Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fury: 1825-1826

Fury, part of the “Great Awakenings” series (Bill Bright and Jack Cavanaugh), also serves as a sequel to Storm. In 1825, 16-year-old Daniel Cooper, orphaned son of Eli Cooper and Maggy (Asa Rush’s sister), now lives with his uncle Asa and Aunt Camilla. Daniel witnesses a murder that involves his employer, Cyrus Gregg, and soon finds himself running for his life, with the hired-murderer close behind. Fleeing also from his Uncle Asa, Daniel heads north into upstate New York, where he encounters a Charles Finney revival and is challenged by the Christian witness of other young people he meets.

Fury does a great work of combining historical details of the period with a great action story. It incorporates the canal fervor of the day along with interesting descriptions of ideas for early washing machines, and the frontier spirit of the people at Finney’s revival meetings. (One minor historical error: throughout the text Washington D.C. is called by its present-day name, not "Washington City" as it was then called.) Along the way we read plenty of action, especially great physical stunts of survival, and detailed descriptions of the two characters lost in a cave. Yet Fury seems weaker than its predecessor Storm, perhaps because it takes a long time getting to the good parts. Much of the action takes place in the town before Daniel flees, and the events described on the book cover – even Daniel’s flight from the murderer – don’t occur until well into the story. The story’s Christian aspect, and the introduction of Charles Finney, only occur near the very end. Overall, the story works as an entertaining, action-packed thriller that will keep you turning the pages – at least in certain sections. A few parts tend to lag, and the part where Daniel is alone in a cave seems stretched a bit too long. Otherwise, though, the story and the characters are amusing and entertaining.

The biggest problem with the story is in its treatment of Charles Finney. References to Finney are brief, and the story accurately portrays the revival fervor of the period. However, Fury says nothing about Finney’s actual beliefs and makes the man out to be a great evangelical Protestant Christian, when it is clear from Finney’s own writings that he was far from that. As this article by Phillip R. Johnson points out, Finney rejected basic Christian theology such as original sin, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer and the substitutionary atonement, believing instead that Christ’s death does not justify (save) anyone—in Finney’s view people are saved through God’s benevolence and their own perfection and self-reformation in adhering to God’s laws. Within a few years after Finney’s great revivals, the “burnt-over” region of western New York was spiritually cold, with no lasting fruit from the many “conversions,” as even Finney himself later admitted.

Aside from the theological handling of Finney, Fury is a decent, exciting novel. I only wish the authors would hold true to their evangelical Christian beliefs and write about true Christian historical figures--rather than a false teacher.

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