Review: Lost Mission, by Athol Dickson


It’s for the CSFFBT book of the month: Lost Mission, by Athol Dickson.  Unfortunately I was just not able to get into the book, in fact I came to the point where I could no longer invest my time reading the rest (nor did I want to).  Here’s a few reasons why…

  1. Declaring the shopkeeper lady to be a preacher immediately turned me away.  I’m not interested in books that promote a prominent false doctrine
    1. EDIT- I’ve been told she’s not a preacher as in the office so to speak, but rather one who simply preaches to others around her.  If this is the case (which it sounds like it likely is) then I think that’s good and well.  All Christians are called to share the gospel with the world.
  2. The overwhelming amount of mysticism mixed into our real world setting promotes a form of paganism.
  3. The constant switching back and forth in time and location pulled me out of the story every time I started to finally get into it
  4. The lengthy foreign names were difficult for me to keep straight

Problems 1 & 2 are things I do not think should be included in Christian fiction that’s set in our world, nor should they be set in any world in such a way as to promote such things as good. 

(edit, see note on #1 in the list above) Now I only got part way into the book, and did not see Lupe in a position of authority in the Church, so if the intent was to simply say that she shares the gospel with people then that’s not a problem.  But to put a woman at the pulpit, teaching and/or having authority over men, is not only against the plain teaching of Scripture in Timothy and other places, it’s also a problem all over the world today. 

The same goes with mysticism, which is only paganism trying to be something else.  Praying to people (other than Jesus) and miracles is NOT biblical, it is in fact much the opposite.  And again, to promote it in a world that sees people sinning against God by doing this… not acceptable.

Problems 3 and 4 were not so much “no-no’s” as much as they were things that made immersion difficult.  The writing itself was good, and it made me WANT to get into the story… I just COULDN’T.  Every time I finally found myself drifting away from my apartment in current day Oregon, and into the place and time of the book’s setting, I was almost immediately pulled out of the book… again by reasons 3 & 4.

Something else that bothered me was the questions at the end of the book.  To say that Christians must choose the lesser of two evils is not a Scriptural idea.  Christ calls us to be sinless, to be perfect.  True there are times when an authority counters God’s commands and a person cannot submit to them.  But as much as it is up to us we must try our best to obey authority.  If that means it takes time to do what God calls us to do then that’s what it means.  If God makes it clear we must not wait, we must not wait.  And that’s part of the problem that comes from this mystical garbage flooding our world, it causes us to follow our own logic and the directions of our environment, rather than following what GOD HIMSELF says His will is.

I do not recommend this book to anybody, in fact I plan on disposing of my copy.  I’m not ready yet to reject the author all together just yet, because as I said the writing itself is pretty good.  If the guy followed the biblical world view and didn’t constantly jump from century to century (or continent to continent) then I just might be able to enjoy his fictional work.  I’m not going to seek his work out by any means, but if I’m given a separate fiction work of his then I’d warily give it a try… as long as it doesn’t promote more of the pagan-bearing-God’s-name-in-vain-garbage that filled this book.

Here’s some links for the author and his book…

Lost Mission http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1416583475
Author Web site – http://www.atholdickson.com/
Author blog – http://whatatholwrote.blogspot.com/

Check out what others from the tour had to say…

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.”

11 thoughts on “Review: Lost Mission, by Athol Dickson

  1. Cris–

    Although I understand where you’re coming from, I think your opinion might have changed, at least somewhat, if you had finished the book. Yes, there is a bit of mystery, though I’m not sure if I would call it mysticism. The apparent supernatural events are not necessarily out of keeping with Christianity, and the story follows fallible believers who make mistakes and poor decisions in their attempts to do good or to follow what they believe is God’s will.

    I look at Lost Mission as a sermon illustration or a parable, something that highlights Biblical principles and modern-day dilemmas, leading us in a particular direction but still leaving us to think it out for ourselves.

    It is a piece of fiction, not Scripture, and the fantasy-like elements are used as illustrations, literally and figuratively, and I found them effective in driving home such ideas as sin, forgiveness, and more.

  2. Pingback: CSFF Blog Tour – Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, Day 1 « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  3. Cris,

    Well, I knew this book would provide some interesting perspectives, and I’m glad you’re sharing yours, even if it goes against the general flow.

    In the spirit of discussion, I’d like to comment on your points.

    1. Lupe is never portrayed as someone who holds authority over men. She feels called to preach the gospel to pagans, and she just heads to the beach and preaches every Sunday. She has no official backing from any ministry. Interestingly, she finds more fruit being a servant to other people, even as she contniues her quiotic quest at the beach. If she was portrayed as being appointed by an ecclesiastical authority, I think your point would have more accuracy.
    2. This plays into Lupe’s situation with #1, but what you call paganism is just how certain characters in the book act. They act true to themselves. The Catholics believe in saints and relics. The author isn’t saying he endorses that. But the characters are who they are, and I felt he accurately describes them. If they were Protestants following a relic, then that would be out of character. Finally, I’m of the school that a God who can put the writing on the wall, and give dreams to Muslims around the world that leads them to Jesus, can move in mysterious ways.
    3. and 4. These are certainly part of a subjective part of reading a book, and I understand. I had to work to finish Dickson’s book Winter Haven – like you said, he’s an excellent writer, but that book didn’t catch me.

    And on the end of book questions – Dickson never says “Christians” choosing the lesser of two evils, he says “characters”. To me that’s an important distinction. He’s talking about the book’s context, not establishing a precedent for our day to day lives.

    Overall, I think the book is meant to have people wrestle through some ideas and challenge us in various ways. I struggled initially to get into the book, but I’m glad I finished. But I respect that you can’t endorse the book. I don’t agree with some of your points, but the CSFF tour has had plenty of interesting dialogue and discussion in the past. As a long time participant, I’m grateful for giving another perspective! Thanks!

    Jason

  4. Chris,

    It’s too bad that the changing POV’s caused you so much trouble with this book. Lupe only seeks to share the gospel with other people; she does some beach-preaching, but that’s as close as she comes to the pulpit.

    It’s easier for evangelicals to sneer at the mysticism of Catholics and Orthodox than it is for them to grapple with the simple straightforward strength of their faith in the miraculous. I thought that the mystery incorporated in this book, or mysticism, was very intriguing. It took me a while to determine just exactly what was going on, and who the mystery man was showing up at signficant moments throughout the story.

    Perhaps I have a different, more positive take on this because I’ve spent some time in the Greek Orthodox community and church.

    Quirky, wierd and wonderful mysteries of the world of Christendom:

    Did you know?
    1) that when the Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Easter morning, he enters with unlit beeswax tapers. When he hands them forth through the tomb door a few minutes later, they’re lit with blue fire! As other candles are lit with the blue fire, they are reported to also burn blue. Oh, and he doesn’t take matches into the tomb with him. Still scratching my head over that one… How is he doing that, and if he isn’t, how is it happening???

    2) there’s a mummified bishop preserved on a Greek island that needs a new pair of shoes every year because his soles get worn down, and sometimes there’s even seaweed caught in them. People occasionally see him walking… Oh, and sometimes he talks… A godly man who would never lie about this said the bishop spoke to him. Alas, it was in ancient Greek and mumbled, and Fr.— didn’t understand what he said. I think having a mummy speak to me would really weird me out!

    3) there are places in Greece where the local people commemorate the martyrdom of various saints, where things that defy scientific explanation tend to happen on the anniversary of the saints’ deaths.

    4) if you ever have the privilege of visiting a Greek Orthodox shrine in Greece, look up. All those gold-plated items hanging from the ceiling–well, those are pledges of thanks from people grateful for healing or miraculous intervention!

    That last one, for evangelicals is more understandable, I expect. If we’ve got to have mysticism, please let it at least be practical in some way.

    I encourage you to dig that book back out of the trash can, clean the cover and read a little more.

  5. I’ll echo Keanan’s thoughts and add that Lupe was not ever a pastor or intending to be one. She wanted to share Christ to the people she knew to be lost because of their love for their wealth and fame and glamor.

    While I found some of the story disturbing and sad, I don’t think there was anything in it promoting a view contrary to Scripture. I know some people don’t believe miracles are for this day and age, so I suppose if that’s your view, then this book would contradict that belief. But if we believe God still acts in miraculous ways, then the supernatural elements aren’t at all pagan.

    Yes, the main character is Catholic, so that point of view is prominent, along with the accompanying ritual. In an interview with Athol, Phyllis asked about his views. You might find it interesting, Cris. They also discussed the marketing designation “magical realism.”

    Becky

  6. Pingback: CSFF Blog Tour – Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, Day 3 « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  7. Thanks for the comments everybody! I really appreciate the interaction and thoughts. And thank you Rebecca for directing me to Phyllis’ interview with Athol… it did give me a bit more understanding of the book and author.

    I’m glad a few of you cleared up the issue with Lupe and preaching, I’ll update the post accordingly.

    As far as what’s being called the miraculous aspect, I still have a problem with it for a number of reasons. Here’s just a few:

    1- mysticism is a real life problem in our world, leading people to follow in powers other than those from God. Effectively, mysticism is dividing souls from God, everyday. Whether the author meant to or not, making things out to be real in the story and then placing the story in our world (a world which has people who think those things ARE real) creates a message in the mind of the reader that there’s truth to these things. If the book doesn’t portray it as real, or outright takes them as false, (and again it’s set in our world) it will put THAT message in the mind of the reader. writing changes people and often they have no idea they were changed…. it should be treated carefully.

    2. just because it’s “in character” doesn’t mean it’s ok. too much fiction is immoral, though completely in character. such writing is in conflict with God. if the book made it clear that mysticism is bad, then sure it can be in there. but bad things should never be included for entertainment and certainly should not be portrayed as virtuous.

    this plays into the questions at the end of the book as well, asking about the lesser of 2 evils. sure the author can say “characters” instead of “people”. but the questions at the end are not for the purpose of developing writing skills, it’s goal is spiritual growth. so the questions are meant to be applied to the reader themselves, real people, effectively condemning or condoning the actions of the characters.

    3. to speak of miracles directly, sure I believe God can (and likely does) do miracles today. my problem isn’t the practicality of them, but rather the true source and the reception of them.

    It seems to me that most of these so called miracles are fake, or else from a wicked spiritual source, and passed off as being from God. I will come out and say (not that it’s a secret from those who’ve read my post) that I stand firmly against Catholocism. I will also add that I firmly stand against any denomination, the very idea itself is one that Scripture is adamently against. That doesn’t mean I think all who subscribe to these things are going to hell. I really don’t know the destination of those who claim Christ but don’t appear to ME to be following Scriptures. That’s for God to decide. If I had to guess, I’d say there are probably some Catholics and people from other denominations who really do have faith in God, and who would turn away from their false doctrines if relevant Scripture was clearly shown to them. But again, I can only guess, and from what I see Scripture provides no guarantee of salvation for these people if they don’t turn from false doctrines. Either way, the teachings themselves lead people to the gates of hell and this very much includes signs and miracles meant to deceive.

    4. another thing to consider is the place which these “miraculous” objects take in the lives of these people. God Himself, the Maker of miracles, is the one to be praised. But the items themselves are here reveared. That’s one of the big problems I have with Catholicism. It teaches that we are to pray to “saints”, but God alone is the one we are to pray to. On top of that, the BIBLE says that the dead know nothing under the sun. dead saints (saints, Scripturally speaking, being all Christians) have no idea what’s going on here on earth. not only do they not know people are praying to them, but they have no power to do anything about it anyway. and these relics in this book are lifted up into places that God Himself (and NEVER His creations) deserves. that’s idolatry.

    —–

    I should clear a couple other things up.

    1. i have not effectively mastered the ability to dialouge online. If I sound harsh it’s not necesarrily intentional… likely it’s my attempt to be firm on that which I believe needs a firm stance.

    2. i don’t know that I hate the book, as has been said. i certainly hate some things about the book, but i don’t think hate accurately describes my feelings toward the book as a whole. I’m not sure exactly what word does describe my thoughts about it well. there are elements i loved, mingled with elements i hated…

    Again, thanks for the comments. I’m really looking forward to the posts on the next book in the tour!

  8. Cris, thanks for interacting on this. It might interest you that Athol was very complimentary of the quality of posts on the tour, even those that didn’t give his book a favorable review.

    I agree with a number of your points, and I think you’ve expressed your views clearly.

    Interestingly, my first reaction when I hear of miraculous events is skepticism, even though I do believe God still works miraculously in this age. My question is, does the miracle direct people to God? Are they giving Him glory as a result? That seems to be the intent for the signs and miracles recorded in the Gospels.

    One point of disagreement I have with the comment above has to do with point 2. As I read the discussion questions in the back of the book just now, I didn’t conclude that Athol was leading the reader to the conclusion that it is right to choose a lesser of two evils. Rather, that was one thing the reader should think about. He said to think about the ethical dilemmas the characters faced, then asked, “What does this book have to say about this topic?”

    If I were to answer that question, I’d say the book shows that any sin, for any reason, is wrong. Characters that were legalistic were wrong and suffered consequences. Characters that chose to do good through immoral means were wrong and suffered consequences. In other words, it is never right to do wrong, even for the cause of right.

    Final thought: not every book is for everyone. I don’t mind that you didn’t care for this one. I just don’t want you to dislike it for something it isn’t, if that makes sense.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful dialogue.

    Becky

  9. 1- mysticism is a real life problem in our world, leading people to follow in powers other than those from God.

    I’d be curious to get from you a definition of what exactly you mean by mysticism, and why you’re opposed to it. I’m sure you’re aware of the existence of Christian mystics.

    I haven’t read this novel myself, and so I’m handicapped in this discussion, but when it comes to this notion of choosing a “lesser of two evils,” the ethics of the situation will depend on what we mean when using that expression. There is, for example, the principle of double effect, where a good action carried out with good motives and for a good end has an unintended negative consequence. The typical example is entopic pregnancy, where an embryo implants in the fallopian tube and requires surgical removal. The unintended result is the death of the baby, but the alternative is the death of both mother and baby. In this case, the doctor carrying out the surgery may be said to be choosing the “lesser of two evils,” which in this case only means that his good act has an unavoidable negative consequence.

    In other cases where the phrase “lesser of two evils” is used, it may be that a bifurcation is being presented; that is, two negative options are given as the only solutions when a third, better option may be possible. Instead of rejecting the book outright simply for using the expression “lesser of two evils,” it would be better to examine and evaluate the moral dilemmas the book presents.

  10. Becky,

    Thanks for that reply. Up to the point I read it seemed that the book was establishing things as being from God Himself, things which didn’t seem to match up with a Biblical point of view. To hear what you think the book said overall is good to hear. If it was in fact showing that a lesser sin is still unacceptable, then that’s as it should be.

    As far as what I call mysticism, this will be a rough and vague explanation, but… I’d have to say it has to do with an obsession with seeking out and living by miraculous physical manifestations of spiritual things, both real and phoney. Mostly phoney because I don’t believe there are many, if any, physical manifestations of spiritual things today. This is also from the viewpoint that considers a thing no longer a miracle if it has become a normal part of the natural realm (for example, child birth).

    What is called “christian mysticism” would seem to me to be trying to force Christianity to conform to mysticism. I do not believe this is “Christian” at all.

    That’s my best attempt to define it in my own words.

    To reply to your comments D.G.D. Davidson (thanks for posting by the way) I firmly believe that anything we do that is called sin in the Bible is sin. I’ve wrestled with this one a lot with my wife have recently been pregnant. If they had to remove the baby to save her life I would face a dilema, as you presented. But ultimately, the action of killing a baby to save the mom would be murder and I don’t think God would bless that. Leaving the baby, resulting in the death of both mother and baby, seems very illogical and undesirable. But there is no active sin in that, where as killing the baby would be (whether it was the goal or not, it was the choice ACTIVELY made).

    Somewhere along the line we’ve come up with the idea that preserving life in this world is more important than preserving our lives in eternity. Not surprising, but still something we must correct.

    This example doesn’t sum up and cover the entirety of the subject. But I do believe the Bible does.

  11. Your definition of mysticism does not match a typical definition thereof. A basic definition of Christian mysticism would be an intense longing or desire of the human soul for God, usually with love and contemplative prayer as its methods. Some of the greatest Christian mystics, such as St. John of the Cross, even warned sternly against seeking miracles and visions. Many mystics have experienced visions, but visionary experiences are not the soul of mysticism.

    The Bible does not present a fully articulated system of ethics. That’s something Christian philosophers and theologians have had to build over time with scripture as a foundation.

    In the moral evaluation of an act, three things are to be considered: the act itself, the circumstances, and the end intended. In the hypo I presented, the act was the surgical removal of a malignancy. The circumstances are such that at least one death is unavoidable (note this is entopic pregnancy and not merely difficult pregnancy). The end intended is to preserve life. The death is an unavoidable and undesirable secondary consequence, not willed by the actor. Hence, “double effect.”

    Let me present another hypothetical, if I may: if you were hiding someone in your closet who was running away from an axe murderer, and the axe murderer came to your door to ask if that person were there, would you tell the truth and hand him over to the axe murderer, or would you lie?

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