Of Love And Evil

Posted: February 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

Anne Rice’s latest novel, Of Love And Evil, continues the story of Toby O’Dare, the unlikely hero of Angel Time. I enjoyed Angel Time, but I was captivated by Of Love And Evil. I read it last week between Austin and Dallas on the first leg of my trip to DC. Toby comes alive in this novel and so do all those around him. Even the angels are simultaneously wholly other and entirely engaging.

It’s not a long book and I don’t wish to reveal the plot. Instead, I want to focus on a single event in the book. In his mission this time, Toby encounters a demon who tries to tempt him at a moment when he is grief-stricken and vulnerable. Toby mistakes the demon for an angel at first, which I found fitting. In the tradition of the Church, demons often masquerade as angels to gain a hearing.

The particular shape the temptation took was especially compelling to me for it drove right to the core of things I have believed and which Toby himself has considered in his past. The demon invoked the idea of an immortal soul that transmigrates from one physical body to another attempting to develop and mature.  The demon circled through that frame of reference attempting to get Toby to reject the existence of a personal Maker. The transcendent permeates everything but is not God in the intimately personal Christian sense. Toby acknowledges that system has a coherence and a sort of beauty, but that he had already rejected it. The reason for his rejection flowed on the page in words that could have been uttered by my heart.

I know because deep in my soul, I know there is a God. There is someone I love whom I call God. That someone has emotions. That someone is Love. And I sense the presence of this God in the very fabric of the world in which I live. I know with a deep conviction that this God exists. That He would send angels to His children has an elegance to it that I can’t deny. I’ve studied your ideas, your system, as it were, and I find it barren and finally unconvincing, and cold. Finally it’s dreadfully cold. It’s without the personality of God and it’s cold.

Later, on the demon’s charge that there is no justice, only pain and grief and meaningless attachment, Toby’s prayer again echoes my own.

There is mercy. … And there is justice, and there is One who witnesses everything. And above all, there is love.

And finally, Toby understands he is in the school of love.

I saw a vision of love; I saw that it was no one thing, but a great commingling of things both light and dark and fierce and tender, and my heart broke as the questions broke from my lips.

Christian faith is the poetry of love or it’s worth nothing.


4 Comments on “Of Love And Evil”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 11:36 am on February 7th, 2011:

    New at Faith & Food: Of Love And Evil https://faithandfood.morizot.net/2011/02/07/of-love-and-evil/

  2. 2 Sandra said at 11:51 am on February 7th, 2011:

    Your final line was so good I quoted it and linked you in my FB page

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Christian-Heretic/119212038150673

  3. 3 Ruth Ann said at 1:29 pm on February 7th, 2011:

    This post really resonates with me. I have never read any Anne Rice novels, probably because I rarely read novels at all—even good ones. But this post entices me to read this novel. Now that I have a Kindle I’m looking for good reads.

    My grown godchild asked me to “prove” the existence of God to her. She accepts nothing outside of empirical evidence, which, of course, I cannot provide for her. She insisted that I must be able to prove God’s existence or something about my belief in God is irrational.

    The best I could do in responding to her was to say words similar to those of Toby O’Dare.

  4. 4 Scott said at 3:14 pm on February 7th, 2011:

    I don’t do Facebook personally, Sandra, but thanks. They were just the words that seemed to fit.

    Ruth Ann, although I don’t think Angel Time is as good as its sequel, it’s not bad at all and it’s pretty important to read it first. It will be hard to understand Toby if you don’t. I read lots of things, from light fiction (which Anne Rice never is) to complex works. Mostly I just read all the time.

    Toby’s words could have been mine in many ways. If you insist on what we commonly call empirical evidence, you are often defining the sort of God you would be willing to accept and which, presumably, you reject. It’s a God that, in some observable, testable way is distinct and separate from the fabric of reality. The Christian God, by contrast, is the God in whom we live and move and have our being. While the Uncreated transcends creation, creation cannot be separated from God. God is everywhere present and fillest all things. You can’t discern physical evidence of that which permeates and sustains every particle, every iota of all that is.The God that you could discern by such means does not exist.

    I like Fr. Thomas Hopko’s phrase, “You can’t know God, but you have to know him to know that.”

    Which is not to say that Christianity is, in any way, an irrational faith. It’s not at all. Nor is it a faith without evidence. But as the fullness of the revelation of God is in Jesus of Nazareth, the empirical evidence for Christian faith is mostly historical. If you do the hard historical work, you will discover that everything about Jesus of Nazareth, up to and including the Resurrection, is reasonable and fits the evidence we have. N.T. Wright has done some solid work in that area, but he’s hardly the only one. I particularly recommend The Resurrection of the Son of God since, to my eyes, Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection. But that won’t prove God. It simply demonstrates that Christian faith is reasonable and begs the question, “What then is your explanation for the rise of Christianity?”

    Ultimately, though, there is something at least counter-intuitive, if not irrational about love — especially the radical love as the ground of reality which Christianity proclaims. And I would rather love and be irrational, than be rational and fail to love. Christian faith invites us to join with God in love and live a life shaped by love. But it is an invitation and one we are free to decline.