pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence by Steve Luhring

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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 

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Saturday, 3 February 2018

Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence by Steve Luhring

Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence 

Created as an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this novel is set in the modern day time period. It chronicles the overnight adventures of the world-famous atheist, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is on a crusade to rid the world of religion and things could hardly be going better. But his fortunes soon change and he has a “Dickens of an evening” filled with ghostly encounters during which he’s given a chance to reconsider the meaning of life and his answer to the question of God’s existence. But Scrooge is a brilliant, hard-core sceptic, so the thought of the ghosts convincing him of anything or bringing about a change of heart is, as Scrooge would put it, a “bah-humbug!”

The Guru's Review: 

This novel grabbed me as soon as I discovered the genre, apologetics. The other was the description. This was the deciding factors to accept the author's request to review it. I even showcased the author in an Author/Novel Spotlight post to explore this novel, its apologetics and the author's history behind it. It can be found here. I was impressed with the reason that Luhring crafted this novel: 
I’ve been fascinated by A Christmas Carol since I first saw a movie version on TV when I was an adolescent. From the moment Marley’s ghostly face appeared in the knocker of Scrooge’s door, I was hooked. Now as an adult, I realize the reason this story has such universal appeal and has become a classic is because of Dickens’ genius in portraying so convincingly the complete transformation of a human being from so believably rotten to so believably good in the context of an imaginative, sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, and always entertaining story. In a similar way, I’ve humbly endeavored to adapt Dickens’ story to portray the complete transformation of one so believably sceptical to one so believably embracing a reasonable faith. I think the only way to portray that type of transformation in a convincing manner is by introducing reason and evidence into the equation. The project in ways resembled putting together a puzzle -- fitting compelling Christian apologetic arguments into one of the greatest stories ever written. The result is a modern-day adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” which chronicles the overnight transformation of the world-famous atheist, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is on a crusade to rid the world of religion (bah-humbug!), and things could hardly be going better with the passage of a new hate-speech law designed in part to target the religious. But his fortunes soon change and he has a “Dickens of an evening” filled with ghostly encounters during which he’s given a chance to reconsider the meaning of life and his answer to the question of God’s existence. But is there really anything the ghosts can say or do to bring about a change of heart from this brilliant, hard-core sceptic?
I was also impressed with what two other apologists had said about it as well: 
“While Charles Dickens' immortal story is a compelling tale of transformation, imagine what it would look like had Dickens been ambitious enough to have had Scrooge go on to tackle some of the greatest questions in life, such as Does God exist? If so, why is there such evil and suffering in this world? Is there meaning and purpose in life? Is there an after-life? Is freedom worth fighting for, and what's at stake if we lose it? These pages are bold enough to do exactly that, and do it brilliantly.”—Dr. Paul Maier, author with over 5 million books in print including A Skeleton in God’s Closet. 
"The choice of a modern retelling of the Scrooge story is very clever, perhaps even brilliant.” Dr. Heck, C.S. Lewis scholar and author of the book, From Atheism to Christianity: The Story of C. S. Lewis.
I read Maier's A Skeleton in God's Closet and its sequel many years ago, so I am not surprised at Maier's endorsement in the Foreword and it was this connection that also clinched it for me to read this novel. He was the first apologist author I read and I still have fond memories of these two novels and the impact they had on me. I can definitely understand Luhring's respect and admiration of this author and his endorsement for this novel. 

But it was not only these factors that encouraged me to read it. It was the fact that Luhring has travelled down the path that the Bible exhorts us to do as Christ's disciples in 1 Peter 3:15
.....but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
I was encouraged with how he did this: 
I started pursuing in earnest my passion for Christian apologetics (otherwise known as “defending the faith” or “dealing with doubt”) after stumbling upon a Dr. William Lane Craig podcast in 2007. I vividly remember listening to the first podcast while shoveling snow in my driveway. It was quickly clear to me that Dr. Craig’s effectiveness rested not only in his command of the facts and logical argumentation, but also in his ability to communicate concisely and persuasively - and with wit no less. From that point I was hooked. Within about a year, having gained reasonable and convincing answers from a Christian point of view to some of life’s biggest and toughest questions and with enthusiasm only building to learn more, I felt that I needed some productive outlet for sharing. I began teaching bible studies at my church that focused on dealing with doubt and answering the big questions in life, like “Does God Exist?” Over the years, I’ve been a student of the writings of other great, persuasive Christian apologetics including Dr. Paul Maier, C.S. Lewis, Professor John Lennox, G.K. Chesterton, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, and Ravi Zacharias (whom my son and I had the privilege to hear speak in person at a nearby university earlier this year). During that time I also had the idea for the Scrooge book which I see as an ambitious attempt to reach both the heart and the mind through a gripping story.
This was a breath of fresh air to me when I read this. Apologetics is such an important discipline that is either not taught or very little taught in most churches today. It should be and needs to be, if and only due to the verse mentioned above, but more importantly for why it was written, to show the hope of Christ and what He has achieved by His death on the Cross: salvation and redemption of mankind. For us in today's world of increasing secularism, humanism and rejection of all and everything relating to God, the Bible and Jesus, we are seeing laws created and enforced that are forcing the human race to think and behave in such a way that is tolerant of everything as long as it is not connected to Christianity and everything Christianity stands for. 

How many of us know enough our faith, why we believe it, and then be able to defend it? I admit that I need more of this knowledge and discipline too. It is a sad indictment that we are not encouraged to so or that we do not do so on our own accord. We need to be competent in this discipline and obedient to the instruction of this bible verse that also undergirds and support the Great Commision. Hence my interest, challenge and conviction that this genre of Christian presents to me as well as to all those who have a righteous relationship with God.

I applaud authors such as Luhring for writing novels in this genre for this very reason. And sadly again, it is not a popular genre of Christian fiction and it should be and needs to be. Hence my interest and promotion of this genre and specifically this novel.

Luhring has created a very unique concept with this novel. Not only has he given A Christmas Carol a twist and set it in a modern setting, it is also a story within a story. When you start this novel, you are not introduced to Scrooge. The character that creates this story within a story, Professor Edward Spassnicht, emerges in the Introduction and the reader meets him again in the Epilogue, with him achieving what he set out to achieve, through adapting A Christmas Carol to tell of his opportunity to reconsider the meaning of life and (through Scrooge) his answer to the question of God’s existence. Luhring has adapted this classic very skillfully. How can I say that when I have not read Dicken's classic tale? Simply from reading what others have said who have read both novels and the various annotations that reference the many inclusions of the original parts of the original in this novel. I do regret not taking the opportunity to read this Dickens classic before reading Luhring's novel as it would have enhanced my appreciation of both. I did not have time with my review schedule and life in general. However, I have seen enough snippets of the various movie adaptations and it being referenced and described in various other reading material I have read, so I did get more than a gist of the story.

And for someone like me who has not read Dickens first, I can say that this reworking of the former could stand on its own. Luhring's creation here reads like it is an original story. There has not been one reviewer who has said the opposite. It is a great novel. Luhring writes very well. The flow and pace of the novel are not disjointed or has peaks or troughs. This is an impressive debut novel.

Readers appreciate reading a novel where it shows that the author has done their research and has seamlessly included this into the plot where it does not stick out or appear misplaced. Luhring succeeds here. He has a solid grasp of the rise of atheism and scepticism that is evolving into the suppression of free speech by laws and ideologies to adhere to. Luhring uses the example of Bob Cratchit speaking out against a fictional community with liberal lifestyle choices to show how these laws come into effect and affect those who are in opposition to them. He effectively portrays how this will clash with the tenets and doctrines of the Bible and how Christians will be the direct target of these laws and their severe penalties. This is a real depiction of spiritual warfare played out in the human arena with its aim to abolish religion and increase the liberality of mankind. 

Using the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Luhring takes the reader on a journey showing Scrooge having all of his worldview and belief system challenged by some of the greatest Christian apologists of our time, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, Dostoevsky, Martin Luther, William Lane Craig, Leibniz,  and John Newton! This supports my statement before about being well versed and knowledgeable about why we believe what we believe and being able to defend it. In this case, it is about challenging different worldviews and seeing how they stand up against Christianity. Luhring's novel definitely shows that when we do this, the Spirit takes up our cause and works in the heart of the person being challenged. It also shows despite how strong one is in their worldview and belief system when it is "their time" as stated by Marley, the Spirit has done His work and the person is ripe for accepting God on His terms and only His terms. It was entertaining and engrossing seeing Scroope challenge the three Spirits and try to outwit them by disproving the existence of God but against such a huge weight of evidence, and God at work, he finally realised that God does exist based on this evidence and the Gospel being presented to him through this.

I highlighted so much of the text in my Kindle while reading this novel that I felt I was a kid in a lolly shop! A treasure trove of insight and evidence showing God's existence outside of the Bible! The Bible is more than enough but having other apologists add to this that supports it, is an added bonus. There are some great quotes and snippets that I could add here but it would make this review far too long and this is long enough as it is! The list of references at the back of the novel is worth reading that gives the background to the evidence he has included but in the Kindle version, you can press the reference number and the reference content is shown on the page and can be read immediately. A great feature that lends itself well to having references in a novel like this.

I also listened to a few of the radio interviews listed in his Facebook page that Luhring has participated in and this reinforces some of the existing plot structures but does give more background to the novel and his reason for writing it. Well worth checking out. 

Luhring has developed this novel so extensively that I feel an apologetic study guide could be created to allow the reader to explore these issues and evidence further, thus equipping them to be ready to give a defence to the hope that is in us as the Apostle Peter exhorts us as stated above. He is more than equipped to do this from what he outlined about his own journey in studying apologetics and now creating this novel. 

I have been challenged, uplifted, convicted and my faith increased by reading this novel. For Christians who read Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence, I pray that they would also understand the insight into the worldview that the unbeliever, particularly the sceptic and atheist has in their belief system.

I have stated many times in reviews and I have it listed in the Why Christian Fiction? tab in this blog that I like to see in Christian fiction that,
  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 
It seems that apologetic Christian fiction will meet all or most of these criteria due to the specific nature of what it is. This will make for some great Christian reading and experience and if Luhring continues in the path he has set and the standard in Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence he will be one author to follow and I won't far behind him. 

Highly recommended.

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Overall Rating 4.4/5 Stars
Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, together with David Bergsland we award Steve Luhring with

The Reality Calling Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Steve!

If you would like to buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon on the image below:

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