Researchers suggest the best way to initially reach out to minds unfamiliar with the Bible is to find common ground. Novels are a popular entertaining escape and Pastor Dan Appel sees this vehicle as an opportunity to meet many people where they are. The Choice scratches modern minds who itch with a fascination for the appeal of the occult. His goal seems to be to inoculate them against the devil’s deceptions through a scary supernatural story.
The plot of The Choice revolves around two churches in a southern state in the fictional community of Cherry Pit. Cherry Pit Community Church has a young pastor who has discovered from personal Bible study that the usual Christian view of what happens when you die is unscriptural. A second church, First Church, is attended by pillars in the community. The lives of the members from both churches intertwine as a young widow from Community Church begins to have bedtime conjugal visits with a being she believes is her husband returning to visit her from heaven. The story then unfolds as some First Church members are found to be involved with witchcraft. As the story escalates it becomes apparent the angels of God and the angels of Satan are heading for a final showdown.
Appel’s novel is quite graphic in its descriptions of the fallout from involvement with the occult realm. I sense his story may be adapted from his pastoral encounters with people who are wrestling with experiences such as are depicted in his book. As an Adventist pastor for 45 years I have also sought to help a number of members and others who were struggling to escape from the remnants of their former involvement in psychic entanglements.
The evil participants who masquerade in Appel’s novel as returning people from death are not the disembodied apparitions encountered, just a few years ago, in the past century. Famous clergymen like Norman Vincent Peale told of communicating with his dead mother at her graveside, and James Pike, a nationally prominent Anglican, wrote in his book The Other Side of his attempts to reach the spirit of his dead son. Yet the time had not yet come for the fulfillment of the prediction some made that their shrines of worship would be used to demonstrate the reality of life after death. In The Choice, Appel envisions the arrival of the time when such manifestations would transcend the evidence of flitting ghosts. They are not the stuff of darkened séance chambers. They are evil spirits taking bodily form that interact with people in worship services and everyday relationships.
Appel balances his novel of Satan’s last day “lying wonders” (II Thessalonians) with a change of settings. Cindy, a young lady searching for meaning and dabbling in New Age activities, is invited to a party of wholesome Christian youth at Cherry Pit Community Church. Steve, a dedicated youth leader is her escort and draws her to Christ in his gentle, non-pushy manner.
Lori, from a sordid background, gives a moving testimony of how Jesus has cleaned up her life. Others share their positive witness of God’s compassionate love and how now they have found true purpose. All this leads Cindy to realize she must make her choice without delay.
Cindy’s exposure to young Christians sharing their faith in a carefully measured manner does not directly relate to the fluidity of the main story. It does, though, add a melding dimension that many readers could identify with in their personal quest.
I have seen many types of Adventist Christian literature lead souls to a relationship with God. People like the radiant professor of educational psychology at the University of the Pacific who discovered God’s compassionate love from reading The Great Controversy I gave her here in Merced where I also live. I believe diverse minds will always be drawn to God by varied approaches. The Choice is a good read for those who are attracted to this format. It is laden with solid biblical substance in a fictional structure. I believe its time has come.
Clark McCall is a retired minister who likes to do a little writing too. He met his wife of three years in the Oakdale Church, which was his last church. They married three weeks before his last Sabbath there. They now work in the Merced Church; and between them they have nine children and 18 grandchildren.
Interview with Dan Appel: To see Dan’s comments on the background, process, and experience of writing a mystery novel on the state of the dead, see our Spectrum interview.
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