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14 April 2006
  Lars Walker: Lutheran Novelist
A Review of The Year of the Warrior

Lars Walker's novels can be found in the Science Fiction and Fantasy aisles. They are paperbacks, with those great comic book-style cover illustrations, something to read for their action, excitement, and the sheer fun that reading can be. But these particular books rise far above the typical pulp fiction. They are stylistically alive. And they are deeply, profoundly Christian. In fact, they are deeply, profoundly Lutheran. Not in the usually sappy and preachy way of the "Christian fiction" subgenre but in a bold, battling way. And far from diminishing the books' appeal in the mainstream literary marketplace, their Christianity and their Lutheranism are intrinsic to their imaginative power.

Year of the WarriorI just finished The Year of the Warrior. Though published by the SciFi press Baen, it's really closer to historical fiction, focusing on the conversion of the Vikings to Christianity and depicting the real-life exploits of the noble Norse lord Erling Skjalgsson and the less-admirable King Olaf (later promoted to "St."). The tale centers around an Irishman kidnapped in a Viking raid who poses as a priest and then finds himself becoming one. The fantasy dimension comes as the Christians are challenged by the demonic forces of the old paganism.

There is lots of swordplay. And lots of even more dramatic spiritual warfare, both externalized in eerie confrontations with dark forces and internalized in the struggles of the main characters with their own sin and doubts. The context is the turning of the first millennium in 1000 A.D. ("the year of the warrior"), which many people thought would be the End of Time and Christ's return. So the theological climate is early-medieval Catholicism. But the Lutheranism comes in the criticism of many elements of that theology (such as the practice of forced conversion) as well as in the evangelical appropriation of many of its features (the power of confession and absolution; the power of Baptism; the power of the Cross). And throughout is the figure of Christ and the truth of the Gospel, in contrast to counterfeit Christianities and the demonic gods of the pagans.

Lars also gets in some good shots at today's false spiritualities — matter-denying Gnosticism, New Age paganism, and worldly churches. Says a bishop who wants to convert the masses by using the church growth methodology of killing them if they refuse: "Times change. We must change with the times. What use to obey Him in
this or that point if we fail to win the world for Him."

I don't want to create the impression that the book is heavy-going. It's not. It's frequently funny. (It is not, however, for those squeamish about violence and sin.) And the voice of the slave-priest Father Aillil who narrates the tale is addictive.

Lars Walker (a frequent commenter on the Cranach blog) is a member of a Free Lutheran congregation. I'm reading his other books and will report on them as well. Meanwhile, here is someone to read.

Review written by Dr. G. E. Veith and cross-posted at Cranach.

Year of the Warrior
Year of the Warrior


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