unexpected plot twists, unforgettable characters and harsh confrontations between good and evil. A graduate of Evangel University, Dekker is the best-selling author of Blink, as well as Heaven’s Wager, When Heaven Weeps and Thunder of Heaven. Raised in Indonesia, Dekker now lives with his family in the mountains of Colorado. He shared his thoughts recently with Associate Editor Scott Harrup.
PE: You’ve described your childhood growing up in Indonesia as an “outside the bubble” experience. Can you elaborate?
DEKKER: Simply put, it means I was stranded outside the bubble of any particular culture. I was too American to be Indonesian and too Indonesian to be American. Missionary kids in my position grew up peering into other bubbles, adapting as required to fit in as best as possible. Psychiatrists call it the “chameleon effect,” learning to change the color of your skin on the fly to fit into any particular cultural setting.
PE: How has your multicultural upbringing influenced your writing?
DEKKER: They say that the greatest gift of any writer is their ability to observe. We observe and then we write what we see. Now consider growing up on the outside of the bubbles around you. You learn to peer and observe, not just at the obvious but at the subtle side of human nature. God was preparing me for my ministry today way back then, in the jungles of Indonesia.
PE: Your fiction examines both natural and supernatural realms. Why does the supernatural appeal to people?
DEKKER: Because we are spirit beings, not just natural beings. Because God is supernatural and we humans, created in His image, are as well. Not being fascinated with the supernatural is somehow not completely human. All the larger questions of life deal with what lies beyond the skin of this nature — the supernatural. Where do I come from? Where am I going? What forces of good and evil influence my daily life? In the apostle Paul’s words, we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. Naturally, this fight should interest us, or we might lose our motivation to fight the good fight.
PE: Fascination with the occult, in particular, seems to reach a peak around Halloween. How can the nature of that public interest lead people down some dangerous paths?
DEKKER: Fascination with the supernatural isn’t a problem. The fascination with evil, on the other hand, is. As spirit beings we are either drawn to the light or drawn to the darkness. The occult represents a form of darkness that is particularly dangerous because it claims to benefit humankind and presents itself as a kind of steroid to happy living, as it were. “If you follow these rules and use these charms, you will find happiness and love,” etc.
Evil masquerades itself as an angel of light. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. The grin of a demon on an orange pumpkin. Not to say that jack-o-lanterns are somehow possessed, but we have to be careful to understand that Halloween is clearly a celebration of evil, dressed up to look like a child’s game. Predictable, really.
PE: Your years in Indonesia exposed you to a culture with a long and dark history of occult involvement. What evidences of satanic activity did you encounter?
DEKKER: The natives I grew up with were steeped in spirit worship, but it’s never as obvious as “satanic activity.” Truly, there is as much satanic activity in the beauty parlor down the street as in the jungles of Indonesia. Each presents itself in a different way. To us Americans, watching a greased up native dance around a fire, waving a fetish may look satanic. Yet perhaps an American with a white facial mask and foil in their hair, gossiping under the blow dryer is as satanic. Remember, evil masquerades as an angel of light, both here and abroad.
PE: As a writer who regularly directs readers’ attention toward spiritual realities — some of them quite dark — how do you make sure that your message is redemptive?
DEKKER: I don’t have to make sure. My stories are about redemption, period. Everything I write is about the redemptive power of good over evil. But to show the bright light of redemption, you must first see the black stain of evil. To characterize redemption as a small thing would be a travesty. But to show it as a big thing — a huge victory over a terrible enemy — you must first see the threat of that enemy. Only then can you appreciate the true greatness of redemption. The true contrast between good and evil must be shown, and this requires a proper characterization of evil.
Now having characterized evil as a black nasty mess, the light of redemption is glaring in contrast. The white is whiter and the light is brighter. This is how the Word of God shows redemption. It’s also how I do it.
PE: Your current project is the Black, Red, White trilogy. You have set yourself a breakneck writing schedule to release all three components this year. You’re also dealing allegorically with a subject as big as all of history. What are you hoping to accomplish?
DEKKER: In this trilogy I hope to open the reader’s eyes to a completely fresh understanding of our own salvation history. The terrible fall, the brilliant redemption, the lovely bride. Christians tend to forget their own history; we must never forget the power that comes in a full understanding of the lengths God has gone to win back His children. Our sight is narrow and we see only that which is right before us — cooking supper, going to school, finding a better job. But when we step back and see our lives in the context of this massive drama between good and evil, our own small troubles dim.
With Black, Red, and White, I want to blow the shutters off the windows to the mind and reveal the kind of redemption that will make readers gasp. Our own redemption.
PE: In the final analysis, life is full of encounters with both good and evil, full of heartache and joy. How can people ensure that good triumphs in their lives and that their spirits are never crushed by circumstances?
DEKKER: By clinging to the absolute knowledge that this life is fleeting and may be over tomorrow, if not sooner. Then awaits a bliss that is enough to make a strong man tremble. Hope, man. Hope is the fuel that motivates the Christian life.
Let me quote Paul:
“I pray also that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18, NIV).
I am always surprised at how infrequently American Christians talk and think about the hope of our inheritance. I’ve written a book about the death of hope in the church, called The Slumber of Christianity, due out next July from Thomas Nelson. We must reawaken the same raging hope that the Early Church embraced. It’s a hope for bliss in the next life, not this life, and it was enough to wash away all of their troubles. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
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