Saturday, December 21, 2013

Two Gems of Truth from Frank Schaeffer's 2013 Novel: AND GOD SAID, "BILLY!"


In my previous post, I reviewed Frank Schaeffer's latest novel: And God Said, "Billy!" In this post, I will reflect further on And God Said, "Billy!" -- possibly in ways that could spoil the novel's ending for anyone who hasn't read the book. My aim is to explore two gems of truth offered by the novel. Subsequent posts will explore additional gems of truth.


Billy's twisted logic shows how easy it can be to convince oneself that one is above the law. Billy truly seems to believe that he is an exception to moral laws. When he runs out of money and thinks of an easy way to steal what he needs, he believes that this idea is a directive from God and that his managing not to get caught is proof of God's blessing on his action. He seems to think, "Because I am showing extraordinary obedience to God by undertaking this special film-making mission, I stand outside the laws of basic morality, which are for less dedicated humans." With this way of thinking, one can justify a lot of wrong behavior.


Doctrine does not point us toward God, or if it does, it does so only faintly. Facts that we learn about God just don't take root in our souls. Some doctrinal systems can even create a harmful image of God, as is the case with Billy. Billy's God requires him to endure a years-long separation from his wife and daughter, preventing him from being the husband and father he longs to be. Billy's God also requires him to direct a film with no artistic merit as a "stepping stone" to his real film mission, to tell lies in order to keep up appearances, to judge harshly any person whose behavior puts him or her into the classification of "sinner," to see an eternity in the fires of hell as a real possibility, to squash his ability to think so that he can embrace a narrow view of biblical inerrancy. What Billy believes about God diminishes him and causes him much pain and suffering.

Later, Billy begins to experience God more authentically through his experience as a giver and as a receiver of love. As a giver, Billy deeply loves his daughter, Rebecca. He is truly pained by the years-long separation from her, necessitated by his film-making mission. As the Russian Orthodox Father Tryphon (Billy's rescuer) points out, surely God (if God exists) has far greater love than do we. If we want to know what God is like, we need only look at the best within ourselves. If Billy can love Rebecca with such pure aching longing, how much more does God love us. Billy also experiences love as a receiver when he is rescued from an extremely dangerous situation by Father Tryphon and the other Russian Orthodox monks of the Monastery of Saint John of Kronstadt, who put thenselves in danger to help Billy. Billy has done nothing to deserve the love freely offered to him by Father Tryphon and the monks.

The love Billy feels for Rebecca and the love Billy receives from Father Tryphon and the Russian Orthodox monks point him toward God far more clearly and strongly than any facts about God could ever do. Our souls respond to love, not to facts. I should add, though, that our minds respond to facts. Facts that provide mental support for what our soul knows through experience can be very enriching.

In this post, I have explored two gems of truth from Frank Schaeffer's novel And God Said, "Billy!" In my next post, I will explore two additional gems.

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