Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


A Look at Bryan Litfin's Debut Novel The Sword

A Review of

Brian M. Litfin The Sword (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010)
$15.99 413 pp ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-0925-4 ISBN-10: 1-4335-0925-3

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

Bryan Litfin is a theologian/church-historian who has just had his first novel published -- The Sword, which constitutes volume I of his Chiveis trilogy. The story clearly fits into the broad category of "speculative fiction", but to classify it any further is problematic. It can be regarded as science fiction in terms of background -- almost the entire population of the world is wiped out by the combination of a super-deadly new virus and advanced nuclear weaponry. The few survivors create a new civilization resembling that of the medieval period, which provides the ambience for the story, which is somewhat similar to an Arthurian fantasy, e.g. the sword referred to in the title is similar in some respects to Excalibur. BUT, there is a big difference because the disenchantment of the world, which was produced by modernity, continues into the days of Chiveis. Although the people re-created medieval structures, they did not re-create an enchanted cosmos.

This is dramatically shown in the actions of the Chiveis priests, who do not DO magic or believe in magic, but actually use explosives to cause catastrophes which they attribute to the supernatural activity of their god (Astrebril), thus indicating that the story, at least in this respect, is not really a fantasy. Because the populace is duped into thinking supernatural acts of a god have occurred, the story can be considered a fantasy in that sense, but not in terms of what really is happening. In fact, it could even be considered as science fiction -- for that age -- because at that time the knowledge of explosives had been lost and was known only to the priests who read about them in what to them were "ancient" documents. There are lots of adventures but it is not actually an adventure story, and there is some Romance but it is not a Romance novel.

One thing which can definitely be said about the novel is that it is a spiritual warfare story. Cheveis was founded under the inspiration of Satan by wicked rulers who are strongly opposed to God and who keep it a secret that many of the "ancients" believed in God and who become enraged when one of the heroes, Teofil, discovers a Bible, which leads to the formation of a small christian circle who meet surreptitiously. And the spiritual warfare is also found within this circle as well because two of the members begin propounding ideas similar to gnosticism, which was a very great danger in the early church and one which is well known to the author, who is an authority in patristics.

The story is full of fast-paced action, interesting characters, and intriguing concepts, and the unexpected. It has a dramatic ending which resolves what looked like an impossible situation and has the reader anxious to read the next volume to see what will happen next. The language and story is explicitly Christian, and the actions contain many illustrations of spiritual principles. The Lost Genre Guild regards The Sword as Christian speculative fiction, and has posted a brief notice of the book on its blog. Litfin has created a website for the book


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