A former missionary kid in Indonesia, Ted Dekker has sold more than 500,000 copies of 12 suspense novels, with titles such as Red, Black, White, and When Heaven Weeps. He turned to Christian fiction writing after a career in buying and selling businesses. Dekker has just produced his first work of nonfiction: The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth (Nelson Books, 2005). CT senior associate news editor Stan Guthrie interviewed him.

Why did you get into writing? Wasn't your business career satisfying?

I always made a lot of money. Writing wasn't about making money. I wanted to find fulfillment in writing and telling stories, and that's what's driven me. I went from making a lot of money to making nothing. I was 34 at the time, and I was starting from scratch.

Did you have a writing background?

I studied philosophy, religious studies, and English. My training was writing four full-length novels and hiring an editor to tear them apart. I had enough money to do that, and then rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. And then sending them off, sending them off, sending them off through an agent until finally I had something like four offers from four different publishers in the same month.

Now you have written The Slumber of Christianity. Is it more or less satisfying to just come out and say something in a nonfiction format rather than try to weave it into a larger fictional story?

Less satisfying, because story is truth that is brought to life by real characters. Fiction is truer than nonfiction. The characters are going to test that truth in their lives. I think that's why Jesus used stories a lot. The principles in The Slumber of Christianity about the search for happiness, pleasure, suffering will make readers say, "Hmm, wow, I've never thought of it that way." But when they read that same principle in a story, they'll cry. It will grab them by the heart and squeeze their heart.

What are the key issues for you?

One aspect of Christianity that's always bothered me is that Christians don't tend to be happier than non-Christians. So the question arose for me: Does Christianity make us happier? That question laid heavily on my mind. It's an unspoken question that has caused many to fall away from the faith, especially youth.

The primary benefit of Christianity isn't meant to be for this life. The primary benefit is the salvation of our souls. Paul compares our entire lives here to a race. And we, in this life, tend to become distracted by the race itself and by the cupbearers along the way who might offer us reprieve. We often leave the track altogether, forget about the goal, and instead wander down the alleys and byways looking for fulfillment.

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Are you preaching an anti-prosperity gospel?

No. I have a whole section on how critical pleasure is in driving us toward the goal. Pleasure is a gift given to us by God, a foretaste of that great pleasure which is to come. But if you don't know what the foretaste is for, then it's useless. It will fail you miserably. You become sick on your own delight. Because the pleasures of this life are only dim reflections of an ultimately satisfying pleasure to come. We can be content, but we cannot experience the full satisfaction that we pray for as creatures created in the image of God.

Should we have a limit to our earthly pleasures?

There's no such thing as too much pleasure. It's not a matter of volume. It's a matter of perspective.

On what are you grounding your approach?

I'm more of a missionary than I am an author. My parents left this culture, crossed the oceans, went to Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and learned the language and culture of the Dani people. Philip Yancey talks about the fact that the writer is first of all an observer. I became an astute observer early in my life, because I was forced to fit into multiple cultures at the same time.

Before I went to Bible school, I was observing missions. I was observing Western Christianity through the eyes of someone who grew up in the East, among Muslims, and so my vantage point is different from a lot of Americans'. I'm known as a fiction writer only because I love writing fiction and I have a knack for a tale. But the truth that I'm writing about is not fiction, but simply truth put into story format. I'm contextualizing truth through story. I'm contextualizing it for this culture. I'm doing what my parents did in reverse.

Related Elsewhere:

Ted Dekker's website has more about the author and his thoughts, including some on the American church.

The Slumber of Christianity is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.

More about Ted Dekker is available from Thomas Nelson.

For book lovers, our 2005 CT book awards are available online, along with our book awards for 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1997, as well as our Books of the Twentieth Century. For other coverage or reviews, see our Books archive and the weekly Books & Culture Corner.

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