Category Archives: Questioning Your Way to Faith
I’ve reached a milestone with the publication of my fifth book, Coventry 2091. It’s time for me to revise my author’s bio. Here is a preview of the changes.
Long before I became a fiction author, I was an avid reader. Books in general and novels in particular influenced me greatly. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings , C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of the Narnia , and Stephen R. Lawhead’s trilogy, Song of Albion are among my favorite and best-loved novels.
I also very much enjoy classic science fiction classics such as Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky.
The stories I most enjoyed were not only entertaining, but they taught me something about all that is good and excellent in ourselves and the world around us. They inspired hope without glossing over the fact of evil
I began writing The Halcyon Dislocation in response to a challenge of sorts. I was meeting with friends in our small book club when I began musing about how much I would like to write a novel. One of my friends, an accomplished author in her own right, looked me in the eye and said, “Why don’t you do it then?” After many conferences and contacts with other authors, my first book was published.
I am now the author of five books. As a futuristic novelist, I started my writing journey by creating a complex, parallel world in The Halcyon Dislocation. And so I began my speculative fiction series, The Halcyon Cycle. My second novel, The Battle for Halcyon, describes the fate of the displaced University of Halcyon as it seeks to return to its own space-time. The third in this series, The Dragons of Sheol, published in 2019, takes the reader to Abaddon, a continent ringed by mountains with the main land mass six kilometres below sea level.
In 2021 I have published the first book in a new series, The Coventry Chronicles, called Coventry 2091. These stories, naturally enough, make some assumptions about what life will be like seventy years from now. Although, I foresee some troubling and deeply unsettling changes ahead, I am at heart an optimist and believe that whatever evil we may face, it cannot forever triumph over good. As a reader you might be surprised at how that manifests itself in the story.
In writing these stories I have been able to pursue a life-long dream of writing fast-paced novels that explore the intersection between adventure, science, faith and philosophy.
My book, The Battle for Halcyon, won a 2016 Word Award in the Speculative Fiction category. Previously The Halcyon Dislocation was short-listed as a finalist in The Canadian Christian Writing Awards – Futuristic Fiction Category. I am grateful for the recognition I received as relatively new and unknown author.
I am currently working on the first draft of Coventry Peril. This story follows the travails of the Coventry Penal Colony and their hope for freedom and a place of safety.
In these days when, by government edict here in Canada, churches are deemed “non-essential services,” I find myself searching the internet for inspiring and thought-provoking messages. A few weeks ago, I listened to a 2004 message by Timothy Keller on guidance. See the link below:
For a transcription of the talk, check out the link below:
Keller talks about three forms of guidance:
“We’ll find out by answering, by looking at these proverbs and understanding first of the guidance God does, secondly the guidance God gives and thirdly the guidance God purchases for us.”
- Guidance God does
- Guidance God gives
- Guidance God purchases for us
He further subdivides “Guidance God does” into:
- Paradoxical guidance God does
- Non-obvious guidance God does
There is so much in this message that I can only talk today about what spoke to me about “Paradoxical guidance God does.” When I think of guidance I think of help in decision making. Keller points out there are two contradictory views about decisions. One view is a deterministic view that decision making is really an illusion. Our brain chemistry, our hormones, are appetites so completely determine our decisions (if you’re a Materialist) that our decisions don’t matter. There is also a theological version of this: God makes our decisions for us, so again they don’t matter.
The second, free-will view, is that our decisions completely determine everything. Keller astutely points out that both points of view, if thought through to their logical implications, can’t help but lead to despair. Absolute determinism logically leads to complete passivity. My decisions don’t matter, ever. But free will leads to paralysis since I know so many of my decisions will not only be wrong, but devastatingly wrong that second guessing and doubt will paralyze me.
Keller correctly points out that, not only Proverbs, but he New Testament itself asserts both individual Free Will and God’s Sovereignty (Determinism) simultaneously and the two together are essential for hope and confidence in the future.
Since Free Will exists and is operative, my decisions matter a lot, so I cannot be passive. Yet since the God who loves me still is sovereign, he can smooth over my many poor choices, so in the end I will be okay. Keller uses the Genesis historical account of Joseph where many people made terrible decisions with some good ones thrown in, but God, made everything work together to good purpose and save Jacob and his family from a killer famine.
How to Come to Terms with this Paradox
As a scientist, I am no stranger to paradoxes. The one that springs immediately to mind is the wave-particle duality that is particularly pronounced in small particles. One knows this paradox is intrinsic to particles. One also understands the quantum nature of very small particles is so different from what I encounter in the macroscopic world, that I should not be surprised the properties characteristic of the quantum realm appear as paradoxes to me.
The way a physicist handles these paradoxes is instructive. One knows when to treat an electron as a particle and when to treat it as a wave to solve a particular problem. For diffraction one treats an electron as a wave; for collisions as a particle.
Some years ago I read Roger Penrose’s book The Road to Reality. Much I did not understand but his explanation of the arrow of time always stayed with me. Of the four dimensions (x, y, z, t) only time is unidirectional, that is to say time always moves from the present to the future. Indeed, our world is what it is, because of time. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that for any process, the entropy of the universe must increase. To go back in time is to return to a lower entropic state of the universe and so contradicts this law. As a human being, I am remorselessly and relentlessly bound in time. At one point in time I am deciding cereal or eggs for breakfast. Twenty minutes later that decision is irrevocably set in the past. Within time I made a decision.
Yet if I believe that God created everything including time, then I have to believe he exists outside of time as well as within it. This to me is the whole explanation why Free Will and Determinism can co-exist. Within time (the only realm I comprehend), real decisions are being made and have consequences. Outside of time, in some way there is some multidimensional present where all of infinity is seen (I want tot say simultaneously, but that would be a symptom of my incurable compulsion to always drag time back into God’s timeless realm).
This brings me to my final point. I can’t understand God’s Sovereignty without dragging time into his timeless realm and so making him responsible for all actions and destroying Free Will. I can’t understand his sovereignty, but at least I know why I can’t understand it.
As Keller points out, having free, meaningful choices and a sovereign God superintending all is the only way of avoiding paralysis on the one hand and passivity on the other. Like the scientist, I apply my imperfect models to the problem at hand. When I am making a decision, I decide knowing that this is my responsibility. When I have second thoughts and wonder if I my decision has been a huge mistake, I am confident that God in his sovereignty will make it work out, despite my flawed choices.
A short time ago my teaching pastor, Bruxy Cavey was teaching on Three Beautiful Words (God is Love) from I John 4:8 (if you’re interested in this critical message you can download the podcast for free).
After the message, as is the custom in our meetings, the floor was opened up for questions. A query was texted in by Peter (not yours truly) and from memory the gist of the question was:
A speaker on TV said that God being loving and being omnipotent was a contradiction. If God were loving, he would fix the world to take away evil and suffering. Since he doesn’t that means either he can’t (therefore he’s not omnipotent) or he won’t (therefore he’s not loving). This has bothered me a lot. How would you answer this?
Now when I encounter challenges like this, I like to think through them and this is the reason for my post.
Thinking about the definitions
Omnipotence is a theological term that describes God’s power as creator and sustainer of all things. I don’t believe it is ever used in the bible but rather is used by theologians to describe the sum of the teaching on God in the bible on the subject of His power and sovereignty.
Before one can examine the claimed contradiction, I think it is useful to understand the word “omnipotent.” The TV speaker and I likely agree that omnipotent means “all powerful” but does that mean that there are no actions that are inherently impossible even to an all-powerful being?
I think the answer to that question is “no;” there are actions inherently impossible even for the omnipotent.
For example, the following actions are inherently impossible or necessarily limit the scope on omnipotence:
1. Actions that violate the law of non-contradiction: God can’t make it rain and not rain on the same spot, in the same sense, at the same time. Choosing to make it rain means He has already chosen against making it “not rain.” The decree and its complement come as a single package.
2. In any creative process, full omnipotence is limited to the first decision. After that, all future decisions are constrained by what has already been chosen. Often subsequent choices are impossible because they violate earlier choices.
3. Omnipotence tells us what God can do, not what He will do.
Allow me to elaborate on points 2 and 3.
In any creative process, full omnipotence is limited to the first decision
As a writer I see this principle in effect whenever I start a novel. When my page is blank I may write anything I like. Perhaps:
“In a galaxy far, far away …” or
“He found the body after midnight on the moor.” or
“When Dolores opened the letter, she knew her life would never be the same again.”
After the first line, my omnipotence as a writer has shriveled enormously. I can no longer do what I want. Everything I write afterwards has to be consistent with what I wrote before. I think God faces the same limitation of particularity. When he chooses a certain course in creation, the contingent choices have to be self-consistent. When He steps into time, what He can do now, is constrained by the choices already made.
Omnipotence tells us what God can do, not what He will do
Omnipotence argues that God could lie. What prevents Him from doing so? He could put the lying words together, but choses not to because of His character. We have the same kind of power: we can all formulate a lie, but in our better moments we chose not to. This argues that there are some things God could do, but does not do them because they conflict with His essence or character.
Okay so why doesn’t God end all wickedness and suffering right now?
I think this is really the heart of the question that bothered the texter, Peter, and I don’t have a full answer. Here is what I have: what would God need to do to fix all wickedness and suffering right now? I think we would have to change the role we currently play on this planet and wrest from us all impulses and desires contrary to His will whether we want to give them up or not.
One of my favorite fantasy book series is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time®. In it a group of gifted people, called channelers, have enormous powers over their fellow humans. One power they have is called compulsion. With compulsion they can make subtle changes the thinking in the ungifted or even the gifted they have overpowered. For example, a channeler might compel a highly competent general to make subtle mistakes in a battle that to lead to disaster. On the other hand, compulsion can be used to completely take over a person’s mind so that the compelled must worship the compeller and be willing to kill or give up their lives for him. In the books, compulsion was rightly seen as a great evil in all its forms because it turned humans into automatons.
If my memory serves me correctly, there was a vision in the last book in which all people were compelled to be kind, productive, generous etc. But their humanity was sacrificed to make them that way against their will. They were no longer human. The protagonist saw this compelled change as a great loss to evil.
I think this is the fundamental flaw in having God fix things right now—it would have to be done against our will and our nature and that action itself would be an evil even if the end were good.
So where does that leave me?
I believe God is fixing things (perhaps it might be more correct to say He has fixed things in Christ) but the full effect of the cure has not fully spread through the system yet. The need for the means and the end to be true and good means the process will take some time, but it encourages me enormously that God in Christ came down into creation as a man and suffered right along with us. He was born into a poor family, of an oppressed people. His father likely died when he was a young man. Finally, he was crucified as an innocent man, while dying for His enemies who did not value His death at the time. This gives me great hope that God deeply cares about our (and my) condition in this flawed and marred world filled with flawed and marred people.
One of my favorite pictures is the one shown at the head of this blog taken of a framed print in my home. In Michelangelo’s fresco of The Creation of Adam, God is seen as touching Adam’s finger ever so slightly. Through this lightest of touches, He is communicating His love, but also His gift of independence and free will. The touch is there so Adam can choose to move toward Him or away from Him. Alas, we have moved away. He pursues us, but the touch continues to be light to preserve our free will. It is always my choice whether I move toward the touch or away from it. If I have to choose between becoming automaton or having God work the process to bring us home when we are willing to move towards Him, I choose His timing and process.
A final comment on theologically-skeptical snipers
I must end this blog with a protest about theologically-skeptical snipers. I can’t directly complain about texter Peter’s TV speaker because I never saw the program, but I have seen many others like it. The speaker, in criticizing theism or Christianity trucks out some challenge and then leaves it hanging. In my experience, they never go on to say: “This is my world view and this is how I answer this question that I have just asked.” That would reveal that their own answers are at least as problematic as the Christian’s and thus leave them open to challenge. In other words, these skeptics are often not skeptical enough because they don’t challenge their own views along with the Christian’s.
In my mind, these speakers are like snipers who are happy to lie hidden in the brush taking pot shots at their opponents. As long as their own position is undiscovered they can happily fire away without taking any return fire.
If you are interested in these kinds of questions and you find the musings of a non-theologian, Science Fiction author helpful, why not check out my book Questioning Your Way to Faith? In story form, it discusses questions I have wrestled with, in the context of a respectful conversation between friends who profoundly disagree on the answers. ©Peter Kazmaier 2018
I received some bad news yesterday. I learned from my publisher that the vendor that was producing the audio version of The Halcyon Dislocation has declared bankruptcy (I don’t even know the vendor’s name). This is particularly unfortunate since the editing of the audio edition was 98% complete (as I understand it, even after the audio editing is complete, there was still a good deal of post editing processing to do before it would be ready for download and sale). The only significant piece missing was an audio list of the dormitories at Halcyon University that were all named after famous philosophers. Unfortunately many of the unusual names were mispronounced in the last audio mp3 and needed to be corrected.
In all of this, I must say my partnership publisher Word Alive Press has acted with grace and integrity. I appreciate this very much, since this was their loss as much as it was mine (perhaps more so). Going through this painful experience has underlined for me why I remain a loyal partner of Word Alive Press.
I’m going to go through my various bios and descriptions to look for places where I had promised that the audio version of The Halcyon Dislocation will be coming out soon so that I can delete those expressions of hope and avoid raising unrealistic expectations. I will do my best to be thorough, but if I miss one or two, I hope my readers will be understanding.
Peter’s Presentation and Author Exposition at the CHURCH LIBRARY ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO in Guelph, Ontario
I was delighted to be invited to participate in the Church Library Association of Ontario (CLAO) in Guelph Ontario through my association with The Word Guild. I was able to display my books, speak to attendees and also present a two minute synopsis on one of my books.
My Two Minute Presentation
My name is Peter Kazmaier and I write adventure fiction targeted primarily at high school- and university-aged males. The book I’m featuring today is called The Halcyon Dislocation. It describes a fictional university in North Carolina that, for the Department of Defence, conducts a large scale research experiment that goes awry. As a consequence the whole university is transported to a parallel world. The students and the faculty find themselves in a struggle to survive when their whole support structure has disappeared.
Finding enough food, exploring the new world with all of its surprises, and dealing with a university administration that becomes increasingly tyrannical is enough to lead the protagonists into one adventure after another.
So why might a church library be interested in acquiring this book? Most adventure and science fiction is based on a completely secular world view. From the perspective of these books, religion in general and in Christianity in particular have ceased to become societal influences just prior to the start of the story. I wanted to change this formula. I try to be true to the genre, but several of my characters are Christians and as readers we can experience how they react to both the secular university environment and the stress of the university dislocation. It provides a chance to introduce some faith discussions without derailing the plot. These types of faith discussions are a natural part of university life and I hope I have portrayed them in a way that is realistic.
If you are looking for books for your high school and university students that will challenge their thinking but keeping them reading to the final page, I would be delighted to talk to you about it. If you share my interest in Speculative Fiction as a genre, I would enjoy talking about some of our favourite books. Thank you.
Where to buy Peter’s books:
Local Book Stores
- Good Books Christian Bookstore, Oakville, on Kerr Street
- Family Christian Bookstore, Burlington, on Guelph Line
Search for “Peter Kazmaier” at Amazon, Chapters-Indigo, iTunes, Google Play, or at Word Alive.
Specific short-links for your convenience (in alphabetical order)
For your convenience I have also reproduced the questions and answers here. I welcome any questions you might have. Thank you Andrea!
Why do you write?
I love to read Fantasy and Science Fiction. First and foremost then, I write books that I would like to read, but no one else has taken the trouble to write them. Specifically, I like books that are plot-driven and keep me riveted wondering what happens next. But I also like books that ask the Big Questions, as people do in real life. Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? Why should I try to be good?
When did you decide to become a writer, and what was that process like?
For a large fraction of my life, I was a researcher in chemistry and much of my writing appeared in technical journals or as patents. My career as a novelist had a curious start. I was a member of a book club and during one of our sessions I mused how I would love to write a novel. One of my friends said, “Well why don’t you do it?” The gauntlet was thrown down and I had to do something about it. It took me four years of attending writer’s conferences, and writing in my spare time while still holding a full time job before my first book came out, the first edition of the colonization epic The Halcyon Dislocation.
So, what have you written? (Include everything you have published)
As I mentioned I have more than sixty technical publications on chemistry and about 175 US patents, but I’m sure your readers are not that interested in them. In terms of novels I have written three (in the order of publication):
- The Halcyon Dislocation (two editions)
- Questioning Your Way to Faith
- The Battle for Halcyon
The Halcyon Dislocation and The Battle for Halcyon are the first two books of a four part series that I call The Halcyon Cycle. They deal with a science experiment that transports the island University of Halcyon to a parallel world. In the story we experience how various members of the university deal with the trauma of the dislocation and the challenges of surviving in a new world.
Questioning Your Way to Faith is a much shorter book that arose because of requests I received from some of my readers. In terms of a time line, Questioning Your Way to Faith is set before the dislocation and involves two university friends having an extended discussion about whether or not Christian belief is reasonable.
Where can we buy or see them?
My books are available as either e-books or as trade paper backs at most major bookstores and online outlets. In alphabetical order here are some links:
- Amazon/Kindle http://tinyurl.com/qbyw5b8
- Chapters-Indigo/Kobo http://tinyurl.com/odmn6j6
- Google Store http://tinyurl.com/qbnxs6j
- iTunes http://tinyurl.com/pkteyj5
What genre are your books?
My books are Science Fiction that read a bit like Fantasy. I say that because my books have a strong science component and I worry a lot about whether events like the dislocation are feasible. Having said that, once the University of Halcyon is in the new world, technologies begin to fail (because modern technology requires enormous infrastructure) and then one has much more of a Fantasy-style landscape.
Do you do any research for you books?
I try hard to get the details right in my books, so I do quite a bit of research to make sure that the phases of the moon are correct, the fish found off the island of Halcyon are correct for that locale and that events like the dislocation are not unreasonable from a physics perspective.
Are you working on at the minute?
I’m working on the next book in The Halcyon Cycle which I have provisionally called Descent into Abaddon.
Do you mind telling us about it?
Not at all. I listened to a wonderful lecture a few years ago that described how our relatively low atmospheric pressure limited the size of land mammals and also the size of flying birds. My next book is centered on a continent so far below sea level that the high atmospheric pressure removes these constraints.
What is your favorite book that you have written so far and why?
I would probably say The Halcyon Dislocation. I like the Crusonian aspects of being marooned in a new world and all of the discovery that entails.
How often do you write a week?
I write in fits and starts. When one has several books in print, one has many duties. I work better when I work at something for a concentrated period of time.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No I don’t set pages per day. I like long books, so I aim for more than 100,000 words for my books.
What do you find is the easiest thing about writing?
There’s nothing easy about writing well. Of all the hard things that must be done to produce a good novel, I find imagining new worlds and new inhabitants of those worlds easiest.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I suppose it takes me roughly four years from start to finish to write a book. However that’s highly misleading since I start the next book right after the first draft is complete, so there is a good deal over overlap when I’m writing the first draft of one book and editing the last.
Do you ever get writer’s block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through it?
Writer’s block, in the sense of reaching an impasse in a story is not usually my problem. My problem is sheer laziness. I have many duties to complete and I get caught up in all of these urgent matters and let my writing time slip.
What is your editing process like?
I have friends who have taken a great deal of time as “beta readers” who critique my book and often see blind spots that I as a writer have missed. I always enlist the services of a professional editor to complete the edits. I can’t stress how important it is to find an editor who is not only technically competent, but has a genuine love for your books.
Self-publishing is a very broad term that includes vanity publishing. I prefer the term micro-publishing. By that I mean running a very small publishing business with an emphasis on the quality of the books produced and a severe eye on the costs.
Why self-publish or micro-publish? In my journey, I have seen many writers who spend years producing a novel and then spend years writing to acquisition editor after acquisition editor trying to interest them in their work. Often the writers eventually give up in discouragement without ever having provided their book to the people who really matter—their reading public. [For more on micro-publishing check my blog http://wp.me/p4cZo4-1l .]
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Force yourself to be a “finisher.” Make sure you sell some version of your book to your reading public to get feedback from them.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
In my role as a research scientist I had a chance to see the Print-On-Demand technology develop. I think this trend will continue and will favor the smaller publisher. Traditional publishing will not disappear but will continue to be under increased cost pressure because of their extensive infrastructure.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
- The best books become part of our intellectual scaffolding. Remember as a writer you are an artist first. You want your books to be entertaining, but also to make a difference in your readers’ lives.
- Don’t mistake sales as the primary indicator of your success.
[On re-reading this second point, I realized that my brief comment could lead to misunderstanding. Sales as a primary indicator for success can be highly misleading for an author starting out for two reasons. First of all, selling books is an annuity business and so sales build over time. That is to say, you have many upfront costs (Realistically one should charge at least minimum wage for all the time one invests writing and setting up one’s business. Many writers mistakenly think they are getting as bargain if they can find a traditional publisher that will pay them an advance and a royalty. Often these writers haven’t accounted for the enormous time they invested in preparing the manuscript for consideration by the traditional publisher.), but sales only begin once your book lists. However, once your book lists, it stays listed for a long time and generates an annuity stream. Secondly, there may be two reasons why a book doesn’t sell: (1) the book is poorly conceived and written; (2) the author is not well-known and so few readers get as far as even trying the book and so they never find out if it’s good or not. Unless one is well-known for other reasons (e.g. you’re a U.S. President), being unknown will always be an impediment when you start out. To distinguish these two barriers to sales, one needs to get the book into the hands of readers and get feedback.]
What is your favorite book and why?
My favorite books (on an equal footing) are C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I re-read the Narnia books because of the profound spiritual insights that Lewis offers. I re-read The Lord of the Rings because of the sheer beauty of the work. Even though I know the plot almost line for line, I love the beauty of walking through the vale of Ithilien and the terror of the Mines of Moria.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I’m always delighted to hear from my readers. They can contact me by email directly or leave a comment on my blog.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00JB0IWE6