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Koontz and Christianity

Koontz and Christianity

by Mike Duran · 11 comments

I was initially going to title this post “Is Dean Koontz a Christian?”, dkoontz.jpgbut I felt that would come across as presumptive, cheeky. I mean, who am I to judge anyone’s spiritual state? Yet despite the sensitivities the question provokes — and for reasons I’ll expound upon in this post — I think it’s understandable and maybe even necessary that we ask it.

Shortly after the gals at Novel Journey ran an interview with Dean Koontz, I received this email from a writer friend:

Hey Mike,

. . .will you give me your thoughts as to whether or not Dean Koontz is a Christian or not. I know it might seem strange, but I would really value your opinion on it.

It still surprises me that anyone gives a rip about my opinion. Nevertheless, the question isn’t nearly as “strange” as the email author thinks. Anyone who’s read Koontz knows that he veers often into areas of theology, the afterlife, evil and redemption. In fact, this is a fairly common question asked by Christians who have read Koontz. I promptly responded with this email:

I’ve read three of his books and several interviews. Koontz definitely explores existential themes through a Christian-like framework, i.e., there’s one God, we live in a Moral universe, pursuing Good is better than amorality, there is a hell, we are more than biological mistakes, etc. Still, I’m not aware of a straight-forward admission on his part to being a Christian. Perhaps it’s all the better seeing how Christians would immediately own him and his fiction… or judge him. [An editor of a well-known publishing house] told me personally that he believes Koontz’s stuff is more “Christian” than half the similar CBA fiction. I think that says a lot.

I tend to be a bit liberal when it comes to judging people’s spiritual state. No doubt, salvation is a (1) Process as much as a (2) Moment. I see it as a sliding scale that moves toward or away from God. Everyone is on this continuum, moving closer to or further away from Heaven. While I don’t know if Koontz has “passed from death to life” (the Moment part of the Process), he definitely appears to be moving closer rather than further away. So while I’m unable to say he’s a believer, I’m pretty sure he’s in Process. Where that places him with God at this moment, who can say?

Yeah, I said I’m “a bit liberal,” for anyone seeking ammo. Anyway, the writer responded saying they’d Googled “Koontz and Christianity” and discovered THIS INTERVIEW with the author conducted by the National Catholic Register earlier this year. In it, Koontz describes why he converted to Catholicism:

Catholicism permits a view of life that sees mystery and wonder in all things, which Protestantism does not easily allow. As a Catholic, I saw the world as being more mysterious, more organic and less mechanical than it had seemed to me previously, and I had a more direct connection with God.

I feel about Catholicism as G.K. Chesterton did — that it encourages an exuberance, a joy about the gift of life. I think my conversion was a natural growth. Even in the darkest hours of my childhood, I was an irrepressible optimist, always able to find something to fill me with amazement, wonder and delight. When I came to the Catholic faith, it explained to me why I always had — and always should have — felt exuberant and full of hope.

The idea that “Catholicism permits a view of life that sees mystery and wonder in all things, which Protestantism does not easily allow,” is an interesting one and worth exploring later. Either way, here Koontz clearly aligns himself with the bright side of the Force. In fact, contained in this interview is the answer to the question we’d been noodling:

I don’t shy away from having violent things happen, but I don’t dwell on it. I feel, AS A CHRISTIAN, writing books that have a moral purpose to them, it’s actually incumbent upon me to write about evil, because this kingdom is Satan’s and he is the prince of the world. It’s here and it’s among us. (emphasis mine)

So there it is in black and white: Dean Koontz considers himself a Christian.

But why does this matter? Why should we even concern ourselves with the best-selling author’s spirituality? Fact is, many would say we shouldn’t. Faith is a personal matter, as 0553804804-01-LZZZZZZZ.jpgthe mantra goes. It’s between him and God. Besides, he’s a horror writer. And as long as he keeps writing good stories, who cares? Nevertheless, if the email above is any indication, Christians are extremely interested in Koontz and Christianity. But is this a good thing?

I got saved around the time that Bob Dylan was “allegedly” converted. His “Slow Train Coming” remains one of my all-time favorite “Christian” albums. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before Dylan veered away from the CCM and toned down the religious rhetoric. Mind you, he still managed many apocalyptic, biblical themes. It just wasn’t overt, preachy. Needless to say, his conversion was questioned and he was exiled off his own bandwagon. I still think Dylan maintains a wonderfully subtle, edgy Christian aura. But as far as Contemporary Christian Music goes, he’s way, way under the radar.

Christians are notorious for this. We use “celebrity conversions” to bolster our credibility. But once the star stops speaking to the choir, stops measuring up to our conception of what a Christian musician / actor / filmmaker / author should be, we withdraw our support and even question the artist’s spirituality. Part of this is due to our motivations, the other to a shallow understanding of “Christian art.”

I am interested in Dean Koontz’s religious beliefs, not because I want to stamp him “CBA approved” or put him on a pedestal, but because I am deeply interested in Christians in the arts. We should be grateful that God is at work in the hearts of such talented, influential people. But we should also check our desire to box them in and make them fit a pre-conceived mold. This is why I personally applaud both Koontz’s outspokenness about his faith and his willingness to write good, thoughtful, non-preachy, Moral fiction. The last thing we need is to include Dean Koontz in the “Christian fiction” camp. . . even if the fiction he’s writing is more Christian than half the stuff in the CBA.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather Goodman November 19, 2007 at 3:48 PM

I agree.
I think another problem with celebrity Christianity is we often claim new believers and stick them in the limelight before giving them a chance to mature. This is unfair to them. As soon as they do something we don’t like, we shake a finger at them, or worse, turn our backs.

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Mark November 19, 2007 at 3:48 PM

As far as whether or not Koontz is a Christian, the only thing I can say is: I hope so. Far be it from me to judge whether anyone is saved or not–that’s not my job.

I think you’re right that we tend to shower too much attention on celebrities only to judge them when they don’t completely conform to our standards, or worse, trip up and sin. Better to promote Christ than promote people. It’s not about us, as my pastor likes to say.

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Mark November 19, 2007 at 3:52 PM

Wow, Heather. Great minds. ;)

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Nicole November 19, 2007 at 4:22 PM

I differ slightly in the reasoning for wanting to know if Koontz is a Christian or not. If a Christian reads his stories and wonders about his faith, it is more of a “relief” to know he’s had an encounter with Jesus, realizing we’ll be able to have unlimited conversations with him in heaven, providing we both continue in our faith. Plus, it’s good to know when a writer can tackle a difficult genre from a Christian POV.

My second novel deals with a celebrity’s encounter with Christianity basically based on a personal burden I carried for a particular actor. The thought of this person going to hell slammed so hard against me, it began an intense battle for that individual’s soul such as I haven’t experienced before or since.

And while I somewhat concur as to the “continuum” philosophy, Mike, as you well know, life is unpredictable and our days are numbered. Looking toward God over time is fine as long as we arrive in the safety of Jesus’ arms before death takes us eternally into the darkness. Then it won’t really matter how “close” we were getting. And lest we think God unmerciful, he sees what we humans fail to see: the real heart of a soul.

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dayle November 19, 2007 at 7:16 PM

Since I’m Koontz’s # 1 fan (not in the Misery way), I guess I’ll have to make a comment.

Many of his works certainly have a Christian, or more correctly, a biblical worldview. (read The Taking) Maybe not an evangelical Christian worldview, but that’s another point.

I see a definite need for both. But there are those who want to destroy that line. Why? Maybe because they don’t want a certain label. Maybe because they feel insulted if their Christian worldview novel doesn’t fit in the CBA mission-stated novel format.

There are many unseen Christians who feel that their faith is a personal matter. This goes against Biblical teaching in my opinion, but who am I to judge why they are at that point in their Christian walk.

I think the mis-understanding Mike is talking about concerning Celebrity conversions is one of type not self interest-credibility. If you’re an envangelical, you’re dissapointed that said converted celebrity doesn’t have an evangelical slant. Remember Jane Fonda’s conversion? What about Bill Clinton’s claim to be a devout believer?

As an evangelical, when I see the fruits of Bill Clinton’s life, I don’t see Christ. That’s not to say that he’s not a Christian, maybe he’s just not good at it. That’s why he needs Christ. That’s why we all need Christ. Some of my fruits are rotten, too.

I believe that those who want to broaden the definition of what the CBA classifies as the type of Christian Fiction it wants to publish are actually the ones being intolerant. As it stands, everyone has a home. Dean Koontz, Lewis, Tolkien, Grisham, etc, prove that the Christian worldview novel is alive and well.

If that’s what you write – the world is your oyster.

It’s the authors who choose writing as a ministry or want to have an evangelical cause for their writing, who need the CBA.

** Mike, you know I’m not one to be argumentative :), but do you really feel that Mr. Koontz’s books are “more Christian” than half the books in the CBA? If so, would you care to elaborate.

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Mike Duran November 20, 2007 at 1:21 AM

Great comments, y’all! Nicole, as to the “continuum philosophy”, it’s not so much about “Looking toward God over time,” but affirming there is a process to conversion. We don’t suddenly awake one day and decide to accept Jesus as our Savior. There are numerous elements — experiences, encounters, people, events, intuitions, upbringing, debate, dialog — that create favorable conditions for the seed of the Gospel. In other words, everyone is “becoming” what they will always be — a creature of heaven or hell. Accepting or rejecting Christ is only the culmination of that ongoing process. What happens to someone who’s “in process” when they die, only God could say. My sense is that if they were moving toward the Light, they will in fact find it.

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Mike Duran November 20, 2007 at 1:47 AM

Dayle, I don’t mind being implicated as one of the “intolerant” ones. However, I don’t “want to broaden the definition” of Christian Fiction as much as illuminate the obvious ambiguity of the term. The “CBA mission” is hardly as clear-cut as you characterize it, nor is your distinction between “the Christian worldview novel” and “the evangelical cause.”

A well-known Christian editor was the one who made the statement you’re questioning. For the most part, I think I agree with it. But, again, the problem is terminological, because what you and I see as “Christian literature” are two very different things. Thanks for the comments. Peace.

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janet November 20, 2007 at 3:21 PM

These sorts of discussions just sort of creep me out. Feels like gossip. I mean we don’t know the guy. He’s put his books out there, which means they are up for criticism or discussion or praise, but does that mean he has put himself out there for evaluation? His faith is his faith, and I suppose if he wanted to, he could have said in the Novel Journey interview, “by the way, I’m a born again believer in Jesus Christ.” He didn’t say that. He did say that he makes a point of keeping his life private, and then he pretty much stuck to discussing writing. Anyway, I just don’t get the point of trying to figure out if certain people are Christians. The fact is, “everybody talkin’ bout heaven ain’t goin there.” There might be deacons and choir members and sunday school teachers you know that you won’t see in heaven because their hearts don’t belong to God. We can’t know. Only God knows. What do I know about Dean? He’s a hell of a writer. And he obviously knows a lot about the Bible. And he has a faith. The depth of it? The specifics? How would I know? I hope he is. But if he isn’t, I don’t see how talking about his spirituality on a blog will help.
Just my 2 cents.

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janet November 20, 2007 at 9:47 PM

Mike, That isn’t to say this wasn’t an interesting and well-written post. It was. Yours always are. And, yes, the Catholic/Protestant statement is interesting. What makes Catholicism mysterious and wonderful? I look forward to that post.

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Mike Duran November 21, 2007 at 4:12 AM

Janet, I really appreciate the question and think it’s absolutely relevant. My intent is not to be voyeuristic, which I trust I haven’t been. There’s obviously a big difference between being interested in someone’s faith and interested in their preference of underwear. For the record, I don’t care if Mr. Koontz prefers boxers or briefs.

As much as the question creeps you out, it is one that is asked often. But why? Is it entirely “gossipy” that we ponder the faith of the Dean Koontz’s of the world? I don’t think so. As Christians, I’m thinking we SHOULD be interested in what others believe, not to judge them, but for discernment and, sometimes, brotherhood. Like I said in my post, “I am deeply interested in Christians in the arts.” This is an arena we once held, and then abdicated. The fact that, as you put it, Dean is “a hell of a writer,” and he’s professed faith in Christ, both piques my interest and stirs my prayers. Far from knowing less about him, I want to know more.

Grace to you, Janet!

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