Before I jump into the Spiritual Factor of The Skin Map, I want to highlight two of the participants of this blog tour. First is Fred Warren‘s blog on tattoos. Personally, I find tattoos fascinating (no, I am not currently sporting one nor probably ever will), but the history it holds in some cultures and the meanings behind the tattoos of people I know make this art interesting. Tattoos are important in The Skin Map since the ley lines map is literally tattooed onto the man who has explored all these ley lines. Fascinating 🙂
Next is Rebecca LuElla Miller‘s post on the opening quote of The Skin Map and the physicist quoted (Quote is “Why is the Universe so big? Because we are here!” John Wheeler). Her response to John Wheeler’s question would be a bit different (the Universe isn’t so big because of us but because God is bigger). Check out her post and see what more she has to say.
Now, moving on to the Spiritual Factor.
I’ve come to realize since last month that I should come up with a definition of what I mean by the Spiritual Factor. There is always debate on what makes Christian fiction Christian versus just secular. Is it a clear presentation of the gospel? A God similar to the one in the Bible? Moral behavior?
Here’s is what I have come up with and will use as the measuring stick when I talk about the Spiritual Factor of the books I read: what about the book brings the reader into a more deeper understanding of God. This can range anywhere from a non-Christian exploring the elements of faith to a long time follower experiencing the growing pains of faith. I do not believe it is enough to have morally good people in a Christian book and cross ones fingers and hope the reader picks something up. I believe there should be some purpose. And I explore how well the author brings his/her point across.
Now for The Skin Map.
I will say I did not see a lot of God in the book. And I think I can safely say none of the main characters are Christians. There was a quick definition of God that threw up some red flags but I’m not sure if Stephen’s intentions were to show this was the belief of the scientific men he was portraying. Here is the quote:
“All the universe is permeated, upheld, knit together, conjoined, encompassed, and contained by the Elemental Ether, which we recognise as an all-pervading, responsive, and intelligent field of energy, eternal and inexhaustible, which is nothing less than the ground of our very being and the wellspring of our existence- that which in ages past and present men have been pleased to call God.” (pages 56-57)
I hope this isn’t his definition of God because it sounds eerily familiar with how the Star Wars Universe describes the Force. God is not an intelligent field of energy. He is a being possessing of personhood.
The only character in the book that seemed to have a belief in God was Etzel, the German baker Wilhelmina runs into when she is transported back to Sixteenth century Prague. His faith intrigues Wilhelmina and you see her considering it.
But that is all I saw in this book. Now this book is first in a series and perhaps there is more to uncover in the next few books. Personally I’m curious to see how the characters (and perhaps the author) show how God is involved in the ley lines and hopefully in the characters’ lives themselves. I’m especially interested to see if Etzel’s beliefs have affected Wilhelmina.
Until I am able to read more in the series, my vote is out on how much of a Spiritual Factor there is in The Skin Map. I sure do hope the direction of God is not towards the quote I have above.
11 thoughts on “CSFF Blog Tour- The Skin Map, Day 3”
I like your definition of “spiritual factor.” I think that’s more complete than any I’ve seen before.
BTW, thanks for the link to my post. When I read that quote, it really caught me up short.
Because I’m writing an epic story and know that most Christians would scratch their heads and wonder where is God in my first book, I guess I’m willing to be patient and see how the series unfolds.
To be honest, the King Raven trilogy (CSFF featured two of those books) was not deeply spiritual. But with the Bright Empires series tackling such issues as the vastness of the universe, it seems unlikely that God won’t also become a focus eventually.
We’ll see/ 😉
Becky, I agree with you. Since this is a series, I want to wait to see what Stephen does with God. However, that quote caught me off guard. I’m assuming it only reflected the scientific men presented, but I am seeing more and more Christians see God this way (which scares me). So we’ll wait and see.
I’ve thought more about that quote, Morgan.
If there was a period after “Father,” I would have thought, Right on!
I have a little trouble with “all-pervading” because it has pantheistic implications, but it could also refer to “omnipresence,” which, of course, is indeed one of God’s attributes.
Intelligent? Yes, definitely. But a field of energy? That one gives me lots of trouble. For one thing a “field” sounds limiting, confining, and non-personal. Is God “energy”? He is Spirit, He is life, which leads me to believe He has energy, controls energy, created energy. But IS He energy? No! I don’t see that in Scripture.
The rest of the quote, however, is also consistent with what I believe Scripture teaches about God.
I guess what I’m saying is, the part of that quote I have trouble with is the “energy” part. But it’s coupled with “intelligent.” Has there ever been “intelligent energy”? And is the speaker actually trying to reduce God to something equivalent to The Force since he also referred to Him as “Father”?
As I recall, it isn’t clear in the book who spoke those lines. It was the guy addressing that council or commission or whatever it was, but was that Sir Henry Fayth? I don’t think it was clear, but I’ll admit I didn’t study it closely.
Sir Henry seems to me to be a character through whom Mr. Lawhead delivers his perspective, but I could be wrong (I still have a hundred or so pages to go).
Anyway, thanks for spurring my thought on the spiritual aspects of the book.
OK, after reading Thomas Booher’s Day 2 post, I see the quote is actually “Elemental Ether” rather than “Father.” That cuts down a good part of what I said in my last comment.
Also in going back over the passage and what follows, it would seem that the man who spoke these words is Sir Henry. Hmmmm. Not sure what to make of this now. I remember my first reaction was that Sir Henry was not a believer. So I guess I’ll have to just keep reading.
“Because I’m writing an epic story and know that most Christians would scratch their heads and wonder where is God in my first book, I guess I’m willing to be patient and see how the series unfolds.”
First, I need to learn how to do those quote things of yours 🙂 Secondly, I was thinking about what you said about your own book. The book of Esther is filled with all sorts of spiritual impact, yet God is never mentioned in the entire book.
So can a book bring a reader closer to God without ever mentioning God? Done right, I think it can. I also think some of the more overt, in your face, thinly veiled preaching you find once in a while in a book actually does not bring a reader closer to God.
I guess that’s why I chose that definition. I remember reading a book (name and author escape my memory) years ago that showed how one character constantly saw God in nature (in a garden, in a beautiful sunset, etc…). God wasn’t mentioned much, but I had never seen God that way. Now I see his fingerprints all over the place, just because a piece of fiction displayed a fictional character’s relationship with God that way.
Of course, this definition leaves anything learned up to the reader, so its not a concrete, “I can point you to the page and paragraph and prove it to you” kind of thing. But I think a skilled author will be able to get his/her point/theme across so most people understand what he/she is trying to write.
Oh, and Becky, thank you for catching that typo on my quote lol, not Elemental Father, Elemental Ether. But its still the intelligent energy that catches me. Made change to my post…
Wow, I love how you presented the “spiritual factor” in your blog. I too do not think its just good enough to put “good” people in a book and hope the reader comes across with “hey! I should change my life accordingly” (just like in our lives it has to be more than “I am good, look at me! You should be just like me, because…well…its good!” We have to live it, breathe it, make being a follower of God a living active thing we do daily…and truth be told,I need to do more of that.). That is not what I got out of Lawheads book that he was trying to accomplish. The more I look back on it, the more that I am thinking there will be definite unfolding of characters, well.. character. I am not sure where Stephen Lawhead stands on believing in God and his word, but I too liked Etzel and the interaction between him and Wilhelmina.
Thanks for your thoughts!
After getting your comment, I decided to look at your review of The Skin Map and see if you said anything else on the subject. That quotation is certainly difficult, and somewhat ambiguous. A few possible interpretations:
(1) Lawhead’s “God”, as you said, is more like the Force of Star Wars than the God of the Bible.
(2) He is saying that God is part of nature: The universe is part of His very being, or (possibly) His being is part of the universe. This is pantheism and defies our Christian understanding that, “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.” (Psalm 102)
(3) It can be truly said that God’s power holds the universe together and His will directs it. Paul told the Athenians, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
He was putting it philosophically to philosophers; maybe Stephen Lawhead is putting it scientifically for scientists. “An intelligent field of energy” may not be what God is, but how His power and will at work in nature appear to the multiverse scientists.
But still, it’s a troubling quotation. I don’t think it necessarily means that Lawhead has a pantheistic view of God, but it could.
Hey Shannon! I totally agree with what you said. I love the way the Bible shows everything is held together by God.
As far as the now “infamous quote” lol, I’m not sure where Stephen was going with that (if that will be the view of the series or was just the view of the men present during that scientific meeting). I don’t think we will know until the entire series comes out. I can totally see the characters growing in their understanding of God as each book progresses.