Zach Bartels, a former student and the passionate pastor highlighted in Why We Love the Church (by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck), recently loaned me a copy of his first novel, 42 Months Dry. I didn’t get to it for a while, mostly because I treat fiction like my treadmill—I know it’s good for me but I just don’t make enough time for it. But when I started, I couldn’t put it down until I came to the end.
Zach has re-imagined the story of Elijah as if were happening today, and part of the fun is seeing the biblical characters reappear as modern manifestations (if you consider how I used this term you’ll understand why Rev. Jakes’ use of it to describe the persons of the Trinity is inappropriate, or as we used to say, heretical). 42 Months Dry reminded me that Jezebel probably was hot, Ahab was a wimp, and the body count on Mount Carmel would be more typical of an R rated movie than a flannel graph story.
I also appreciated how Zach’s presuppositionalism showed up in subtle ways, such as when he connected Baal worship to postmodern relativism. If you like your Bible stories authentic, doctrinally sound, and up to the minute relevant, then you will really like this book. Here is an endorsement I wrote for Zach which captures how much I enjoyed his writing chops.
What would you get if you uprooted the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal and planted it somewhere in the future—say in the second half of the tribulation? You’d get 42 Months Dry, a postmodern thriller with a powerfully relevant and biblical message. It may seem sacrilegious to cast Elijah as a Jason Bourne character, but as the plot thickens the more you realize how much it fits (after all, killing 450 prophets of Baal probably made quite a mess). It takes a brilliantly twisted mind to remake 1 Kings 16-22 as a shoot-em-up action movie, and Bartels is up to the task. His novel dares us to reimagine the Elijah story as if it were happening today. Why? Because it’s fun, and because it’s a shortcut to understanding—and deeply feeling—the showdown between Elijah and Queen Jezebel. I expected 42 Months Dry to be an exciting, fictional romp. I didn’t know it would open my eyes to the real world of Elijah—and my own.