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The Problem of Evil, Crime Fiction and The Shack

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (4)

If you think too long or look too deeply into crime fiction, as I often do, you eventually wind up facing some tough issues of morality. Namely, what makes people do bad things?

 

Flesh that one out long enough, or speed things up with a couple beers, and you'll probably run into the Problem of Evil. This is a major sticking point in a lot of religious discussions. Why would an all-powerful deity (or deities, if you roll that way) allow bad things to happen? Why is there suffering in the world?

 

It's a topic I mull over myself, in and out of reading fiction. I'll save those expositions for another day, but I did want to bring up The Shack, a book by Wm. Paul Young popular in Christian fiction. That's not an area I read a lot of material in, but a family member loaned me the book after a discussion about religion and the Problem of Evil. It also frames its philosophy inside a murder mystery. I figured I'd keep an open mind and give it a shot.

 

The following is the review I posted on Amazon and elsewhere. If you read it, what did you think about it?

 

***

 

In order to get the full benefit of The Shack, you're required to buy into several concepts about religion, existence and purpose. Once you do, the Problem of Evil, the central question the book seeks to answer, can be reconciled.

 

That wasn't good enough for me. I wanted a response to the Problem of Evil without preconditions. And that's why The Shack didn't work for me. Despite its popularity, it's just a retread of the same Christian ideas about why suffering exists and why God does not intervene.

 

The Shack boils the argument down to this: Bad things happen because Adam and Eve, after given free will, chose independence. War, crime, murder, poverty, etc. are all results of that choice. Humanity can end suffering by turning back toward God. You should be OK with suffering even if you don't understand why and are a good person anyway, so long as you have faith.

 

As for events not under human control - natural disasters, diseases, etc. - that's all part of a grand plan that the book compares to a mismanaged garden or a fractal. You should be OK with random, awful events because they have a beauty and purpose all their own that can't be comprehended by anything other than the divine.

 

These arguments were the same ones I wasn't satisfied with in the first place going into The Shack. There's not much new here, only an original approach to the run-of-the-mill "person has frank conversation with God" genre. I don't feel I got any further after reading this story.

 

If you want to take a bolder look at Problem of Evil questions, Christopher Hitchens offers better perspectives on possible answers - and he's arguing from an atheistic position. Or if you're afraid Hitchens' books will light on fire, give C.S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain a try instead.


Sunny Burbank, California, Here I (Virtually) Come

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Holy big announcement, Batman! I'm going to be working with The Writers Store in sunny Burbank, California, for a project in October. Details coming soon. 

Rubber Bullets? I Think Not

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

For the record, these are ear plugs.


Got Some Bad News

Posted on August 15, 2014 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Weapons for Writers Pushed to June 2015

Wellsir, there's no way to couch this in snark or hokum.  But I am, in true PR fashion, posting this on a Friday.

 

Writer's Digest informed me my book, Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction, will not be released this year. Instead, it's slated for a June 2015 release. Its pre-order page is missing on retailer sites, including Amazon. Not to worry, everyone who pre-ordered will still get the book when it hits.

 

This isn't a reflection of something on my end. The manuscript went in on time, I returned the edits promptly and there were no hiccups in the process. It was a scheduling change and that's it.

 

I'm not so much angry as bummed. Working in publishing myself, I've been on the other side of this switch. There are many reasons a work might get bumped. There are also many reasons to be upset with a publisher, but this instance is pretty mild. So, no, not angry. Bummed.

 

On the plus side, time isn't the worst thing to have. It means I'll be exploring some other avenues of working with Writer's Digest. Who knows? Maybe this will turn out to be for the best.

 

In the meantime, sign up for my e-newsletter to stay in the loop for the release. I'm also baking pies for charity. And my new crime novel set in the North Dakota oil boom is out with beta readers ahead of the agent/publisher hunt. So stay tuned. Everything works out in the end.

Pies! E-books! Kidneys! Exclamation marks!

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

My wife and I are once again taking part in the Twin Cities Kidney Walk to benefit the local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. The NKF is a leading advocate for kidney health and patients, including transplants. You might recall that I received a kidney back in 2010. And if didn't, well, now you know.

 

Last year, any donor to my Kidney Walk team got to name a character in a Maynard Soloman story. This year, all donors will receive a copy of that story, Maynard Soloman vs. The Kidney Thieves.

 

And if you chip in $100 or more, I'll bake you one of my award-winning blueberry pies. Doesn't matter if you live near me or not (that's what overnight shipping and freezers are for).

 

We're trying to raise at least $1,000 this year. Please click here to help us hit that goal. And thank you!

 

~Ben


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