Monday, September 26, 2011

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within, by Jeff Kinley


A meandering, directionless, and ultimately discouraging discussion of the Christian's fight against the "living dead" sin nature, interspersed with scenes from a rather underwhelming, uninspired, and largely unrelated fictional tale of zombie warfare.  So, John Owen's Mortification of Sin by way of Max Brooks' World War Z.  But minus all the awesome.

The book starts off with an interesting premise--your sin nature is supposed to be crucified with Christ . . . yet it continues to live in and war against you.  Hence the zombie metaphor.  And it works . . . at first.  Kinley encourages his readers to realize that their sin nature is like a decaying, malevolent beast, etc.  The opening chapters are full of the reality of man's filthy, decrepit wickedness, and most Christians will be able to identify with this idea of warring against something rotten that lives inside them and assaults the regenerate man within.

Unfortunately, the metaphor rapidly breaks down.  After all, this "zombie" of sin is inside you--it is you.  All conventional zombie-warfare methods don't fit the metaphor.  You can't avoid being bitten, because you're already a zombie.  (And if you're already a zombie, there is no redemption for you. If there are any honest-to-goodness live humans around, their best bet is to waste you before you infect them.) 

A zombie is an inherently external threat, and sin is an inherently internal evil.  This presents very real problems for Kinley--problems that become increasingly noticeable as the fictional narrative drifts further and further from the points Kinley is trying to make in his "spiritual" sections. Indeed, it is not entirely clear what those points are, as Kinley wants to address demonic activity and bad influences but is uncertain how to fit them into the zombie metaphor.  And then there's the fact that, as a Christian, you never fully slay the sin zombie within. It's a lifelong struggle.

The issue is further clouded by Kinley's reluctance to attibute victory to any particular action by the regenerate man.  And wisely so.  After all, apart from Christ we cannot kill our sin.  Only Christ can truly sanctify.  Which is great from a theological standpoint, but makes for a lousy "handbook"--especially one that relies on a warfare analogy.

The result is a disheartening "handbook" that does a great job of telling you the problem--that is, that there's a sin zombie living inside you--but doesn't actually tell you anything about how to kill him. Instead, the ideas become increasing scattered, and the relationship between the lackluster fictional tale and the incoherent spiritual discussions becomes more and more tenuous.  The end result is a book that feels like an attempt to capitalize on the zombie zeitgeist. 

Two other minor critiques: 

1)  The books is chock full of "current" references--both Justin Bieber and Facebook statuses are mentioned--that will rapidly date this book (further evidence of its "seize the moment, ride the zeitgeist" feel). 

2)  Kinley devotes an entire chapter to his own very specific eschatology.  I don't particularly mind that he holds these beliefs, but they are far from universal among Christians, and I fail to see how they are necessary here.  He doesn't really tie these beliefs to the rest of the text, so it ends up feeling like a rant connected only by the fact that zombie warfare has an inherently apocalyptic flavor.

Ultimately, I can't decide if the metaphor itself is to blame, such that this could never have been a good book, or if the fault lies with Kinley's inability to shape the metaphor well.  Either way, the end result is far from impressive.  Still, I liked his treatment of man's spiritually dead state, pre-regeneration, so it's not a total wash.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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