Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter, Keven Newsome

It was only a couple of weeks ago but I've already forgotten how I heard about this book, but something clearly appealed to me because I immediately ordered it.

I wasn't quite so enthusiastic when the book arrived. One of the things dampening my enthusiam was the opening statement in one of the mini-reviews on the first pages: "Christian Goth - way cool concept".

Personally I see very little that is "cool" about that concept. Conforming to the world's obessions, whether "Goth" or any other cultural fad ought to be the antithesis of the Christian life.

And the beginning of the first chapter did nothing to win my confidence, having the feel and imagery of horror fiction written by an enthusiastic but clumsy teenager.

Harsh things to say about a book? Certainly. I'm not sure I've ever written such strongly negative things on this blog...

But then - wait for it... things steadily improve.

Before long I'm caught up in the story, I identify with the main character Winter, the "Christian Goth" mentioned in the previously mentioned review. Early in the story the idea of "judging a book by its cover" receives a little attention, challenging the viewpoint I expressed above regarding the "Christian Goth" issue and I have to concede the right of Winter to her image.
We are told she has only been a Christian for a very short time. We are also introduced to the reasons why she adopted the Goth image in the first place. So, looking past the "way cool" comment I mentioned earlier I have no problem with the character as she has been written and my issue so far is more with  the one who made the "way cool" comment rather than the book's author or his characters. Even the first chapter seemed less clumsy on reflection after I was able to place it in the wider context of the unfolding story.

One of the difficulties I find with Christian fiction is the underlying theology. With some books it is never an issue. They merely portray realistic people in familiar situations trying to deal with everyday life (with a few extreme situations thrown in) in the best way they can according to their level of faith in God. Moving from a place of doubt to a positon of greater trust is a common theme.
Winter is significantly different. It takes us beyond our familar world into territory more associated with the present day genre of "paranormal romance". Winter is struggling with dreams, visions and a recurrring feeling of deja vu. We find she is experiencing the beginnings of a gift of prophecy in which she is made aware of things that are either happening elsewhere or things that are about to happen.

And that is where my biggest concern with the book rises - with the way prophecy is portrayed in practice and purpose. To me the portrayal has more in common with clairvoyance and psychic practices than a biblically sound portayal of a prophetic gift. A clear example is Winter's need to have contact with an object belonging to another character to gain "prophetic" information about that character. That is an occult practice known as psychometry and not a practice of biblical prophets.

Considering the New Testament warns of an increase in false prophets and false prophecy , a non-biblical portrayal of prophecy in a potentially popular work of Christian fiction is worrying. As a work of fiction Winter is entertaining. It captures and keeps the reader’s interest. In my opinion it is a genuine page turner. But the nature of the theological foundation it is built upon makes that readability dangerous if readers accept the books portrayal of biblical prophecy and prophets as legitimate instead of being informed about these things through scripture itself.


  1. Thanks so much for your review! I truly understand your concern in regards to Biblical prophecy. As a theology student in seminary, I can tell you I take my theology very seriously. I worked hard to ensure that the things Winter does have a direct parallel to the Old Testament prophets. Her having an object is merely a crutch used to help her focus. That'll be further explained as the series develops. The object has no direct purpose or connection to her visions. I apologize if that wasn't made clear.

    On the other hand, I think it's awesome to have reviewers like you to keep writers like me theologically accountable. Most people don't care enough to notice the subtle ways I tried to weave OT prophecy into the book...but you cared enough to notice the small thing that I didn't fully explain. Well done!

  2. G'Day Keven,
    I appreciate your comments. I hope I didn't come across as too harsh. I was really torn between enjoying the book and the questions I had about the portrayal of prophecy.

    I've recently faced a few situations associated with clearly false prophecies, so the matter of true and false prophecy has been at the forefront of my mind for some time. Unfortunately "prophetic" has become a seriously abused term in the church in recent years with all kinds of questionable activities and doctrines being promoted as "prophetic".

    I'm not sure of the relationship/similarities between the OT prophets and NT prophets. One aspect of your book that I did note was that Winter's gift tended towards the OT example and that has stirred my interest to see whether there is a biblical difference in the prophetic gift now.

    I am very interested to see how the series continues. When is the next book due for publication?

  3. You certainly didn't come across as harsh to me. I appreciate the accountability, and I welcome questions. I'm specializing in Supernatural Theology, so it's my passion to teach people about these kinds of things. And if I don't have an answer...I'll find it.

    There is indeed a difference between NT prophecy and OT Prophets. Notice I used different terms. In the New Testament we see more of wisdom proclamations and some foretelling, though this is more the exception than the norm. That's the "gift." But the "office" of Prophet in the Old Testament is much more complex. Here's an article I wrote on it.

    I will most certainly flesh out NT vs OT prophecy, false prophecy, and eschatological prophecy as the series progresses. A reader who follows me through should have a decent, though perhaps not entirely thorough - it is fiction after all, theologically sound knowledge of all four categories. In the case of Winter, saying that she "has the gift of prophecy" is somewhat misleading, but it's wording we had to use because it's understandable to most people. The tagline on the front cover, "The Prophetess for a new generation," is more accurate. I took the stance of, What if an Old Testament style Prophet showed up today? What would that look like?

    The next book is due out October 2012, with the third and forth books following in 1 1/2 year increments, unless something changes. As you can probably infer from my article link, I've got a lot of developing left to do with the story and the character.

  4. Keven, thank you again for your comments. I like your article "what is a prophet"* - it gives a good biblical overview of prophecy and the prophet.

    Despite the misgivings I mention in my post, I enjoyed your book and by the time I'd reached half way found it very difficult to put down. I'll definitely be looking out for the next book and will be interested in seeing how you "flesh out" those prophetic issues.

    In the past have struggled to find acceptable, readable Christian fiction that tells a good story, maintains a sound, biblical theological foundation, and at the same time isn't merely a literary pulpit from which a token gospel message is preached.

    As someone who had ambitions to be an author, ambitions which occasionally begin to stir again, I try to reconcile that inspiring question of "what if" with the actual reality of what IS in relation to spiritual truth.

    That is possibly something I'll think about more for a future blog post.
    *link given in Keven's comment above.


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