WMU News

Maier pens sequel to theological thriller, 'Skeleton'

Oct. 21, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Dr. Paul L. Maier, the Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, has just published a sequel to his best-selling novel, "A Skeleton in God's Closet."

Titled "More Than a Skeleton," his new suspense story shuttles between America and Israel, taking readers along on a suspense-filled ride. The 352-page hardcover book is published by Thomas Nelson and sells for $19.99.

With the publication of "A Skeleton in God's Closet" in 1994, Maier gave life to a new literary genre: the theological thriller. The book introduced readers to Harvard professor Jonathan Weber, who became known as "the man who saved Christianity," after an archaeological discovery in Israel threatened to change civilization itself, impacting one out of every three people on earth. In the new book, Weber is back, this time dealing with something far more formidable than a skeleton, and even more threatening to popular views of what happens in the end times--the phrase some Christians use to describe the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.

More importantly, says Maier, this is the first novel to take on what the author deems "the excessive prophecy fixation in Christendom today." Beginning with the 1970s, he notes, literature about the Apocalypse has emerged, and some authors have focused on "doomsday" scenarios that link current world events with their own interpretations of biblical prophecy.

"Ever since the Hal Lindsey books and now with the many millions of sales in the 'Left Behind' series," Maier says, "too many people--believers and unbelievers alike--think the weird scenarios such prophecy books portray give a true indication of what most Christians believe about the end times. This is not the case at all, but few are blowing a whistle at such excesses."

In its July 1, 2002, cover story on prophecy mania, for example, Time magazine included only one negative observation on the trend. That comment came from Maier.

"I'm not suggesting that the prophecy pundits are less than Christian," says Maier. "I only fear that their overliteralizing of what is obviously symbolic material in the Bible sends some people into a panic, disillusions others when such 'prophecies' fail and antagonizes still others with the image of a strange, quixotic deity who can't seem to control the demons in the universe."

The result, Maier says, is that "the heart of the Gospel is replaced by amateurish forecasting, which turns away serious seekers."

"But since the weird scenarios the doomsday prophets concoct through their novels are rejected by the vast majority of world Christendom," he says, "I thought it appropriate that at least one novel might try to supply a remedy."

Maier says he hopes that "More Than a Skeleton" will, in a small way, leave a truer impression of what Christianity has always believed about the last days.

"In terms of the two billion who comprise world Christianity," he told the Kalamazoo Gazette recently, "only a small fraction --primarily in America--follow the prophecy specialists. The great balance of believers look for Christ's return at the end of time without the beasts, horrors, tribulations, and demonic forces they predict."

"More Than a Skeleton," however, is much more than a debate on the end times, Maier says. He believes it is, above all, a fun read, in which Jon Weber is drawn into so hot a pursuit of the truth that it forces him into the lonely, dangerous role of one man against the world.

Maier's prior novel became the No.1 national bestseller in religious fiction shortly after its publication and is currently in its 18th printing. Maier is the author of many other scholarly and popular works, which have been translated into a dozen languages. Some of his previous books include: "A "Man Spoke, a World Listened," a biography of his father Dr. Walter A. Maier, the radio speaker who founded "The Lutheran Hour"; "In the Fullness of Time," which brings outside evidence to bear on the biblical record; new translations/commentaries on the historians Josephus and Eusebius; and the historical novels "Pontius Pilate" and "The Flames of Rome."

Maier has been a member of the WMU faculty since 1960.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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