The Fall and Redemption of Shadowmere: A Parable and Commentary on Christ’s Victory Over Darkness and the Call to Discipleship

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

The Fall and Redemption of Shadowmere: A Parable and Commentary on Christ’s Victory Over Darkness and the Call to Discipleship

Author:

Matt Bohlman

Publisher:

Aragorn Press

Publication Date:

August 3, 2019

Format:

Paperback

Length:

108 pages

OVERVIEW

What if the way we talk about the crucifixion and God’s wrath is misguided? The Bible tells us Christ paid the wages of sin, and we know suffering was involved, but some teachers describe that as God’s wrath being poured on Jesus. Matt Bohlman argues against this view, using an allegorical tale and a commentary on it to present a different view of the crucifixion. The tale concerns a small Wild West town called Shadowmere, a snake that infects the town with its poison, and a marshall who comes to rescue the town. The commentary unpacks the story’s ideas, explaining what Christ’s death really accomplished and what role the wages of sin, Satan’s power and God the Father played in those events.

Bohlman uses a format similar to Milton Vincent’s book A Gospel Primer. Vincent starts by exploring a theological point (that Christians should remember the Gospel everyday), then gives readers a prayer containing the Gospel’s basic points, then gives those same points again in a poem. What both Vincent and Bolhman are saying is that learning theology in propositional statements isn’t always the best way. A well-told story often affects people in ways that a lecture cannot. This may explain why Jesus taught by telling parables as often or more often than he gave sermons.

A growing number of Christian writers and scholars are becoming aware of storytelling’s unique power. Some use it in a utilitarian way, extracting storytelling techniques and applying them to various disciplines. For example, Alan Ehler writes in How to Make Big Decisions Wisely about “understanding your current story” and “finding your new story” as a model for crisis resolution. For Bohlman and Vincent, the point is much simpler: complement your explanation with a good story or other piece of artwork. You’ll not only expose your readers to new ideas, you’ll engage their imaginations so those ideas move them. As James K.A. Smith might put it, they’ll learn to love truth as well as learn truth.

This storytelling-exposition combined approach works especially well for Bohlman, because he’s exploring some very technical ideas. He argues one view of Christ’s atonement has small details which create big problems. Thus, he spends most of the commentary digging into those small details, making fine distinctions between concepts that almost sound the same. Even with a clear writing style, this is complicated territory and it’s easy to get lost. Bohlman repeats certain phrases throughout the commentary, possibly to help readers stay on track. Thus, having the allegorical tale about Shadowmere is a great help, giving readers a way to explore the idea as a story which may initially make more sense than the commentary.

Scholars may be bothered by the fact Bohlman doesn’t cite anyone in his commentary, and it’s a valid point. The book’s scholarly value is limited by the fact Bohlman doesn’t quote any theologians who’ve presented the atonement view that he’s criticizing, nor does he quote other theologians to support his ideas. However, Bohlman seems to have avoided that for reasons of economy. A rigorous commentary with lots of footnotes and citations could have doubled the book’s size. Bohlman also states several times that he plans to explore his atonement theory more fully in an upcoming book. Therefore, it’s better to see the commentary is a preliminary sketch of a thesis which the author will present later.

A terrific combination of storytelling and theology.

ASSESSMENT

Rating

4.5 stars

Suggested Audience

Christians interested in allegorical tales that explore Christian ideas (similar to Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds Feet on High Places or C.S. Lewis’s book The Pilgrim’s Regress). Theology students interested in explanations and implications of different atonement theories will also find Bohlman’s ideas fascinating.

Christian Impact

Bohlman presents a fascinating picture of God’s grace and how that played into Christ’s death in unexpected ways. His arguments about atonement will get readers thinking about they view God’s wrath, mercy, and what the crucifixion teaches us about those concepts.

One Response to “The Fall and Redemption of Shadowmere: A Parable and Commentary on Christ’s Victory Over Darkness and the Call to Discipleship”

  1. I just read your generously kind review of my book. I appreciate it! I am a terrible self-marketer and I only occasionally check in with the Amazon site to see if any new reviews came through. I didn’t even know I had a few reviews on Goodreads. I was blessed by your remarks and I hope other readers will take notice of them too! 🙂

    I have been working on another book called the Cosmic Wrestle, which will explore the terrain of spiritual warfare that pervades the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I was 80% finished an earlier version before I read Michael Heiser’s paradigm shifting book The Unseen Realm. I have some places of departure from him, but his book influenced me to pretty much scrap my early version and start again. I hope to follow up that book with a more in-depth presentation of my atonement view “Perfectus Liberatio” which will include the needed footnotes you mentioned to increase its academic profile.

    Thanks again! Shalom, Matt Bohlman

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