This isn’t going to be a full review, mostly because I don’t honestly have time to write a full review at the moment. However, I just finished my first book by Ted Dekker, and I have a few thoughts. First of all, friends have been telling me to read Dekker for years and I’m only now getting around to it (kind of sad, huh?). I’ve also been told the The Priest’s Graveyard isn’t one of his best books. That being said, it is definitely worth reading if you get the chance. If you don’t know Dekker is a Christian author, but unlike many Christian authors, his doesn’t use his Christianity to serve as a stand in for good writing, and he doesn’t pull punches to make his books ‘appropriate’. The Priest’s Graveyard reminded me of The Ethical Assassin by David Liss in many ways. The story focuses around a series of killings and the people who do the killing. It interacts with some reasonably high level ethical reasoning, and none of the characters are really particularly likable at first. Dekker’s book also has a fair bit of theological thought involved as well.
One of the great things about Dekker’s book is that he has a clear point, and his story effectively makes that point without sacrificing elements of the story itself. Following the paths of his two main characters, it makes sense how they get where they wind up, and there aren’t any major imaginative leaps or ‘wait, he did what?’ moments where characters simply don’t act like themselves. The story is interesting, complicated, and the end is both unexpected and inviting.
That being said, Dekker does make a couple of theological missteps along the way. His personification of an evil, BDSM rapist lawyer as ‘the Law’ is certainly a problem for anyone familiar with the Old Testament. Though the shift to the a strictly ethical avenging ‘angel’ as the law is a little better, ultimately Dekker still presents the law as ‘the enemy’, and this is not the message of Scripture. In the Christian scriptures the law is not presented as evil, or as the enemy, it is simply not the goal. It is the first necessary step in a process that ends with grace.
Dekker’s ultimate message, that grace is superior to judgment, is a very good one that many Christians certainly need to hear (we can be a fairly judgmental group). However, as a theologian I have to say that this characterization of the law as ‘the evil enemy’ that must be escaped is problematic. After all, Christ himself proclaimed that he was not the enemy of the law, but instead its ultimate fulfillment. So, with that in mind, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Ted Dekkar’s The Priest’s Graveyard and enjoy his message.