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Dream of Life
Author: Michael Phillips
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Pages: 639
 
Dream of Life, the second book in "The American Dreams Series," may be the finest fiction work that Michael Phillips has ever done, which is no small feat given that he has published over 100 books.
 
In this pre-Civil war saga that explores the workings of the Underground Railroad, there is greater depth than in his "Shenandoah Sisters" series and the "Carolina Cousins" series, which are lighter reads. The story is more intricate and the characters and ideas more fully developed.
 
In the first section, Phillips weaves in the forced relocation of the Cherokee tribe, which is outstanding. This could be made into a fascinating set of books. It slows down a little in the second section as the story swings back to plantation owners in the South, who take a stand against slavery on the basis of their spiritual convictions, but it picks up steam once the stage is set.
 
Along the way, the theologically discerning reader will come across a few ideas that give pause. Although we are all Godís children in the sense that God created human life, in a peculiar sense, only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are born as children into His family. There is a hint that in the end we all share the same destiny, that itís just a matter of awakening to our sonship. 
 
Phillipsí characters probe the true nature of God. Thereís no doubt that our finite minds cannot fully comprehend Godís goodness. Itís wonderful to have a fine writer like Phillips showing us more of Godís love. We need this view of God, but itís not the whole picture. The truth revealed in Scripture and in the person of Christ is where righteousness and peace are joined together. Itís where mercy and truth kiss. Christ was full of grace and truth. 
 
Itís true that God is nothing less than the Father that Jesus Christ revealed. Itís also equally true that Jesus spoke of the need for repentance and judgment to come. All Scripture is God-breathed, inspired by Him. The words in both Testaments that speak of Godís wrath and judgement are just as valid as the words of Jesus. One may wonder if in reaction to the ways God has been misrepresented, Phillips has swung too far in the other direction.
 
Itís obvious that Phillips deplores dogma. Dogma can be defined as the tenets or teachings of a church. Itís not a bad thing to be against teachings that misrepresent God or the truths of Scripture. On the other hand, the Bible is clear that we are to hold to sound teaching.
 
Itís been said that any view of the Fatherhood of God that fails to adequately consider the cross of Christ is deficient. Itís not clear what Phillips is saying on these matters. How far does Godís love reach? Itís a question that Phillips, like George MacDonald before him, seems willing to consider.
 
Having said this, some readers may write Phillips off, but that would be too miss out on the wisdom exhibited in the noble characters that he creates. The controversial ideas are handled in a subtle way. Those who like to have their thinking challenged will enjoy reading Phillips. 
 
He offers wonderful glimpses and penetrating insights into Divine and human nature. The realism and historical accuracy are noteworthy. The uncommon reflections provoke thought, which probably accomplish what Phillips is afteróa more realistic view of God and the Christian life.
 
Michael Dalton
August 24, 2006
 

 
 
 
 

 

 
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