Tuesday 6 September 2022

Novel Review and Pre-Christian Godliness Fiction Award: Refuge (A Biblical Story of Good and Evil) by Melinda Viergever Inman.

 I reviewed this novel on 08/04/19 in another blog, now defunct. 

Refuge (A Biblical Story of Good and Evil)

Intent on total destruction, Satan notices Cain's obsessive lust for Lilith and the dark roots of jealousy growing deep in his soul toward his do-gooding brother Abel. Satan goads Cain to the point of madness, barraging his mind with thoughts of hatred, lust, and futility. In a blinding rage, Cain wrecks everything. 

Wracked with shame, he flees into the vast wilderness, unable to possess the one thing he truly desires---Lilith. His life is destroyed. Will he ever find his way back? He longs for refuge. Can he ever find God again?

Perspective by Peter: 

After reading Inman's other novel, Fallen, I have looked forward to reading this debut novel. I deliberately did it this way as I wanted to read them in order of the Biblical account of events. I absolutely loved Fallen and it had such a profound impact on me. 

Now Refuge is having the same effect. I am so glad to be back reading a novel in this series and also by this author! It is like coming home to a safe place, a secure place, a "Refuge!". Why do I say that? Well, when you read an Inman novel you hear from God. I felt His presence as I was reading. Reading both of Inman's novels induces a feeling of heartfelt peace. It reinforces your relationship with God. I had feelings of joy, appreciation, and thanksgiving towards Him for who He is and what He has done for me while reading this novel. Biblical principles are included and form a solid basis and foundation for this novel. I appreciate Inman's research (documented as a study guide at the end of the novel) and how it is interpreted and applied to the novel. It then forms another of its strong foundations. But more importantly, you know that she would not have applied this or any other element of this novel without having committed it to God and asked for His direction. He delivers! 

This is a very spiritual novel. It is not like another I have read, where it is more concerned about the events from the Biblical account and its poetic license in filling in the gaps of this time in the Bible and less on the spiritual aspects. This is the difference between novels like this. Inman writes from the spiritual aspect of who God is, what He has done for us and His reasons for doing so, why He has established His precepts, boundaries, and what He has as a solution for every action, whether pleasing to Him or not. Everything is based on Who He is and that He loves us with an unfathomable love.

I have often said in reviews that a novel reflects what an author's relationship is like by reading their novel. Both in Fallen and Refuge, Inman shows an obvious love for God. Her talent for writing and creating a story forms the platform for the Spirit to use this to deliver a message of love, forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and mercy. And Refuge and Fallen are novels that are resplendent with this. 

I stated in my review of Fallen that, 

This is a beautiful and tender novel. There are novels where the reader can feel the author pouring herself into it with the utmost passion for writing and the storyline and this novel is one of those. Having read some of Inman's Tweets, posts from Facebook and her website, she is passionate about writing, about the art of story creation, expressing her love for God and all things relating to Him. It definitely shows in this novel's construction and forms one of its foundational pillars.

Well, I can say that this applies to Refuge as well! 

I know that other reviewers have said that this novel and Fallen as well could be viewed as being close to what actually happened and I would agree. Yes, it is fiction, yes, the poetic license fills in the gaps in the Biblical record but in this novel, I have found that this latter not only enhances the Biblical record but is very much aligned to it and makes plausible sense! It does not detract from the Biblical account or undermine it. But why would it, if Inman has allowed the Spirit to have His way with this novel? It becomes His novel and not Inman's! 

To quote again from my review of Fallen, the following is appropriate to mention here 

Inman has definitely allowed the Spirit to use her talent, imagination and creativity to craft a novel that is very much God-honouring and faith strengthening. As one of my author friends states, if you are a Christian author and you believe God has mandated you to write, then write for Him. I can see that Inman definitely does this. 

If there is one thing that stood out in this novel, it is the description of Cain's shame, remorse, regret, and horror over his sin in committing the first murder and having to deal with it. This is not something that is treated cheaply or superficially by Inman. It is beautifully done, despite it being a very graphic and destructive narrative. She has depicted him with raw emotions and I do not consider that anyone reading this would find these emotions foreign. She has depicted them as we have all experienced them to some degree or another and from different circumstances. These emotions are not unique to murder only. Her account pulls at your emotions. They are very much evoked! Even leading up to this event, as I knew it would happen, being familiar with the Biblical account, I became anxious and tense about how this murder would be depicted. Inman has shown a great understanding of how sin has changed our human nature and how Satan and his forces have manipulated this for their agenda of destroying the human race as part of their rebellion against God. This understanding has been interspersed throughout the novel and reinforces how sin and its effects have taken God's creation so far from what He created and would continue to do so.

Having read a previous novel about Cain where his sin drove him mad and consumed him and he was forever separated from God through this madness, Inman shows that even though Cain deserved to be tormented by himself, (through his own emotions and reaction to what he had done), Inman takes a different tack. I was so hoping that she would not fall into the same or similar trap of depicting him like this, once he was marked by God!

The account of how Cain deals with his sin, and its effects on himself, and his family is something that Inman shines in her depiction. It is resplendent with God's love for us, even after all its forms of rebellion against Him (disobedience in Adam and Eve, murder arrogance, and self-reliance from Cain). Again poetic license is applied here in having God minister to him, sustaining him on all levels during his banishment from his family, and how He encouraged Cain to open himself to God so He could be restored to a right relationship with Him again. How my mind and heart soared reading this as it shows what real repentance and forgiveness are! It is a shining example that God's love and forgiveness are not limited to any particular sin (except the sin of blaspheming the Spirit). I pray for any reader who reads this novel, who is not a believer in God, or feels they are totally unworthy will be impacted by this message here, and a seed of salvation be planted.

What is remarkable is the two Cains we deal with in this novel. The arrogant, self-reliant, strong-willed, stubborn, and selfish Cain before his sin of murdering Abel and the transformed Cain who has overcome these flaws in his sinful nature and become a contrite, humbled, obedient, and "born again" person, definitely closer to the way God had intended man to be before sin changed human nature. Prior to his sin, he was self-focused, it is all about him, but post-restoration by God, he became people-focused placing others first and above himself. Even to the point of laying down his life to save his wife and community when some of his brothers came to avenge the death of Abel by attempting to murder him. 

This is contrasted with how Inman depicted Abel. This brother already acted as contrite and knew his flaws, his ability to sin, and not to rely on his own strength or understanding. He was the obedient one, the one who sought God in everything and for everything. I respect this depiction of Abel, but I also respected the transformed Cain.

This entire novel can be read as a study of how sin has changed us for the worst and what God's plan is for our restoration. It flows very well from its successor, Fallen, and shows how the effects of sin became greater in Adam and Eve's offspring. Having Adam and Eve's reaction to this also showed how contrite and humbled they were to this progression and their part in its initiation. It also shows and indicates that the human race cannot continue on this sinful, destructive path. From the Biblical account at this time of history, we can see that God had a solution for this and in this novel, it relates to where God states, in Genesis 3:15,

I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

It is understandable that they thought Cain would be the one to destroy the works of Satan but from his sin, it becomes obvious that it is not him and it would need to be a "perfect" man to do this (as quoted by Cain and shown to be correct from the Bible in the account of Jesus from Isaiah 53, 1 John 2:2 and many others). Inman has depicted appropriately hints at this happening in the future. She hints at it and by whom this person is in the account of Abel being received into heaven upon his death. The study guide at the end of the novel is excellent here for more explanation to those who want or need to delve further

The spiritual warfare aspects of this novel, while not frequent, reveal more than enough about our fight against Satan and his forces. The accounts of Satan instructing his other fallen angels in how to tempt, harass, and manipulate our emotions and thus lead us to then sin could be a study in how to understand how this works against us and what we must do to prevent their dominion over us. It grieves me that this is not taught more or in greater depth by Pastors and Churches nowadays. There are many examples of the battle strategy that Satan uses that Inman has included but also of those that God uses and it is here that this study could be developed and used. The study guide at the end of the novel is a great asset here for further study.

Inman is dedicated to honouring God and His word in her writing and I was impressed to see an example of this in Fallen about becoming one flesh through the sexual union in the marriage covenant instituted by God. This was beautifully depicted in Fallen and in Refuge, Inman develops it further by showing how sin has tainted and warped sex when it is taken it outside of this covenant when Cain and Lilith become the first fornicators, who could not wait for their wedding day. They had sinned sexually and despite them considering themselves one flesh, they were not considered such by God. It was from this point on that Cain's life began to unravel further and this sexual sin was one reason God did not acknowledge his sacrifice at the altar and this led to Cain murdering his brother, Abel.  

I was intrigued as to why Inman chose to use the name Lilith for Cain's wife. There are two reasons for this, extra-biblical texts depict her as Adam's first wife before Eve was created, and not supported by any Biblical canon or text, and secondly, another novel I had read about Cain's life had Lilith as his wife's name but this wife was not human but a female fallen angel, whose existence is controversial amongst biblical scholars and apologists. Again, the study guide underpins why Inman used this name here. Kudos to Inman for researching and applying this well and appropriately without detracting from or undermining the Biblical record!

I can see some readers, Christian, as well as non-Christians, objecting to the depiction in this novel of how the offspring of Adam and Eve would find marriage partners. I had researched this myself years ago so was so pleased to see Inman supporting this research. This was ordained by God from the beginning but I can understand how Adam and Eve were clueless about this once they sinned, and were banished from the Garden and this may have been one detail not instructed by God now they were on their own and outside of His direct covering. It did make me chuckle somewhat looking at this from today's mindset, warped as it is with all our knowledge! It has only been the deterioration of the genes caused by the effects of sin on all life that has caused abnormalities in the offspring between family members and it has taken many generations before these abnormalities to be manifested, hence family members no longer being encouraged to procreate amongst themselves, even to the point of it is illegal by law and culture to do so.

I would highly recommend any reader, Christian, or not, to take the time to read the study guide at the end of the novel. There is a wealth of knowledge and resources here that will give a better understanding of this novel, its themes, who God is, and His plan of salvation. It also equips the Christian in giving an account of why we believe what we do just as 1Peter 3:15 instructs us to,

but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

It is my prayer that Inman continues to create novels regarding the retelling of Biblical history that contains the direction and substance of God and His Spirit. I have a hint of this in the subtitle of this novel, A Lilith and Cain Novel. It is my prayer that Inman continues to create novels regarding the retelling of Biblical history that contains the direction and substance of God and His Spirit. I have a hint of this in the subtitle of this novel, A Lilith and Cain Novel. 

For a debut novel, Inman has hit the ground running! I do not believe that any reader would know this once they start reading this tome. She is quite the wordsmith and has applied her craft, talent, and creativity well and allowed God to have His way in delivering His message to the reader.

Highly recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 2/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.2/5


Spiritually, based on my review and on the aforementioned reference booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland (Radiqx Press), and that Refuge contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Pre-Christian Godliness Fiction as follows:
        • they accurately depict Godly living at the Old Testament level,
        • they clearly reveal the Truth about the Lord and how He works
        • there must be specific references to the coming Savior/Redeemer and the Lord’s ultimate plan for His people, 
we bestow upon Melinda, the

Reality Calling Pre-Christian Godliness Fiction Award

Congratulations, Melinda!

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