In Lieu of Heaven
Review by Alyce Wilson
Allegory, as in the classic example, Pilgrim's Progress, is a literary technique typically used to teach religious truths. In an allegory, the protagonist goes on a journey, meeting people who represent abstract concepts that relate to the principles being taught.
In Lieu of Heaven by Kevin Archer takes this technique in an entirely different direction, using allegory to unwind religious truths. The unnamed protagonist, embarked on an undefined journey, sidetracks into what appears to be a heavenly garden. There, he meets a man who calls himself Adam and who, as it turns out, is the biblical Adam.
Through Adam's tales, the protagonist experiences the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible, identifying flaws in logic and reasons to believe that the biblical God is neither as kind, nor as forgiving, nor as praiseworthy as Christians have been led to believe.
In fact, Adam contends, the Bible serves as an indictment of the selfish, cruel behavior of the biblical God.
Biblical contradictions are not new, and biblical scholars and theologians are well aware of them. They account for discrepancies by the fact that these books, while believed to be divinely inspired, were written by many different hands over centuries, and then edited and put into canonical form by the Catholic Church.
If In Lieu of Heaven is aimed at believers, the logic-based argument, though using some emotional appeals, such as Adam's emotional descriptions of the fate of those who fail to please God, is not likely to convince them, particularly when Adam alleges that Jesus of Nazareth is simply the same selfish Old Testament God, in corporal form.
But perhaps Archer does not seek to change the mind of the true believers but, instead, to raise questions and then to change the mind of those, who like the protagonist, are on a spiritual journey, looking for their own truths.
In Lieu of Heaven could be useful at a seminary for pastors to understand what sort of objections and questions nonbelievers may have about the faith. Equally, it could be interesting for a comparative religions class or philosophy class, fueling discussions. Likewise, for those who wish to view the Bible as literature, since it evaluates the consistency of characters and the logic of plot lines.
In Lieu of Heaven is well worth reading and could fuel discussion
among a number of different groups. The allegorical structure, as ironic
as it might seem, works well to clarify the argument and frame it in an
Xlibris Corporation, 2003; ISBN: 1-4134-2186-5