The Begotten — Plot & Premise Review

The Begotten

This month for the Christian Science-Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour, we are reviewing Lisa T. Bergren‘s novel The Begotten.

Yesterday I gave the basic information about the book, and also mentioned that I have not read it. Because of that, it is difficult to review the book properly, and so I am going to confine myself to the plot and premise as revealed in the book flap as well as information I’ve gleaned from other’s reviews.

As well, this is a difficult review to write, because I do have some criticisms. One of my goals with this blog is to promote Christian speculative fiction, and so I normally try to not criticize without need. Anyway…

First the good things:

From all accounts, this book appears to be excellently researched and written. Exciting, daring, plot twists with intrigue, romance, the occult—and the entire church hanging in the balance. Very high concept!

Chris Hopper compares the writing to Stephen Lawhead, and I assume by this, he means his speculative historical writing. From this side of the internet, that is high praise!

So! A well written book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until you finish it. But…

Second, my concerns:

My problem, again with the understanding that I have not read the book, is with the premise for the book. Hopefully I have determined this correctly from the marketing blurbs, but there is a chance I have it wrong. So if I’m off in left field, leave a comment and I’ll post any corrections here.

So what is the premise? The premise is that the Apostle Paul wrote a long lost letter to a group of people known as The Gifted, who will gather together to fight the powers of evil. This letter has been suppressed by the church (even killing those who try to spread it).

To me, this premise is a no-can-read. Why? To me it feels like an axe aimed right at the root of the church. The idea is that the scriptures we have today are flawed because God was not sovereign over the canonization process. The truth was hidden, suppressed, burned. And that is a dangerous premise. If you accept that, then it deflates our faith. We have nothing to hold onto. What we believe is, at its root, faulty.

Maybe I have dealt with too many people involved in pseudo-Christian cults, but this sounds like just the sort of stuff that they would say: “Hey, did you know that a new revelation exists that you know nothing about?” Hmmmm….

Now, again, I have not read the book, and it may be that this “letter” may end up a fake, and this may be pointed out later in the book or series, but at this point it does not feel like that is where the series is headed. The church is the enemy. The “sorcerer” is the enemy. Only a faithful few know the truth, and that truth is not what we have today.

But isn’t this speculative fiction? Shouldn’t an author be free to explore these topics? At least for me, the answer is “Yes” … and “No”. “Yes” in the sense that we should be free to explore “what if” scenarios, but “No” in the sense that caution is needed.

For instance … why does the author of this long lost letter have to be the Apostle Paul? I can understand that this lends an aura of “legitimacy” to the letter, but why is this plot device needed for the novel? If we are going to be speculative here, why not make it unknown who wrote it, and so keep the axe away from the church foundations? Keep in mind here that the author is asking me to “suspend my beliefs” while reading the novel, but that would be a lot easier if the Apostle Paul were not involved.

I don’t know … anyone out there who has read the book have an opinion on this? Does this book cross the line? Where is that line? Is this one of the reasons the book (if I understand correctly) is not published by one of the CBA houses?

p.s. John Otte (who has read the book) has a great detailed critique which you can read at his three posts: Post 1 / Post 2 / Post 3