Dean Hardy: Death and Redemption in Lilith

While George MacDonald’s book Lilith is one of his more “literary” fantasy books, it may embody exactly what I long for when I read books in this genre. In fact, and more specifically, it made me long for death. This sounds morbid, I know, but let me explain.

If you haven’t read the book, there are a few major themes that are threaded through the novel- the ones I noticed most were redemption and the providential role of death in God’s plan. MacDonald approached these topics in a very unique way. Usually when we watch a movie or we read a book, the theme of redemption presents itself something like this: the main character is described, he has a problem and often fails at something, then somehow, through his own power (or even a little help from others), he solves the problem and reaches some sort of “redemption.” Even in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series both Edmond and Eustace (who are some of the most unpleasant characters) eventually come around and end up doing “good” and essentially redeeming themselves at the end. In Lilith, there are characters that do what we would call good and bad actions, but that has little to do with their development. Their behavior is merely a part of the story--none of them are redeemed until they are invited, and eventually succumb, to sleep in Adam and Eve’s chamber.

I’ve read through much of Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven, and while I thought it was exceptionally well done, it didn’t satisfy my appetite. I started the book expecting it to cause me to anticipate heaven. It didn’t. It was too factual and stale. (Trust that I am used to factual and stale--I’m a philosopher!) On the other hand, Lilith made me wonder. Isn’t that what all good Christian fantasy is supposed to do? It made me think about how “redemption” and our eventual complete salvation might take place. It made me consider how I will respond when I find myself at death’s door, knowing that salvation is on the other side. It made me long to be who God has created me to be in this life, but also imagine how things might be in the next. I can ask no more from a fantasy book than this.

Dean Hardy