The Chasm: a Journey to the Edge of Life
By Randy Alcorn
The Bible is awash with pictures that help us understand what God means. Jesus used parables to teach heavenly meanings. Ezekiel performed living pictures to exhibit God’s judgment and his grace. Revelation presents several pictures that demonstrate Jesus will win.
Many Christians have taken these pictures and run with them, developing their own canvass, trying to portray Truth in new ways for new audiences. C. S. Lewis may be the most successful at this in his Chronicles of Narnia series. Pilgrim’s Progress may be the most well-known allegory. Randy Alcorn throws his hat in the ring with this short novel.
Nick wonders the roads that lead to Charis, the shining city. Between him and there, though, lies an insurmountable chasm. A mysterious traveler reveals that every path ends in the chasm, with people walking over the edge without ever realizing they are about to die. But one path, the red path, will bring Nick to the edge before his death…
Some things work well. Nick encounters the Woodsman who chops down a tree that will bridge the chasm. Chopping down the tree is obviously hurting the Woodsman; he is starting to exert himself to the point of bleeding. Nick asks, “Can I help you?”
The Woodsman responds, “No, you can’t.”
Nick responds with offense. He was trying to be nice, and this guy says no? Who does he think he is?
Throughout the book, Alcorn conveys this offense of the Gospel well. It communicates how offensive Jesus is: he does everything, we do nothing. That goes against everything this world tells us!
Other things, though, don’t work as well, and these items outnumber the good. The opening chapters chronicle Nick’s walks on other roads before meeting the Woodsman. These chapters seemed very clichéd to me. Nick found solace in women, in money, in alternative religion, he sees his life fall apart, his wife leave… Perhaps it will be unique to other readers, but to me it seemed to be a “standard” degeneration of a businessman in fiction.
Several illustrations fail to illuminate the book. The simple line drawings are competent, but their style does not match the heavy atmosphere of the prose. Rather than aiding the reading process, they took my imagination and held it hostage. The prose describes some demons; I had one picture in my mind that proved far more frightening than what appeared to me as clichéd representations of demons. It would have been better to leave these illustrations out.
That Alcorn never spells out what the various allegorical pictures mean serves as the greatest weakness of the text. True, many of the pictures are cliché. Some are unique enough that unless a person is familiar with Christianity, they will be lost. And this leads me to ask a question: Who is the target audience for the book? If Alcorn intends to serve as a bridge to explain Christianity for non-Christians, he falls far, far short. If he intends to paint a picture for Christians, again, he fails. His early pictures are hackneyed depictions of unbelievers that left me uninterested in the rest of the book.
Are there items of worth in this book? Yes. Alcorn does convey some things well. Overall, though, I can’t recommend it. The price tag for a hardcover also factors in to my opinion. If you get this for free, it’s a quick read from which you might glean something good. If you have to purchase it to get what lies within, don’t bother.
Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.