Ted Dekker. Sinner. Nashville TN: Nelson, 2008. Print.
When I picked up Sinner, I was told that Ted Dekker wrote in the manner of Frank Peretti—supernatural spiritual warfare fiction. That might be a good way to categorize this novel. Much of its story takes place in a small Colorado town called Paradise—perhaps echoing Peretti’s Ashton—but the spiritual warfare here focuses on the people involved, not angels and demons.
Sinner is one of a series of books related to the town of Paradise. It appears to be neither the first nor the last. The author is correct to say that each book stands on its own. It is not necessary to read the books in order. In fact, after reading Sinner, there was enough of the backstory to make me say to myself, “I do not really care to read the first book in the series.” It sounds creepy. As much as I appreciate imaginative literature, I am not really into creepy.
Dekker does tell a good story. At the beginning, the tale focuses on a young man and woman in their mid-twenties who each discover that they have an unusual supernatural power. Billy can sometimes read people’s thoughts. Darcy has an uncanny ability to persuade people to do things. She discovers this when she is called for a performance review. She is told her company is downsizing and she is being let go. In a matter of minutes, HR is agreeing that she should be promoted.
It turns out that Billy and Darcy are two of only three survivors of a child cult they had belonged to during the first thirteen years of their lives. After the cult—in Paradise, Colorado, where else?—had been broken up, they apparently were placed into foster homes and are now on their own. She is in Pennsylvania, and he is in New Jersey where he has racked up $300K worth of gambling debts to the mob.
He flees to Pennsylvania because Darcy was an old friend at the Paradise monastery. There it gets complicated. Someone is either trying to kidnap or kill them. They end up being rescued by a man who says he is in the CIA. He convinces them to come with him to Washington for their safety. There they are introduced to a group of high level political operatives including two senators and the attorney general.
This “council” wants Bill and Darcy to use their powers to get Congress and the states to pass a Constitutional amendment that would supersede the First Amendment on freedom of speech. A hundred years ago Woodrow Wilson complained about the limitations imposed on American governments by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The people on this council similarly want to codify a “progressive” definition of tolerance into law.
The revised amendment says that while technically people still have free speech, no one can say or publish anything critical of someone else’s race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Because of their bad experience in the Paradise cult, Darcy and Billy eagerly support this idea and the Constitution is rapidly amended with their help. Billy reads mind and blackmails reluctant legislators; Darcy persuades most who vote to go along with the change to the Bill of Rights.
The third survivor of the cult, Johnny, lives in a small desert town in Nevada. Unlike the other two, Johnny has become a Christian believer. He also has a supernatural power. He is blind himself, but he can reveal the power of God, or what he calls the light of Christ, to those who are seekers. He is consciously compared to John the Baptist, a voice crying in the desert pointing toward Jesus.
Johnny’s beliefs infuriate Billy and Darcy, and with the attorney general they want to silence Christians who believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. After all, isn’t that intolerant?
The story gets more complicated as it plays out. We learn the story of a rebellious teen girl who becomes a Christian and a disciple of Johnny. We learn that when he was a member of the cult Billy introduced a new evil into the world, almost like a repeat of Adam. And the CIA agent may not really be who he claims to be.
There is a dramatic, dare I say, Hollywood style confrontation. Moses vs. Pharaoh anyone?
There is something to take away from all this. The Scripture most frequently quoted is John 1:5: “The light has shined into the world, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We need to remember that in spite of what so-called progressive powers may do to stifle dissent, God is light. In him there is no darkness. (I John 1:5) Darkness is not really a force or energy. It is a lack of light, and absence of energy. If by the grace of God we let the light of Christ shine, the darkness will not overcome us either.
As Peter Marshall, Jr., famously said back in the seventies, “I have read the back of the book, and Jesus wins!”