Old-Earthers and Theistic Evolutionists: Are You Prepared to Call God Incompetent or a Deceiver?

There’s lots of debate among Christians and theologians these days as to whether the Bible teaches a young or old Earth, and whether the early chapters of Genesis are literal history or symbolism/allegory. To me, the text of Genesis is clearly literal history that clearly teaches a young Earth. And it is a fact that most Christian scholars and thinkers through the centuries affirmed the Scriptural support for a young earth.

Something else, however, that people need to consider in this debate but usually don’t: What does it say about God if the opening chapters of Genesis are merely symbolic or allegorical but God nonetheless let his people carry on for thousands of years thinking that they were literal? And what does it say about God if He used long ages and evolutionary processes to create, yet let his people believe, for thousands of years, that the opposite was true?

It would mean one of two things: God is incompetent, or He’s a deceiver. If God created us using long ages and evolution, but couldn’t create us in such a way that we could understand those truths from the very beginning of our existence—straightforwardly and without symbolism—He’s not the all-powerful God the Bible says He is. And if God created us using long ages and evolution and WAS able to make us understand those truths from the beginning but simply didn’t—instead letting us go on blathering about 6 days and special creation and looking like fools—then He’s a deceiver and not very nice.

So long-agers and theistic evolutionists, etc., need to ask themselves: Do I believe that God is incompetent? Do I believe that God is a deceiver? To me, the answer is a clear and emphatic, “No, God is neither,” and the implications of that answer are also clear: God is powerful enough to not only create us, but to create us as intelligent beings capable of understanding truth in a straightforward manner, from the very beginning of our existence; and He loves us enough to not deceive us, and to not mislead us and make fools of us.

Fact vs. Feeling

emotion icon

Emotions: Not what the Truth is about. … (Photo credit: Łukasz Strachanowski)

In at least one crucial way, religion is no different from any other aspect of life: You need to be wary of emotions.

Emotion has its place, in religion and in the rest of life: family celebrations and other festive occasions are times to crank up the fun factor; funerals and memorials are times for grieving and mourning; Halloween is a time to indulge a healthy amount of suspense. Emotions, however, have a downside: there’s always the danger of letting your feelings dictate your actions, in spite of any factual information telling you otherwise. If I’m wronged in some way (whether the wrong is real or perceived), I may feel like hauling off and smacking someone—but doing that could get me in a lot of hot water.

This issue is especially of concern in the area of religious belief, perhaps primarily because a good chunk of the subject matter deals with things not physically evident or empirically verifiable. That doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t a set of facts regarding the spiritual realm. Consider it logically:

  • Either there is a spiritual realm, or there isn’t; it can’t be both.
  • Either there’s one God, multiple gods, or no gods; it can be only one of these options.
  • If there is a God, He either cares about us or He doesn’t; it can’t be both.

And so forth.

Many people like to say that politics and religion are strictly a matter of opinion, but that’s false. I won’t comment on politics here, but religion, as I began to demonstrate in the above examples, has a set of facts about it, just like any other subject in human experience. So whatever you decide to follow or not follow as far as spirituality/religion/faith is not simply a matter of personal preference or a case of “what’s true for you isn’t true for me”; there’s a set of spiritual facts, and only one faith system, at most, can be correct on the most crucial points. A simple side-by-side comparison of the major doctrines of the various religions confirms this: Christianity and Islam and Mormonism and Scientology and Buddhism are all at odds with each other on major points of doctrine, so common sense says that only one of them, at most, could be right.

Many people, unfortunately, don’t like to bother with the facts, but instead like to go with whatever “feels right,” whatever system tells them what they want to hear. Case in point: Mormons and the “burning in the bosom.” Mormons like to tell people to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, and that if you do this, you’ll experience a pleasant physical sensation in your chest—this “burning in the bosom”—signifying God’s affirmative answer. Not only is the power of suggestion in play here, but people are giving zero consideration to whatever facts are involved.

And in the case of Mormonism and other non-Christian religions, some of the facts being ignored or missed are downright absurd, making one wonder how these religions ever got any followers. Why does anyone subscribe to Mormonism when its founder’s lifelong pattern of fraudulent behavior is a matter of public record? Why does anyone follow Scientology when its inventor was a science fiction author? Why does anyone follow Islam when its founder was nothing more than an attention-seeking warmonger with an inferiority complex?

Really? You trust these guys? These facts don’t matter to you? Does a “burning in the bosom” or some other emotional experience outweigh the truth?

Even more unfortunately, some Christians groups fall for this same thing. I’m reminded of all those charismatic preachers who make a habit of getting the crowd worked up and emphatically push on the foreheads of their congregants, who seem to always faint and end up needing to be dragged offstage. I’m also reminded of megapreacher Joel Osteen, who always has a smile plastered on his face, apparently never having had a bad day in his life. His church is the biggest in America—and it’s no wonder, because the only thing his congregants ever hear is “the positive motivational speech”; you’ll never walk out of one of his services feeling anything but elated, believing that a material and financial windfall is just around the corner.

And don’t even get me started on “the Holy Ghost laughter.”

There is much to enjoy about God, and a relationship with Him certainly involves some pleasant emotions, but emotions aren’t the be-all and end-all—God, the Truth, is.

North Carolina, Colorado Strike Back at Homosexual Agenda

Español: Intercambio de anillos entre los novios

What God intended. … (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The citizens of North Carolina dealt the homosexual movement a severe setback Tuesday, voting by an overwhelming 61 to 39 percent to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” and legal recognition of unmarried couples by state and local authorities.

This is fantastic news. North Carolina becomes the last state in the South and the 31st overall to add a marriage amendment to its constitution, in the process sending a strong message to this country’s liberal factions that there are still plenty of us who want to see real marriage preserved.

In related news, a bill that would’ve allowed same-sex couples to form civil unions died in the Colorado House on Tuesday when what was essentially a Republican filibuster used up what time remained before the 2012 legislative session came to a close.

This was an extra-good piece of news, because civil unions are often viewed as an easier-to-acquire alternative or even precursor to same-sex “marriage”—the lesser of two evils, so to speak—so preventing them from happening pushes the possibility of same-sex “marriage” even further away.

I’m sure the homosexual lobby won’t back down or stop trying to force us all to accept the perversion it touts, and we’ll probably be hammered with stories of how these measures will “keep homosexual couples apart” or “keep them from visiting each other in the hospital,” but these are red herrings. Homosexuals still have the same civil (political) rights as the rest of us, they can still live the lifestyle they’ve always lived, and a simple will guarantees the desired transfer of monies, properties, and other possessions to one’s “partner.” As for hospital visits, I think that’s an overblown issue, not frequently encountered, that can usually be worked out within the family; this country certainly doesn’t need another case of the will of a very few being dictated to the vast majority, i.e. (absence of) prayer in schools.

Besides all that, this issue generally isn’t about any of those things; it’s about a relatively small group of people practicing a deviant lifestyle who aren’t content to just live their lives according to their morally wrong choices, but want the rest of us—individuals, governments, churches, everyone—to validate and legitimize something we have a real problem with. Sorry (not really), but that’s not gonna happen.

People such as me, of course, will be demonized by the Left for this stance, but I know who I am: I respect homosexual people as fellow humans made in the image of God, no less valuable than anyone else, and I respect their right to decide the course of their lives. That said, there’s still such a thing as absolute right and wrong (as defined by the only One whose definition matters), and homosexuality is one of the many wrong behaviors humans engage in. As such, I can’t support or agree with it.

Savage’s Anti-Christian Comments Don’t Pass BS Test

Sex advice columnist, journalist, and newspape...

Dan Savage. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Liberal columnist and homosexual rights advocate Dan Savage recently called the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality “bullsh*t,” then had the nerve to write in a blog post Sunday that his words were “being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.”

I’ve heard Mr. Savage before, in CNN segments regarding the issue of so-called “homosexual rights” (as if homosexuals don’t have the same political freedoms as the rest of us), and I feel confident in saying he’s a jerk—pompous and loud, not to mention the obvious vulgarity.

First, his initial comment came during a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. Umm, what exactly does homosexuality have to do with the profession of journalism? Oh, and this was a gathering of high school students, so I’d just like to say thanks to whomever was responsible for exposing high school kids to this clown.

After several Christian students walked out of Savage’s presentation—and congratulations to those young people for taking a stand—Savage said, “It’s funny to someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansya**ed people react when you push back.” He later apologized for that remark, but not for the first one, and this entire situation just shows how classless this guy is. I’m not privy to precisely what Mr. Savage has experienced in his life, but speaking for myself, I’ve never used the Bible to “beat” anybody, only to tell others what God has said, and I’ve also discovered that it’s common practice for advocates of the homosexual movement to label any criticism of homosexuality as bigoted, homophobic hate speech, thereby demonizing anyone who dares oppose them.

I’m sure that there are some people, such as the despicable folks of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have used the Bible as a pretext for truly hateful behavior, but those people aren’t real Christians, and such behavior is not the norm for Christians. The Bible’s message, contrary to what cherry-picking critics say, is of true love, and I’m so sick of people misrepresenting God, the Bible, Christianity and Christians. Mr. Savage says the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality are BS, and I’m sure he truly feels that way, but I’m also sure his reasoning is based purely on emotion and the fact that he wants to be able to do what he wants without regard to what God thinks about it, not because there’s anything objectively right with homosexuality (there isn’t).

The fact is that advocates of the homosexual movement, by and large, don’t want to have a reason-based discussion about this issue, because they realize that they’d lose such a debate—nature and nature’s God stand in opposition to their wishes—and because they mostly don’t care about what “the other side” thinks; they care only about their desires. Thus their appeal to “love” for justification, but their idea of love is much different from the love that God is, the love that the Bible preaches—their “love,” in fact, is anything but. So what argument are they left with?

Nothing, I guess, except for calling us pansya**es and our beliefs bullsh*t.

Religion, Cults, and Why I Believe What I Believe

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...

Who do YOU say this man is? ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s Note: Fellow WordPress blogger Bluepearlgirl’s World recently started a conversation about religion, with a special emphasis on religions vs. cults. She reblogged my post “Joseph Smith, Con Man Extraordinaire” on her site, for which I’m grateful, and I told her that I’d like to join her conversation with a post on my site. Plus, my wife recently made the great suggestion that in addition to all the posts I’ve been writing about other faiths and how they compare to Christianity, it would be nice for me to write a post explaining what I believe and why. So consider this a “two-birds-one-stone” type of post.

To give just a brief background of my “faith history”: I was born and raised in an American Baptist church and gave my life to Christ at a young age, but I didn’t really make the faith my own, apart from my parents’ or anyone else’s wishes, until my early 20s. Since then, I’ve continued to learn and grow and serve as a Christian, these days as a member of a Presbyterian congregation.

As someone who’s spent a lot of time studying other belief systems as well as my own, a couple of things immediately come to mind regarding the issue of religions vs. cults, and whether there’s a difference between the two.

1) Cults are secretive. For example, non-Mormons are not allowed at Mormon weddings. I went through this experience twice; two of my friends from high school were Mormons, and I was invited only to their receptions—not because they didn’t want me at their weddings, but because I wasn’t allowed. There are many things, in fact, that Mormons are told to not share with the outside world, and some Mormons get quite angry when ex-Mormons write about any of these things. Scientology also seems to keep a lot of its practices on the down-low. … On the other hand, my current church and my former church have nothing to hide: you can attend our services, participate in any of our activities, read our reports, even sit in on meetings of the congregation and various church boards—in fact, the only thing a nonmember can’t do is vote, but the reasons for that, I think, should be obvious.

2) Cults TAKE your money, literally. The only way to advance in Scientology is to pay ever-increasing amounts of money—this is why most Scientologists are celebrities: they’re about the only ones who can afford to belong. And to be a member in good standing of the Mormon church, you HAVE to give 10% of your income to the church—church officials even check your financial records to confirm that you’ve paid done your duty. … On the other hand, at the two churches I’ve been a part of, giving (whether money, time, or other resources) is 100% voluntary, and you’re not penalized if you don’t give, or if you give less than others.

Regarding the issue of religion more generally, and why I believe it’s necessary …

Yes, I was born and raised in a church. Yes, I was told what was true and what wasn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong. Yes, my parents hoped, even if they didn’t expect, that I would follow in their faith footsteps. And yes, I’m glad for all these things, and each of them surely had an impact on me … but none of them is the primary reason why, as an independent adult, I choose to still have this faith in Jesus.

And make no mistake: it is a choice. However you’re brought up, you have to take ownership of your decisions at some point, for they are yours alone. And what I’ve chosen is based on what I have gone through in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I accepted Jesus into my life as my savior and lord at a young age, around 8 or 10 (my memory’s a little fuzzy), but I didn’t fully embrace this faith as my own, didn’t really enter into a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, until my early 20s. The catalysts for this transformation were a couple little things called anxiety disorder and depression; to make a long story short (if you care to know more details, just ask), I suddenly found myself, through no wish of my own, in a very dark place, and though I was confused and hurt and scared nearly to death, one thing seemed clear: God was telling me that after I’d spent years of being a “cruise-control” Christian—not taking my faith as seriously as I should, and not being all that intentional in my relationship with God—I needed to make a choice: Was I going to live for God? Yes or no? That part of it, at least, was that simple.

It was clear to me, through this experience and through other, less-traumatic ones in my earlier years, that God was real. I had seen Him move in my life, seen Him take actions that were designed to bring me closer to being whole (as in “healthy”), as He’d always intended me to be. I’d also seen Him move in the lives of others. I’d seen Him prove His faithfulness, confirming what I read in the Bible. In other words: I’d seen more than enough.

Which sort of leads to my next point: Whatever is true in life, I want to follow it. It seems to me that the wise and life-giving thing to do is to go after whatever is true, whatever is real; if there’s Someone out there who gave us life, who’s the author of our existence, then He’s what’s real and true. And why would I want to follow after something that’s a lie, anyway? I don’t want my life to be a lie, and I don’t want to pattern my existence after a lie. In much the same way that mechanical devices don’t work properly unless they’re operated and maintained according to how their designers intended them to be operated and maintained, no one’s life is going to “work properly” unless it’s patterned after the One who designed it. Obviously, I believe that Jesus is what He called Himself: The Way, The Truth, and The Life. So that’s another reason why I follow Him.

I also follow Him because I believe that I really have offended Him with several of my behaviors but that He nonetheless gave His life in exchange for mine, paying the penalty I deserve, and so He’s worthy of my gratitude for what He’s done for me, and the best way to “pay Him back” is to pledge my life to Him. This is in addition to the fact that if He is God (which I believe He is), and if He brought me into existence (which I believe He did), those two things alone make Him worthy of my devotion and allegiance.

And now, just a bit more concerning what I believe about God and Jesus. In short, I believe what the Bible says about them, and only what the Bible says about them—because I also believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, delivered to us through men but coming directly from Him by the inspiration of His Spirit working in these men. I also adhere to what Christians have adhered to for two millennia: The Apostles’ Creed, which is as follows:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

I also believe in the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, and that these are three representations, or three modes of being, of the same God. I realize that this is one of the hardest doctrines for nonbelievers to grapple with, and I don’t claim to fully understand it—I’m not sure anyone does this side of Heaven—but I feel I understand it enough to know that it’s not only possible but true.

How do I know the Bible is trustworthy? I’ve read it a lot, and I know that what critics often refer to as “internal inconsistencies” in the Biblical text are, upon close inspection, perfectly reconcilable. I’ve also done a fair amount of studying regarding the historical facts of Biblical texts—who wrote them, and when, and whether their motives were valid, and whether these people were in a position to speak authoritatively about the events described in the Bible. As you no doubt surmised, I believe that the factual, historical evidence points to the Biblical texts being authentic, reliable witnesses to the story of God and of Jesus Christ.

And even though God requires us to have faith, He also gave us brains and logic and the capacity to reason, and I believe that it is perfectly possible for a sane, reasonable person to follow the Christian faith and believe what I believe. I see no reason, in fact, why reason, science, or “rational thought” hinder someone from coming to faith in Christ.

A Few Other Points

There were a few specific points in the Bluepearlgirl’s World (BW) post that I want to address. First, she shares a quote from Yahoo! Answers that basically says the only difference between religions and cults is that religions are old and cults are new, so anything now considered a religion is just a cult that’s been around a long time, and anything now considered a cult will one day, if it lasts long enough, be considered a religion. I think, however, that the person who wrote this is guilty of two things: 1) believing the lie that only so-called “religious people” are religious; and 2) failing to realize that for people such as myself, “religion” is not a matter of following a certain set of principles or a certain list of do’s and don’ts, but is instead about figuring out what the truth of reality is and following that (it’s not that religion is a compartment of my life, but that following the truth is my life). I addressed the latter part earlier, and as for the former, it’s my contention that every person has a set of beliefs about life and existence, and that set of beliefs, whatever its constitution and however it’s labeled, is that person’s religion. Religion doesn’t have to be an organized affair such as Christianity; if you worship nature and believe that aliens seeded life on Earth, then that is your religion.

BW also addressed the idea of morality, that she is not without a values system and that she doesn’t need a church to instill morals in her. I see a lot of atheists and other liberals these days making a similar claim, essentially saying that people can be moral without God. I disagree. In a Godless scenario, there can be no other legitimate arbiter of morality than the individual, with each person deciding for him/herself what’s right and wrong; in such a situation, there can be no objective, universal standard of right and wrong, and thus no morality—every belief, every action, simply is, and if you don’t like what I do or say or believe, oh well. Tough luck for you. So even though today’s liberals say that they can be moral without God, what they are in fact doing is living Godless lives while borrowing quite a lot from the Judeo-Christian moral ethic. Otherwise, they could make no claims about morality; they could make no statement about what people should or shouldn’t do. Should or shouldn’t according to whom? is what I’d like to ask them. If I tell you that abortion is wrong, I can at least point to the Bible and God’s emphasis on valuing innocent life, but when the atheist or other liberal tells me that “what women do with their bodies” is none of my business, on what authority are they saying that? None but their own, and since they choose to live apart from God, their claims are nothing more than opinions with no foundation, and thus worthless.

BW believes that an entity such as a church can be dangerous if it has too much power … but so can anything else. I think Barack Obama is dangerous and has too much power. And certainly there are plenty of individuals and corporate entities outside of churches that have too much power and are thus dangerous. As I’ve said elsewhere, religion, like anything (money, fame, etc.), is a tool that can be used for good or evil, and the real problem with people is not religion but the corrupt human heart. So you’ve known Christians who did you wrong—hey, as much as we’re supposed to be examples of Christ, even the most sincere Christian sometimes falls, and there are many people who aren’t Christians but merely call themselves that. You should really be looking at Christ, not at fallen man, because ultimately you’ll be judged based not on what you think about Christians, but on what you believe about Christ.

BW questions whether Jesus even existed. Obviously I believe He did, and as I stated earlier, I believe that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), not to mention Acts and the letters of Paul and other apostles, are legitimate, accurate, authoritative texts, and thus constitute plenty of evidence that Jesus did exist (not to mention that Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about Christ).

Some Quick Hitters

Comments from BW, followed by my short responses.

“There has been more death, bloodshed and abuse thanks to the untouchable-ness of organized religion.” … The 20th century was the bloodiest in the history of mankind, and nearly all of it was due to the horrible acts of atheistic tyrants such as Stalin and Pol Pot. And I would argue that even a lot of the deaths in so-called “religous wars” throughout history were at the hands of people who didn’t really care about any particular religion but were simply using religion as a tool to gain the domination they sought.

“I have to listen to all of the “god” talk that permeates my every day life” … No offense meant, BW, but you live in San Francisco; how much God talk really goes on there?

“No memorizing scripture that is redundant to curent society.  I think maybe cults have figured out that their teaching needs to fit into the times.” … If something is true, then it’s timeless. The Bible is not a dusty relic but a word picture of reality—a reality that’s never changed and never will. Times have changed, yes, but people are as fickle and corrupt as ever, and as much in need of the Truth as ever.

“I think Jesus Christ must have been an incredible speaker with a lot of chrisma and taking people who feel disenfranchised to join his cause.  …But that IS how most cult leaders are seen by their disciples.  Jesus WOULD have been a cult leader back in his time.” … No doubt some people in Jesus’s time thought he was whacko, a cult leader, but Jesus and His original followers were not isolated, cut off, from the rest of the world like cults are, nor did the Apostles relinquish every earthly article or cease living the lives God gave them—we know, for example, that Peter still owned a home, and that he and Andrew and James and John continued their vocations as fishermen.

I do agree, however, with Christian author Josh McDowell’s statement that when it comes to Jesus, you really have only three choices about what to believe: He was a liar, He was a lunatic, or He really was (and is) the Son of God. Well, He had nothing to gain by lying (His horrible death and empty bank account proved that), and if He was a lunatic, none of what He said should be believed (including his moral teachings, which even many liberals call “good”), so I can see only one possibility: He’s the Truth.

To whoever has hung in there with me thus far, thanks for reading. Like BW, I mean no disrespect to anyone, but I gotta say what’s on my heart. =)

A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 33

Bonfire starting

With the aid of a bonfire, James and Hank made their big stand. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Darrell came around from the back of his house carrying two large gas cans. Wade, looking disgusted, was right behind him carrying two more.

What a raw deal, thought Wade. I can’t go with him, but he makes me do his stupid dirty work for him.

Darrell hefted the cans into the back of his truck.

“Alright; I guess that does it,” he said after loading the last one.

“Got a lighter?” said Wade, his tone far from civil.

“Yup – two of them, just in case.”

Darrell opened the door but then turned back to his son.

“Wade. You’ve been a big help, you know.”

Wade gave a small shrug and looked at the ground like he was mad at it, too.

“If anything happens,” said Darrell, “if you think you got trouble coming, you know what to do.”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. I’ll see you soon.”

Darrell got in his truck and left, headed for Sara’s, his face set. He was as anxious to get there as he had been the previous trip, only this time he wasn’t driving as fast, not making every effort to get there as soon as possible.

* * *

James had never been so on edge in his life. Not even during his police days. Hank rested against another tree several feet away, his eyes closed.

But is he sleeping?

James’s eyes bounced from Hank to the fire to the trees to his left to his right, over and over, one hand on the gun nestled out of sight beside him. The huge fire, roaring and crackling, cast a strong light several feet into the trees all around, but beyond that it was hard to see; should the creature show up, he’d have good cover up to that point. If he came any closer, he’d be seen.

But will it be too late by then?

He fingered the gun; it was all set, just had to click the safety off.

But will I be able to get the gun up in time? Get a shot off?

BE STILL.

His mind-hopping stopped.

AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

* * *

Darrell clambered up the hill toward Sara’s house. When her yard came into view, he saw a car parked at the back of the driveway, behind Sara’s vehicle, a man leaning against it. He knew right away who it was, though he’d never seen him before.

Darrell made a slow turn into the driveway, stopped before going far, then shut the truck off and stepped out. He stood by his door.

“Well, well. You must be one of the famed Daley men.”

Darrell stared at him. “I guess I’m not surprised to see you here, but I am surprised to see you alone.”

A sly smile crossed Pillsbury’s face. “You must be referring to my friend.”

“Call it what you want. All I know is it does all your dirty work for you.”

Pillsbury smirked playfully. “Ah, well, I have him on another job at the moment, since you Daleys are all spread out.”

Darrell presumed he meant Hank, but his heart went into his throat at the thought – the possibility – of Wade.

“Besides,” Pillsbury continued, “some work I consider to be too important to be done by anyone but me.”

“Am I supposed to be flattered?”

“Well, I’m not one to brag, but– ” He shrugged. “– I don’t make many personal appearances.”

Darrell didn’t know what to do; he wanted to act, but he had no idea what this guy was capable of.

“So what makes me so special?”

“Oh, Mr. Daley – Darrell, is it? I think you underestimate yourself.” Pillsbury was pulling on a pair of black leather gloves. “You’re the real brains behind your little operation, and – how should I put it? – the most well-connected to the powers that be.”

Darrell scowled. What’s he talkin’ about?

“I presume you brought gasoline?” said Pillsbury. “To burn my house down?”

Darrell blinked.

“I thought so. … But you already spoiled one of my missions today, and I can’t let you do that again.”

Darrell looked around. Daylight was almost gone, and he didn’t want to be tangling with this guy after dark.

“So, what are you, here to negotiate?” said Darrell. “You’ll scratch my back if I’ll scratch yours? What?”

Pillsbury chuckled and played with his gloves some more.

“I’m not all bad, you know – I came here with two plans prepared, one of which, in fact, is a deal.” He paused, but Darrell made no reply. Pillsbury grinned and shook a playful finger at him. “And that’s exactly why I was figuring on having to use the other plan. I know you, Mr. Daley – or I know your kind, at least; dealt with them before. You bend in the little things sometimes, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no doubt about your loyalties.”

Pillsbury’s face made a sudden change, and Darrell read it just in time: He dove behind his truck as Pillsbury pulled a handgun from his back pocket and blasted.

Ha haa! What’d you think I was gonna do, turn you into a frog?! A little black magic has its uses, but there’s nothing like good ol’ American gun power to get the blood flowing!”

Darrell, lying on the ground, glanced around. Looking under his truck, he saw Pillsbury taking slow steps towards him. I can’t stay here, my only cover a bomb waiting to happen! He scrambled to his knees and reached up into the truck.

BOOM! BOOM! CRASHHHH! Pieces of glass scattered around the cab and down onto Darrell. He grabbed his shotgun and moved towards the back of his truck.

“Oh, come on, Mr. Daley. You’re not going to make this too easy for me, are you? I’ll give you a sporting chance– ”

Darrell stood, grabbed a gas can from the back of his truck. BOOM! BOOM! More glass exploded as he ducked back down.

“Ah, you see, that was better, Mr. Daley, keeping me on my toes a bit!”

Darrell thought it strange – though the thought was ever so brief – that this man kept fluctuating between American and British accents.

He looked under the truck again; Pillsbury was getting closer. Darrell cocked his gun, held it in his left land, and grabbed the gas can in his right.

Make this work, Lord.

Darrell stood and heaved the can up over his truck. As soon as it was out of his hand, he raised his gun and drew a bead on it, missing the look of horrified surprise on Pillsbury’s face.

KA-BOOM! FWOOOOM!

Darrell ducked, and Pillsbury flung himself onto the ground. Darrell saw that Pillsbury was down, so he cocked his gun, grabbed another can of gas and bolted for the far end of the house. When he was halfway there he saw, out of the corner of his eye, Pillsbury getting up. Darrell pointed his gun in Pillsbury’s general direction and fired a running one-hander. Pillsbury threw himself down again, and Darrell ducked around the corner of the house. Fast as he could he popped the lid off the gas can, but when he peeked back around the corner, he saw Pillsbury running towards the back door.

He’s coming around the other side.

Darrell threw the gas can towards the back corner of the house; it landed near the end of the porch. He stepped back around his corner, leaned out and fired.

BAWOOOM!

The explosion took out a large chunk of the porch and that whole corner of the house. Burning shards of wood cascaded all around as fire began to consume the rest of the house.

Guess he won’t be coming from that direction.

“Hey, Mr. Daley!” Pillsbury’s voice was coming from the front corner, near the driveway. Darrell stepped back around his corner, out of Pillsbury’s sight. “Congratulations on your fine work! I knew you were smart! … Well, it looks like I’m losing my house! But you still have a problem! I can build another one! So all I have to do is kill you, and the rest of your family, and my niece and that Mr. Morgan, and I can carry on with my operation, secret safe!”

Darrell had been feeling a bit good about himself, but no more.

He’s right.

And then an even more terrible thought struck him: He’d figured that if they could destroy the creature and the conduit, they were homefree – they had enough evidence to convict Pillsbury, so once they had his precious talismans out of the way, he’d give up, easy as that. But no – Pillsbury, Darrell now realized, would never let himself be taken alive.

* * *

“Grealf!”

James saw two orange eyes as the creature came out of nowhere, with no warning, sailing towards him through the air, bypassing Hank. James, purely out of instinct, drew his gun up.

KA-BOOM!

James looked; the creature was gone, but Hank lay motionless on the ground.

Oh no!

But then Hank rolled over; he was fine, just taking cover. There was no sign of the creature, though.

James stood, gazing around.

“Did you see that?” he said.

“No, I was asleep; I only moved when I heard the gunshot. Was it him?”

“It. Yeah. I fired once, but it’s like it disappeared.”

Don’t let him do it.

Hank felt something squeezing his heart. He glanced at James, recalling the thought that had just come to him, and felt as though his very self was wilting.

What?

Don’t – let him – do it!

Hank’s breathing accelerated, and he stared around like a madman. James took note of his condition, but didn’t know what to attribute it to – shock from the gunshot, fear of the creature … or madness.

“Rreowwll!”

James spun and ducked all at once, never looking, somehow avoiding the creature. He rolled to his knees with his gun raised.

The creature was ten feet away, glaring at him.

* * *

“So what are you gonna do now, Mr. Daley – kill me? Hahaha. I don’t think so! Somehow, I just don’t think you have it in you!”

Darrell was still hidden around the other corner, paralyzed with indecision.

Kill or be killed?

He looked to his right and saw the flames eating away at the house in his direction; he knew he’d have to decide soon.

Isn’t there another way, Lord?

* * *

Wade heard a vehicle coming. He ran to the picture window and looked out at the road.

Oh no.

“What is it, Wade?” said Sara.

“It’s the sheriff; he’s comin’ this way.”

“Do you think he would– ”

“Yes, I do. Grab your stuff. We gotta get outta here.”

* * *

“Well, Mr. Daley? What’ll it be?”

Log cabin.

Darrell looked at the corner of the house beside him.

Yes! Why didn’t I think of that before?

He slung the gun over his shoulder and used the protruding butt-ends of the logs to climb to the roof. Once at the top, he tiptoed his way up the roof a bit and over towards the opposite corner where Pillsbury was. With great care he flattened himself and inched over to the corner of the roof, his eyes searching for Pillsbury’s figure below. At last he reached the edge; his gun at the ready, he peeked over.

No Pillsbury.

Cla-click.

Darrell’s heart failed him. He began to straighten up.

“Ah-ah. Careful now, Mr. Daley. You’re in a dangerous position.”

* * *

Now, James! Now!

KA-BOOM!

The creature was gone.

What?! It was standing right there – easy shot!

“NOOO!”

James looked up; Hank was running straight at him.

What?

“Oof!”

James tumbled onto the ground, Hank rolling over him. Taking advantage of momentum, and using his gun for leverage, James managed to fling Hank away. James collected himself as fast as he could and got up onto one knee, ready to fire.

Hank was back-to to him, crouched in a fighting stance.

What? James lowered his gun a bit; it was like looking at one of those tricky M.C. Escher drawings where water is flowing up, yet looks normal, and you’re trying to figure out how it could make sense.

“Rrowwll!”

He peeked out around Hank, and then he understood: Hank was going after the creature; James had just been in his way.

James looked back to where Hank had been sleeping; Hank’s gun rested beside the tree. But he doesn’t even have his gun!

Then James remembered that he had shot the creature – twice – without inflicting any apparent damage.

So what do we do?

NOT BY MIGHT, NOR BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT.

His mind perked up.

I BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT … AND FIRE.

The ears of his heart opened.

Fire.

He looked to his right; their bonfire was still blazing. He reached down and leaned towards it, shielding his face from the heat, and pulled out a flaming stick. He gripped it tight, stepped to the side to get a good view of the creature’s eyes – that’s all he could ever see of it – and fired the hot poker at it.

“Yowr!”

The creature jumped back several feet. James was amazed.

“Hank! It doesn’t like fire! Bring it towards the fire!”

Hank made a slight glance at James over his shoulder and nodded.

James needed another stick, a good one. There didn’t seem to be anymore handy, though, so he moved around to the far end of the pile.

There’s one!

He kneeled, reached in and picked it up … and not a moment too soon.

“James!”

            * * *

“You got everything?” said Wade.

“Yes,” said Sara, her face spread with panic, her breathing quick and shallow.

“Okay, go for it – straight out the back and into the woods. You’ll see a trail – follow it; I’ll be only a second behind.”

“Okay.”

“Go!”

She opened the basement door and bolted out onto the back lawn. Wade was about to burst through the door two seconds later when a voice from outside stopped him in his tracks.

“Hold it, missy!”

Wade saw Sara screech to a halt, her hands in the air. Wade peeked out the door; Sheriff Danscom stood on the small rise at the corner of the house, his gun drawn.

“Turn around!” he said.

Sara turned.

“Where’s your friend – young Mr. Daley?”

“He-he’s already in the woods. He went ahead of me.”

“Reaaally? How chivalrous of him to leave you behind.”

Danscom shot a glance at the basement door; it was ajar a couple inches. Wade flinched back.

“You stay right there, girl! I’m gonna have a look inside.”

Danscom edged his chubby self down the bank and over to the door. Sara lowered her hands.

“Don’t move, girl!”

“I’m not.”

Danscom, peeking through the door window while keeping the gun pointed back at Sara, reached for the knob. He flung the door open.

“You stay right there!” he hollered back at Sara.

He stepped into the basement and did a quick visual sweep in every direction – nothing – then looked back at Sara. She hadn’t moved. Harvey switched his gaze back to the basement and tuned his ear. Not a movement. Not a sound. With one last wary glance around, he stepped back outside.

“Alright, Sara, let’s you an’ me take a– ”

WHAP!

Sheriff Danscom fell to the ground in a heap.

Sara looked on in shock; there stood Wade, fear in his face and a shovel in his hands.

A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 32

Pine trees above the Wythop valley Pine trees ...

Just through these pines, on the little hill's bald crown, is where James and Hank camped out. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sara lunged for the door. She slammed it shut, locked it, then fell back as something rammed into it, snarling.

The windows!

She jumped to her feet and raced around the house, slamming every one shut and twice catching sight of the gray blur she’d seen earlier. Then she went to the broom closet in the kitchen and grabbed the .32 her Uncle Steve had given her. She loaded it and went peering out of various windows, trying to catch sight of the creature. While she stood looking out the porch-door window, the distant roar of an engine sounded; a bolt of apprehension struck her in the chest. She froze, listening, wishing even that her heart would stop beating for a minute so the sound of her pulse would stop coursing through her ears.

The engine was getting louder.

It’s coming this way.

Her mind insisted that it was her Uncle Vernon coming to finish her off – keep those refreshments handy – until a glimmer of hope availed itself.

MAYBE IT’S DARRELL.

Oh, please, Lord, let it be Darrell!

She ran to the livingroom window and fixed her gaze on the driveway. Louder the sound became, and then – with a train of dust skirting around its back end – Darrell’s truck skidded into the driveway and into view. Sara bolted from the house and into the driveway, oblivious to the scratch marks on her door.

“Whoa!” said Darrell as he cut the wheel hard to avoid cleaning her out. “Sara, you alright?”

“She’s got a gun?” said Wade.

“It was here, Darrell, it was here!”

“Get in, quick!”

Sara flung herself into the truck and Darrell stomped on it, his tires strafing the dirt all the way out of her yard.

* * *

Thanks to Hank’s quick recovery, he and James were making good time.

“We might just have enough light left to get out of hear tonight, Hank. Whaddaya think?”

Hank was sitting on a log, whittling a stick. “Well,” he said, looking at the sun’s position and considering where they were, “I think that– ”

Stay.

“– um, we should–”

Stay in the woods.

“– make camp tonight.”

“Really?”

Really? he asked himself. “Well, no. My ankle’s feelin’ good enough, I guess. I suppose we could prob’ly–”

Stay!

He paused. “– make it out.”

“You don’t sound too sure.”

“Well …” He scratched his head. “I mean, I guess we’d be cuttin’ it pretty close, is what I’m sayin’. It’s a toss-up, you know?”

“Well, we’re gonna hafta decide pretty soon. The afternoon’s wanin’ fast.”

“Yeah.”

Stay.

No.

Stay!

He whittled harder.

“You ready to move?” said James.

“Yeah.”

Hank brushed the shavings off his lap and tossed the pointy stick on the ground, then put his knife away and loaded his bag onto his shoulders. James started off, and Hank was standing to fall in behind him when his eyes fell on the sharp stick.

Pick it up.

Hank was confused.

Come on, pick it up.

Why–

Pick it up! You’re gonna need it.

I guess I might need it.

He made sure James wasn’t looking as he picked up the stick and tucked it into his back pocket.

* * *

“It almost got into my house, Darrell,” said Sara though a stream of tears.

“You’re alright now,” he said as they stormed towards his place. “But your house just so happens to be what we need to talk about.”

“What do you mean? And how did you know I was in trouble?”

“Well, kind of a long story, but we went up to the Silver Bells to check out the caves behind them, because those papers Mr. Schaeffer gave us said that that’s where your uncle keeps the creature. We saw your uncle there, and we thought he left the creature in one of the caves, but he fooled us – he actually took the creature with him; it was invisible.”

He paused, stealing a glance at her; confusion lined her face.

“So anyway, once we realized that, I looked through the papers some more … and I discovered that …”

“That what?”

There was no choice but to say it.

“That he made your house the conduit.”

For a moment she said nothing. She then tried to form words, but Darrell spoke before she could get any out.

“I know it sounds strange.” He sighed. “But it makes perfect sense.”

“How?”

“He uses mind control on this creature, which requires a connection between the two of them. If the connection is made through an ordinary object, like bodily fluids, he’d have to be right there maintaining the object all the time – constantly getting a fresh supply – or the connection would last only a short time. But that’s impractical. With your house, on the other hand, he has an object that’s constant – long-lasting to begin with, and more so because it’s well-kept.” He lowered his voice a bit, sorry to have to say what he said next. “Because you’re living there.”

She lowered her head. Dear, your aunt and I, we’ve got a surprise for you … a good piece of land … and a brand-new house. She could even see his smile – his wretched, creepy smile.

“Sara?”

Her chest was hollow; she felt like she’d just had everything sucked out of her.

NOT EVERYTHING. A gleam flickered.

Her mind jumped back to this world. The hurt was so great that it pinned her anger to the floor.

“Sara. You alright?”

“Um, no. But you may as well continue with your explanation. Judging by the speed at which we’re moving, I’m guessing that we have things to do and not much time for talking.”

“Not to push you aside, but yeah, we do have some business to get done.”

“Alright, then. What have we got to do?”

* * *

Dusk was drawing on as James and Hank topped a pine-studded hillock overlooking the stream.

“I think we should camp out tonight.”

Hank’s sudden disruption of the cooling, quiet air startled James; a warning went off in his heart.

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I guess I don’t wanna overdo it.”

Overdo it? thought James. That’s not like him. “Alright. We might as well stop here, then. Good a place as any.”

The small hill’s crown was bald, perfect for a fire.

“Let’s build it big,” said James, and the words had no sooner left his mouth when a vision flashed in his mind: The domelike hillock, seen from across the stream, a raging orange bonfire on top and two men in a physical struggle with something. He blinked.

“What?” he said.

“I said, ‘Bigger than usual?’ ” said Hank.

“Yeah.”

“What for?”

“ ’Cause we’re in more danger than usual.”

* * *

 Sara sat at Darrell’s kitchen table, stunned.

“I’m sorry, Sara, but there’s no other way.”

“He’s right, Miss Kremshaw.”

“But you can stay with us until we build you another one.”

“An’ I’ll even skip weekend hikes for a while to work on it.”

“That’s very kind of you, Wade, very kind of you both. It’s just– ” She bowed her head and shrugged, a sheepish grin on her face. “I’ve come to like the place so much, you know? It’s my home.”

“And it’ll still be your home; you’ll live there again,” said Darrell.

“That’s the rub, though – I don’t know if I could go back there now, after … all this. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how I’ve even managed to stay there these last couple weeks.”

The sudden thought of Sara moving away from Foster’s Glen jarred Darrell.

“Well, things heal with time, Sara. Give it a chance.”

She nodded, but he figured it to be more out of politeness.

“When do you wanna go up there, Dad?”

“Pretty soon, before it gets dark.” He glanced at Wade, once again sorry for what he had to say. “But I’ll be going alone.”

“Aw, Dad, come on– ”

Darrell held up a hand, and Wade knew better than to speak whenever his father did that. Wade slumped back in his chair, the mirror reflection of Sara at the moment, and fired a look of disappointment at his father. Darrell caught it with his own.

“I want you to stay here with Miss Kremshaw; it’s important.”

Wade nodded without looking up.

“Besides, I don’t know what I’m gonna run into when I get up there.”

* * *

The fire was raging. James, his eyes alert, sat down against a tree and waited.

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