pinterest-7bf66.html Reviews by Peter: Author/Novel Spotlight: Steven Luhring and Debut Novel, Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Author/Novel Spotlight: Steven Luhring and Debut Novel, Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence

Today I a spotlighting novelist, Steve Luhring. Steve contacted me requesting me to review his new novel, Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence. When I read the blurb and discovered it dealt with apologetics, I was excited. I love this genre of Christian fiction. I have read two other author's novels in this genre, Keith A. Robinson's Origins Trilogy and Dr. Paul Maier's book A Skeleton in God’s Closet and More Than A Skeleton. These books got me hooked to read more in this field.  I applaud author's like these three as they are equipping us to have a defense to the faith we have in Christ Jesus, just as it says in 1 Peter 3:15
  but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
Like these author's, I have found that fiction and story are very effective to do this. 
So without further ado, sit back and let Steve Luhring describe his passion for apologetic fiction and the background to this new novel. I must confess I am looking forward to reading this. I can see I am going to be captivated and better equipped in how to give a defense when challenged as to why I believe in God.

But first, a little about Steve and his journey to being published novelist:

Thanks Peter! Glad to be visiting your blog. I am really excited to talk about my new novel and how it came about. 

I started pursuing in earnest my passion for Christian apologetics (otherwise known as “defending the faith” or “dealing with doubt”) after stumbling upon a Dr. William Lane Craig podcast in 2007. I vividly remember listening to the first podcast while shoveling snow in my driveway. It was quickly clear to me that Dr. Craig’s effectiveness rested not only in his command of the facts and logical argumentation, but also in his ability to communicate concisely and persuasively - and with wit no less. From that point I was hooked. Within about a year, having gained reasonable and convincing answers from a Christian point of view to some of life’s biggest and toughest questions and with enthusiasm only building to learn more, I felt that I needed some productive outlet for sharing. I began teaching bible studies at my church that focused on dealing with doubt and answering the big questions in life, like “Does God Exist?” Over the years, I’ve been a student of the writings of other great, persuasive Christian apologetics including Dr. Paul Maier, C.S. Lewis, Professor John Lennox, G.K. Chesterton, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, and Ravi Zacharias (whom my son and I had the privilege to hear speak in person at a nearby university earlier this year). During that time I also had the idea for the Scrooge book which I see as an ambitious attempt to reach both the heart and the mind through a gripping story.

Now let's look at Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence which was released on Amazon on July 1st, 2017 in Kindle format and paperback: 

Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s set in the modern day and chronicles the overnight adventures of the world-famous atheist, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is on a crusade to rid the world of religion and things could hardly be going better. But his fortunes soon change and he has a “Dickens of an evening” filled with ghostly encounters during which he’s given a chance to reconsider the meaning of life and his answer to the question of God’s existence. But Scrooge is a brilliant, hard-core skeptic, so the thought of the ghosts convincing him of anything or bringing about a change of heart is, as Scrooge would put it, a “bah-humbug!”

Steve explains why he wrote this novel: 

I’ve always loved Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and had recently seen it performed at a university near my home. It occurred to me that however uplifting I found the overnight transformation of Scrooge, it would be much more meaningful and satisfying for me if Dickens had been able to incorporate the life-changing apologetics that I’d recently learned. Dickens’ story, modified to incorporate the apologetics that I wanted to share, was the story I most wanted to read. But because it had not been written, I decided to write it. After I had completed a draft of the book, I shared it with a hero of mine, Dr. Paul Maier (a Christian author with over 5 million books in print). Dr. Maier’s book, A Skeleton in God’s Closet, was a real inspiration for me in writing this book because of its breakout success in combining Christian apologetics with an extremely entertaining fictional story. He, if anyone, would be able to tell me if I was on the right track. Dr. Maier did not know me before I contacted him. My aim was to merely get his feedback based on a short excerpt. To my surprise though, he not only read the excerpt, but read and loved the entire book. He then further shocked me by agreeing to edit the book and to write the foreword. His involvement was a game-changer for me in my expectations for the book and the potential for it to make a real positive impact for those dealing with doubts about God and the Christian faith. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote in the foreword of the book, “While Charles Dickens' immortal story is a compelling tale of transformation, imagine what it would look like had Dickens been ambitious enough to have had Scrooge go on to tackle some of the greatest questions in life, such as: Does God exist? If so, why is there such evil and suffering in this world? Is there meaning and purpose in life? Is there an after-life? Is freedom worth fighting for, and what's at stake if we lose it? These pages are bold enough to do exactly that, and do it brilliantly.”

In addition to Dr. Paul Maier’s A Skeleton in God’s Closet, inspirations were C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. My Christian apologetics influences include Dr. Maier, C.S. Lewis, Dr. William Lane Craig, Professor John Lennox, G.K. Chesterton, and Ravi Zacharias (whom my son and I had the privilege to hear speak in person at Michigan State’s Breslin Center earlier this year). This book was written to be accessible. There are many wonderfully thick books on apologetics written by Ph.D.s who have spent the best years of their life studying the topic. Unfortunately, those books are largely unread by wider audiences. Although beneficial, many people find apologetics to be bad tasting medicine. By leveraging Dickens’ story I’ve attempted to provide “a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.” People should not be intimidated by the apologetics or philosophical arguments in this book. I’ve gone through great pains to deliver concise, almost intuitive, argumentation without losing too much of the potency of the scholarly, more robustly developed arguments.

More recently, another college professor, Dr. Joel Heck of Concordia University Texas, has lent his support to the books saying, “The choice of a modern retelling of the Scrooge story is very clever, perhaps even brilliant.” Dr. Heck is a C.S. Lewis scholar and author of the book, From Atheism to Christianity: The Story of C. S. Lewis.

Steve has provided an excerpt to highlight the theme of apologetics when discussing whether God exists or not and how to address this with the person who does not believe:

The following excerpt from Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence conveys the conversational tone of the apologetics in the story, the human side of the two characters involved in the disagreement, and the importance of winning the person, not merely the argument, and the hopefully fair treatment of the atheist – both as a person and his point-of-view.
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Start of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don't mean that I’m sure?" Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, inquired.

"I do," said Scrooge. "Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? The Christmas story is a myth. You believe in a myth! If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

"Nephew! Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."

"Keep it! But you don't keep it."

"Let me leave it alone, then. Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"

Christmas has done me good, the ultimate good I’d say. I believe its promises and it gives me hope for beyond the grave. Life is utterly absurd and meaningless without a loving God. I have nothing to lose and eternity to gain. And I feel great joy in serving my Creator.”

Karl Marx liked to call what you feel the opium of the masses. Can I just tell you that you sound like a fool?” Scrooge stood energetically as he made his point, then turned his back to Fred and walked over to the corner of the room to retrieve his winter coat.

Uncle, I believe the Christmas story is true, I really do. I have every good reason to believe it and have no convincing reason to doubt it. Let’s reason about it together.” Fred offered with a grin.

If Christmas and all of Christianity is not a myth, then why is God so hidden?” questioned Scrooge in a dismissive tone.

Fred had clearly been hoping Scrooge would engage him with questions and jumped at the challenge but tried to hide the excitement he felt having finally gotten Scrooge to open the door to this line of discussion. So he calmly took a seat, leaned forward with his hands on his knees and continued, “Perhaps the very nature of God makes it such that we as finite creatures cannot look directly upon him. But as with the sun, while we can’t look directly at it, we can’t see our world without it.”

I can see the world without God quite nicely, thank you.”

You say that, but why is the world even here, and what’s it all for? 

Can you explain why it exists? Why is there something, rather than nothing after all?”

Scrooge paused and pretended to think carefully, pulled his coat on, and then said with a sneer, “I don’t care. Now you need to listen to me. You may have gotten an A+ in Sunday school for faithfully repeating what your teachers said, but I’ve given the best years of my life to scholarly work …”

Now wait. Why is there something rather than nothing, Uncle? It’s a profound question that a thoughtful person would consider before dismissing the idea of God. In fact, many have started with that question only to have their thoughts lead them all the way to God.”

It’s profound to you perhaps, but it’s a hum-bug to me.”

Fred continued, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't. You say God is hidden, but you close your eyes to the explanation for the universe that has been written on man’s heart since the beginning. God, as an explanation for the universe, is something that rings true to me. God’s creation is evidence of God himself. I believe the reason there is something rather than nothing is because, dear uncle, God created it! You ask why God is hidden. Maybe the simple answer is that he wants us to make a choice of the heart to seek him that we simply could not make if he first overpowered mankind with a tautology of his existence. Admit it, uncle – it is possible that God exists.”

Scrooge repeated rotely: “It’s possible that God exists.” Then he continued sharply, “It’s just terribly unlikely in my view – so unlikely that it’s not worth considering. I know this will hurt your feelings, but I can’t respect a person such as yourself who believes in miracles. Quite honestly, they strike me as ridiculous. Miracles are quite amusing. And oh! What fun! Yes, like when an old lady sees the face of a saint in a potato chip and every fool proclaims – it’s a miracle!”

Fred replied in a firm but pleasant manner, “So if one miracle claim turns out to be false or even patently ridiculous, then all the rest are guilty of being false? Guilt by association, right? It makes sense to me that if God exists and created the universe, then any other miracle you imagine is too difficult for God is, in fact, a piece of cake compared to the creation of the universe out of nothing. If you don’t have certainty on the origin of the universe and the existence of God, why do you think you can rule out miracles right off the bat?”

Scrooge had completed the gathering up of his things to leave. In an attempt to end the conversation, he replied hurriedly, “OK then, I’ve changed my mind. I do believe in one miracle – it’s a miracle that I’m still entertaining this ridiculous conversation. Good afternoon! I’m sure you have other important things to do as well. Perhaps, my miracle-loving nephew, you’re singing Christmas carols later with the Tooth Fairy?”

Fred didn’t waste his time taking offence at his uncle’s teasing and instead stayed true to his original purpose. “Uncle, I do have plans for later, but I was hoping to include you. That’s actually why I’m here – to invite you over for Christmas dinner tomorrow.”

You can’t be serious!” Scrooge scoffed as he walked out of the office and onto the street with Fred following close behind.

Yes, I am! Come! Dine with us tomorrow. "

I’d dine in Hades first! Good afternoon."

"I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why can’t we be friends?"

"Good afternoon," said Scrooge more firmly.

"I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. But I have made my visit in the spirit of Christmas, and I'll keep my Christmas humor to the last. So a Merry Christmas, uncle!"

"Good afternoon!" said Scrooge as he stormed down the street in the direction of his office on campus, leaving Fred behind.

It was near the end of the day, and it was cold and getting colder. The setting sun was entirely hidden by fog that was billowing in, providing a gloomy, dream-like ambience for his walk. The diffused, dim daylight that remained was vanishing quickly. House lights and streetlights were now casting a hazy glow into the street. As he walked, he replayed the conversation with his nephew in his head. Fred’s probably pretty proud of himself for that little performance. What a fool. I’m not so cruel as to do it, but all I had to do is ask him about my little sister, his mother. One of the gentlest, sweetest creatures on the planet – dead and gone. Where was God when she died on the delivery table giving birth to Fred? Upon reaching his office, he hurriedly closed up for the day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amazon reviews have been very favourable, all 5 Stars: 

on July 10, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

“Is life without God truly meaningless?” Scrooge asked aloud.

This question, which for many is the ultimate question…resonates throughout this amazing book, “Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence.” At first, the reader may say, “I’ve heard this story before!” But let this reviewer reply, “Nay…not in this way.”

You are familiar with the idiom, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” In general, this phrase means that you cannot have two incompatible things at the same time. Steve Luhring has written a notable exception to this rule. The book is not only well-written and entertaining…it is enlightening and nourishing to the soul.

You may think you are reading just a clever re-telling of the Christmas Carol story, but as you take a bite you discover that you are also feasting on the words of some of the world’s brightest minds. G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, Dostoevsky, Martin Luther, William Lane Craig, Leibniz, Nietzsche and John Newton…to name a few!

In his re-telling of an iconic classic, Luhring dives into topics that many Christians and atheists flee from. He successfully addresses the question of theodicy, the application of law and gospel, the idea that we are to hate sin yet love the sinner…and the existence of good, evil and an objective moral law…doing so in the midst of a brilliantly written and thought out story.

The characters are believable and truly representative of the great separation of beliefs that are represented in our world today. What I also appreciated in the dialogue of the story was the honesty in which Christianity and atheism were presented. It isn’t the “good, humble Christian,” versus the evil and dark atheist, but an honest portrayal of people struggling with life’s most difficult questions.

The author does seem to have a disturbing proclivity to Black Label beer lamps...but I'm willing to let that pass.I leave you with this tidbit to brighten your day.

“As a follower of Christ, I do not live as those who have no hope. I’ve got a very different reason now for whistling past the graveyard. Since Christ has conquered death, it has lost its sting. I don’t need to fear it. My reason, most simply put, is joy.”

I was not disappointed. I wondered if it would be historical fiction
on November 1, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Initially I read this book because I was smitten with the idea of someone reworking Dicken's A Christmas Carol in such a way that the ghosts, well, ask more important questions. I was not disappointed. I wondered if it would be historical fiction, but the structure consists of a frame story set in relatively contemporary times (Religious rights are in tension with other sought rights.). In that sense, there is some political treatment, but it quickly gives way to the re-treatment of A Christmas Carol.

Mr. Luhring, as a writer myself, I must wag my finger at you a little for the intensely inspired scene of quick masterful writing! If only my own writing came about that way!

More seriously though, there is a very winsome way in which the main character in the frame story provides ample reason for the apologetic and philosophical arguments presented. He's an intellectual. A college man, through and through.

I really enjoyed this. I feared it might get a bit political during the set up, but it was overall very satisfying, as both a story and commentary about the intellectual rigor that benefits from Christianity's biblical teaching and our Christian history of academic integrity built around TRUTH.

on July 9, 2017
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Luhring’s ability to skillfully interlace the extraordinarily important questions facing all of us regarding our existence, our purpose and God’s role in it, into the familiar story of A Christmas Carol was just terrific. You’ll enjoy the story and you’ll appreciate the thought provoking Christian apologetic ideas.

This book is appropriate for mature middle school aged children on up. This is a great book for families to read and discuss together.

on October 23, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Excellent!!! I got online after just finishing reading this book to send it to a few of my friends. I was disappointed to find it was only available for kindle. It is very well-written and keeps the reader engrossed throughout the story. What a creative idea to weave the questions many skeptics have about God's existence into the age old story of Scrooge.

on July 2, 2017
Format: Paperback
Storytelling has always been one of the most powerful forms of persuasion and Luhring’s idea to interweave apologetics arguments into a classic story known by many people is quite clever. This was not forced or unnatural at all, but very seamless, engaging, and compelling. It is an excellent story and I hope that God will use it to open many hearts and minds.

You can follow Steve on Facebook.

If you have liked what you have read so far and your interest piqued, you can read a further excerpt of this novel or buy it by clicking on the BUY/PREVIEW icons below:

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, apologetics and fantasy, to consider reading Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

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