Saturday, February 19, 2011

Father Elijah

I don't remember exactly where I first heard about Father Elijah by Michael D. O'Brien. But I do know that my interest was piqued. The person (or persons) who told me about it described it as a sort of Catholic Left Behind book, an End Times novel told from a Catholic perspective. That certainly got my attention. Those who have read my blog know that I'm not the biggest fan of Left Behind's dispensational premillenialist theology. I'm still to this day an ardent amillenialist and I'm sometimes upset by the sheer volume that the premillenialists have in the Christian marketplace. So when I discover a book (such as Chris Walley's excellent postmillenialist Lamb Among the Stars trilogy) that bucks that trend, I'll usually check it out.

And since Lutherans and Catholics are both amillenialists and we are pretty close together in terms of theology, I figured this might make for an interesting read.

It's the story of a man named Father Elijah, a Jewish convert to Catholicism. He is called from his sanctuary on Mount Carmel for a special mission by the Pope. He's asked to go speak to the President of the Federation of European States, a man that the Pope fears could be the coming Antichrist. Elijah does as he is told, but in the process, he winds up being pulled into a drama being played out on the grandest of stages, one that will irrevocably change the world.

In many ways, I was surprised by this book. Not by the sheer volume of Catholic dogma; I was prepared for that and took it in stride (I mean, Lutheran pastor here). No, what surprised me was how similar O'Brien's version of the Antichrist was to the Left Behind version. I wasn't quite ready for that, but it certainly made for an interesting read.

That said, I was a little disappointed with this book and it took me a while to figure out why. The problem is that it's mostly just dialogue, people talking to each other. Lots of philosophical and theological discussions or sharing of memories. As a result, not a lot happens in this book. Oh, sure, there's some great action off-stage, so to speak, but the only way we learn about it is when someone tells someone else about it in even more dialogue. So while some of the discussions were interesting, the book dragged.

Maybe I was expecting the wrong sort of thing from this book, but in the end, it satisfied my curiosity. Pity it wasn't more than just an intellectual exercise. It could have been a lot more.

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