There is a lot I like about this C. Baxter Kruger's latest book Patmos, most especially his central thesis that "the assumption of separation is the great darkness." (91) I like the way he continually emphasizes his point that here in the West we have all too often believed the idea that we are separated from God and from one another. But that, says Kruger, is a false notion. We are not separate from God. We are not separate from one another. We just think we are. It is a message that we need to hear often in post-election America!
But that said, there are things about the book that I find less appealing.
It's basic premise in fairly straightforward. The well-educated 21st century theologian, Aidan Williams, is magically sent back in time to Patmos, where he meets the Apostle John. For three days they have an extended theological conversation focusing on many matters, but most especially on the Incarnation. And, in the end, Aidan is returned to his own time and his own home.
I have no trouble with the idea of time travel. It sets up intriguing possibilities like this one. And while Kruger does recognize some of the incongruities it creates, his focus on things like slang expressions which would make no sense to a first century human being seems very forced in most instances. In fact, it is distracting. I suspect some of it is introduced to alleviate the heavy theological dialogue, a bit of leavening with humor, but it usually falls flat. Especially the seventh-grade locker room jokes about flatulence.
Kruger makes some assumptions about the Apostle John with which many scholars would disagree. Not only the chronology of his life, but also, more significantly, crediting him with the authorship of all the Johannine material in the New Testament. While it is true many conservative scholars would agree with his understanding that the John who wrote the Gospel of John is the same as the John who wrote the Book of Revelation, there are many others, of many theological persuasions, or no theological persuasion, who would disagree.
That said, there are some wonderful twists and turns in the book that make sense out of things that are often hard to comprehend. The discussion John and Aidan have about the Trinity, with its emphasis on relationship, is truly enlightening.
I want tor recommend this book--for the sake of Kruger's central thesis. But I hesitate--until I remember most of the action in Kruger's novel takes place in a cave. And when you spend time in caves, if you are really paying attention, you can usually find some gems. Draw your own conclusion!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.