Remember the papyrus all over the news that claimed Jesus had a wife? Remember the furor that it started? What if it wasn’t a fake? Or, what if a papyrus was found that proved the Gospels were faked? This is the premise behind Alan Schleimer’s exciting debut novel, The Q Manifesto.
One of the interesting aspects of this book is that different characters have a different theologies.
One character, whose faith is strong, wants to be buried in Jerusalem because he believes “Jerusalem will survive Armageddon, Megiddo—the end of the world” and he wants to be “first in line to fight Satan’s army.” Wow. Is anyone else thinking that way? That’s strong conviction.
My favorite character is a layman named Johnny whose faith in God shines through his practical approach to theology. In his reasoning, the Q document must be a fake because ““It says the Gospels were written to prove an ordinary man was the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. The miracles and fulfilled prophecies do that, but the Gospels also show Jesus’ constant reliance on the Father. Why would a story written to prove his godhood do such a good job of proving his humanity?” I have a friend that brought up a similar question to me. If all you had was the Old Testament and you decided to craft a Messiah, would you come up with Jesus? Not without what we know now, that’s for sure.
Johnny also says “The Holy Spirit is in charge of sales, we just have to do the advertising.” That’s bumper sticker theology. 🙂
There is a woman in the book that we know has strong faith because of her prayer life. If you don’t believe that God is real, you don’t pray to Him. If you believe God is real and you’re not praying, you need to spend some time alone thinking that one out.
Then there is the villain in the novel who has a huge problem with Christians. This character sees American Christians as “the Pharisees of the 21st century—white-washed tombs who go to church, but wouldn’t know their God if he sat in the pew next to them” and as people who “spout pleasantries like love they neighbor while they sip their lattes and watch three-fourths of the world starve.” These beliefs are held by many in the world today. ‘Christian’ is almost synonymous with ‘hypocrite’ to some people.
It’s a little hard to get a feeling for the main character’s theology. We see at the beginning of the story that his dad is a believer, but Jay doesn’t share his dad’s views. As he goes through the novel trying to find proof that the Q document is a fake, we see hints that his views on God are changing but no “come to Christ” moment. We’ve all been there. What this does is make it a Christian book that you can recommend without having to worry about a non-believer getting beat over the head with a Jesus stick. Let’s call it ‘evangelism light.’
Towards the end of the book, God shows up in a Shadrach-Meshach-Abednego moment and welcomes two people while another turns away. I think the author tried to show they believed at the end on the basis of their actions, or at least I hope that was what he was trying to show. Otherwise, it begs the question of what it takes to be saved.
One question/problem I had with the theology of the book was that it almost seemed works-based instead of grace-based salvation. Perhaps it is because of the genre—a heavy suspense, action thriller. Action=works. I would have preferred the author to show characters seeking guidance or relying on God more than a single character who prays occasionally.
This book was written for adult readers and so the content of the book may be difficult for younger readers. There is no sex or profanity, but there is some violence. The violence is not graphic, so it did not bother me. The issue of adultery is raised in the book, and I wondered why the characters affected were not more disturbed about it than they were. Perhaps they were too distracted with saving the world. 😉
Christianity and terrorist groups. One interesting thing about the book was how society unraveled when evidence for Jesus as the Messiah was brought into question. What would you do if there was no hope of resurrection? If your faith was rocked, how would you react? Would you still believe? The situation would be a litmus test of the Christian faith, for sure.
I very much enjoyed this book, especially since part of it was set in my home town of Houston. And then there was my favorite quote of the book, “Two oil drums belched fire, and a fully stoked campfire lit base camp like and Aggie bonfire.” Whoop to that. The author is a Houstonian too!