A Novel Conversion

  Millions of Americans are paying $28 for the privilege of learning how to find peace with God. No, they're not buying Bibles, and I don't mean some flaky, New Age book like The Celestine Prophesy. What they're reading is solid biblical Christianity. I'm talking about John Grisham's new novel, The Testament. The book, which went straight to the top of the best seller lists, adds Grisham's name to the list of some of the great writers of modern times who serve the Kingdom of God best by simply writing well. The story is the kind Grisham is famous for. The testament of the book's title refers to the last will and testament of a character named Troy Phelan, a miserable billionaire. His estate is coveted by his three ex-wives and six children, none of whom Phelan can stand. Phelan surprises everyone by leaving the bulk of his estate to an illegitimate daughter named Rachel Lane. After Phelan's death, it's up to Nate Riley, an attorney who has fallen on hard times, to find Rachel. And that's where things get interesting. It turns out Rachel is a missionary to a primitive Indian tribe in southwestern Brazil. The search for Rachel provides Riley with the opportunity to escape from his problems: two failed marriages, estranged children, four stays at detox centers, and plenty of legal problems. But in addition to encountering snakes and alligators in South America, Riley runs into something else: the outstretched arms of God. When he eventually finds Rachel, he is struck by the peace and joy that characterize her. In a scene that could be excerpted for use as a religious tract, Rachel leads Nate to faith in Christ. And Grisham doesn't stop there. Even after receiving Christ, Riley struggles with his faith. He wonders if God can really forgive him. Rachel assures him that, yes, forgiveness is possible. There's more to the novel than simply the story of a man's conversion. It's filled with plenty of action and adventure. Grisham takes the reader back and forth between Brazilian wetlands and the offices of high-priced Washington attorneys. It's a great story. Grisham says the novel was inspired by his own experience on mission trips to Brazil. He says he was challenged by "the goal of seeing if [he] could make such a spiritual journey work in a popular novel, in commercial fiction." I'd say he has succeeded. In combining good stories and Christian themes, Grisham is following in the footsteps of others like C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and Graham Greene. As Grisham told USA Today, "I hope I can do what Graham Greene did. He wrote fun books but then he also explored the darker side of humanity and man's pursuit of God." C. S. Lewis once said that we need, not more Christian writers, but more good writers who are also Christians. That's because no matter how noble the ideas are, if the book is badly written, nobody will want to read it. When a writer of Grisham's caliber and stature uses his skill to communicate Christian ideas, then our unbelieving neighbors will literally be paying to be witnessed to. So three cheers for John Grisham's The Testament. Get a copy of the book, and when you've finished it, lend it to your unsaved friends. They'll enjoy a great yarn—and they'll learn about the saving power of Christ in the bargain.


Chuck Colson


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